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Isaiah Kelly
Isaiah Kelly

Hard Wooden Paddle School Swats

Corporal punishment, sometimes referred to as "physical punishment" or "physical discipline",[2] has been defined as the use of physical force, no matter how light, to cause deliberate bodily pain or discomfort in response to some undesired behavior.[3] In schools in the United States, corporal punishment takes the form of a school teacher or administrator striking a student's buttocks with a wooden paddle (often called "spanking" or "paddling").[2]

hard wooden paddle school swats


The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of corporal punishment in schools in the landmark Ingraham v. Wright case. The court ruled five to four that the corporal punishment of James Ingraham, who was restrained by his assistant principal and paddled by the principal over twenty times, ultimately requiring medical attention, did not violate the Eighth Amendment, which protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. They further concluded that corporal punishment did not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since teachers or administrators administering excessive punishment can face criminal charges.[4][13] This case established a precedent of "reasonable, but not excessive" punishment of students and was criticized by some scholars as "an apparent low point in American teacher-student relations."[14]

Individual states have had the power to ban corporal punishment in public schools since the 19th century. Each state has the authority to define corporal punishment in its state laws, so bans on corporal punishment differ from state to state.[15] For example, in Texas, teachers are permitted to paddle children and to use "any other physical force" to control children in the name of discipline;[16] in Alabama, the rules are more explicit: teachers are permitted to use a "wooden paddle approximately 24 inches (610 mm) in length, 3 inches (76 mm) wide and 0.5 inches (13 mm) thick."[17]

Several studies have explored which behaviors elicit corporal punishment as a response, but so far there is not a cohesive and standardized system in use within states or across states. Human Rights Watch conducted a series of interviews with paddled students and teachers in Mississippi and Texas, and found that most corporal punishment was for minor infractions, such as violating the dress code, being tardy, talking in class, running in the hallway and going to the bathroom without permission.[46] A review of over 6,000 disciplinary files in Florida for 1987-1988 school year found that corporal punishment use in schools was not related to the severity of student's misbehavior or with the frequency of the infraction.[47] Czumbil and Hyman reviewed over 500 media stories about corporal punishment in newspapers from 1975 to 1992 and coded the reason of the punishment and its severity. They found that the nature of the child's misbehavior (violent or non-violent) did not meaningfully influence whether the student was physically punished or not.[48]

Some scholars, such as Elizabeth Gershoff and Sarah Font, perceive a double standard when it comes to the physical punishment of children versus adults. The Board of Education in Pickens County, Alabama recommends that teachers use a two-foot-long paddle to discipline children;[70] in some cases, this object is more than half the height of an elementary school-aged child.[71] The two scholars assert that in any other context, "the act of an adult hitting another person with a board [two feet long] (or really, of any size) would be considered assault with a weapon and would be punishable under criminal law".[16]

In March 2018, the mother of Wylie Greer, a senior year student, published a tweet that became viral. She reported that during a national gun control student walkout, her son and two other students walked out of class in Greenbrier High School of Greenbrier, Arkansas. That same day, the assistant principal Mr. Brett Meek informed Wylie of the consequences: two days of suspension or two "swats" with a wooden paddle. Wylie chose the corporal punishment, as did the two others.[74][75] In Arkansas, students 18 years or older can be paddled in school since the law regulating school corporal punishments "allow individual school districts to draft their own policies" with no indicated limits concerning the student's age.[76]

In March 2019, on the ground of immunity laws, a Chilton County, Alabama grand jury refused to indict principal D.J. Nix of Jemison Intermediate School in connection with the paddling of a child with autism. The child was restrained and paddled five times, leaving him with deep bruises. In 2017, the Alabama Association of School Boards voted to amend its stance on corporal punishment from urging schools to discourage corporal punishment to prohibiting it.[85]

In April 2021, a principal at Central Elementary in Clewiston, Florida, paddled a six-year-old girl in front of her mother for damaging a computer. The mother was an undocumented immigrant, and there was confusion as to what the mother consented to have done (allowing the child to be spanked, paddled, etc). The incident was recorded, and published by local media. The school district highlighted that the regulations forbid corporal punishments, and encourage alternative methods of discipline. The State Attorney's Office declined to pursue a case against the principal, citing the incident as legally conducted.[88][89]

He had a big, thick wooden paddle with lots of holes drilled in it (the holes were designed to reduce the air resistance and increase the stinging). He told me that he was going to give me three swats and ordered me to bend over and touch my ankles. I was wearing my gym shorts so there was only a very thin layer of cloth between me and that very hard board. In the brief time before he started using the paddle on me, I got a strong impression of what it must have felt like to be sentenced to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

The gym teacher was a very powerful man, and I am sure he swung his paddle with every ounce of strength that he possessed. The force of the first swat was so great that it nearly sent me flying through the air, and it stung like the devil. It made a noise so loud you could have heard it a mile away. It felt like sitting down on a nest of very angry hornets, and I still had two more swats coming. The pain increased terribly with each successive swat.

The Three Rivers Independent school district in Texas recently began allowing school administration to carry out student punishments via a hard-hitting wooden paddle. The blatant comeback of corporal punishment to this school district is shocking many parents.

For those children whose parents opt in for corporal punishment, they will be subject to the blows of a wooden paddle for even minor infractions, including disobedience or failure to follow classroom rules.

Like the vast majority of children nationwide, the nearly 2,000 students at Cassville, in southwestern Missouri, have never had to face the threat of physical force by their school leaders before. The district stopped using the paddle as a form of punishment two decades ago. But the school board voted in June to bring it back.

Back then, there was no way to be certain of escaping punishment because no one was ever told what they had done. Standing there with my heart pounding, I often felt a sensation of leaving my body and floating up to the ceiling. There was a rumor that the principal, who was universally hated, had an electric chair in his office for "really bad kids." Reminded of that, my first grade sweetheart, who I'll call Ashley, laughed and shook his head. "God, what an awful place!" he marveled. I told him that it wasn't until third grade, when my family moved to a different county and I entered a warm, inviting public school where corporal punishment was prohibited, that I felt I could breathe again. Ashley, in contrast, had stayed at Fitzhugh Lee, and he told me that on one occasion, he was so covered with bruises after a beating that his father, a race car driver, came to the school and threatened to flatten the principal with his own paddle if he ever touched his boy again.

My colleague Rob Waters (now founding editor of MindSite News) and I decided to do a nationwide investigation and were sent across the country in the late 1980s by a Time Inc. magazine to cover the ramifications of school paddling. During our four-month investigation of federal and state data, hospital records, and in-person interviews in eight states, we found that hundreds of thousands of children from 5 to 18 were being whipped, spanked, beaten and paddled on the buttocks for reasons that included talking, "sassing," drawing, getting a bad grade, not turning in homework, dropping a pencil or turning around in their seat. In rare cases reported in newspapers, students were struck with baseball bats, tied to chairs or stung with electric cattle prods.

Jimmy Dunne, a former teacher and anti-paddling activist in Houston, said he doubted many people knew how severe paddlings really were. "I mean, we've got teachers in East Texas who shave down baseball bats and swing with both hands," he told us. Paddlings were sometimes so severe that parents took their children to emergency rooms. (The plaintiff in the Ingraham case ended up there after being held down by school personnel and hit 20 times with a wooden board.) Hospital and medical records we gathered from around the country showed not only welts and bruises but also broken bones, gashes, sprains and concussions.

Another suicidal boy I wrote about was a six-year-old with ADHD in Madison, Tennessee, who tried to hang himself after being paddled more than 16 times for talking, "drawing at the wrong time," and other infractions. Standing on the platform of a 10-foot circular slide on the school playground, he tied a jump-rope to the top rail, knotted the rope around his neck and jumped. "I was real scared then and trying to scream for help," he told me over the phone. "The rope was smooshing all the air out of me. I could see all the kids underneath me, circling and circling like lions in a cage. My friends were trying to push me back up, and it seemed like it took forever for a teacher to get over to me." His parents were convinced he didn't want to die. "It was a cry for help," his mother said tearfully, "so we would finally listen when he talked about school."


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