Brush with a Paddle

The closest I ever came to the paddle was during third and fourth grade, when I attended elementary school in Florida. To be honest, I didn’t come very close, but I was asked on several occasions to bring a classmate to the vice principal. Not once was my classmate innocent. Not once did they fail to beg me not to take them all the way to the vice principal’s office, even though we both knew there was no way out. I had to get the vice principal’s signature on a special pass to bring back to our teacher. I squirmed when I heard through the heavy wooden door of the old school the sound of the paddle landing on my classmate. It was ugly business. These were my friends, but I could do nothing to help them.

That school has since been bulldozed. Florida’s allowance for corporal punishment in schools has not. In 19 states, use of corporal punishment to enforce school discipline remains legal. That it is legal to hit a child as a means of enforcing school discipline in the 21st Century says to me that legislators and school officials don’t read. They don’t read the headlines or the calendar. They don’t read all the studies that indicate corporal punishment is detrimental to child development. They don’t read about all the disciplinary alternatives that don’t require a paddle.

As the Center for Effective Discipline (CED) notes, corporal punishment “perpetuates a cycle of child abuse” and creates an environment of fear, which is about the last thing any school needs. Further, “schools that use corporal punishment often have poorer academic achievement, more vandalism, truancy, pupil violence, and higher dropout rates.” And whether this is the result or the cause of corporal punishment, one thing is certain: the cycle feeds itself.

Corporal punishment is banned from every other major institution in America, including the military and federal prisons, as the CED says. How can it still be legal in schools in 19 states? I think it’s time to end this ugly practice once and for all. I invite you to leave a comment, an anecdote, or your opinion below.

3 thoughts on “Brush with a Paddle

  1. Schools are not the place for corporal punishment. I went to school when it was used and it did produce more apparent compliance. So, to get around it, kids were just more sneaky. I believe that kids need to learn empathy and problem solving skills. I prefer to make students think about what they did wrong and what they should do to remedy the situation. Also, if kids are busy and engaged in interesting work, they don’t misbehave as much.

  2. I was a kid who lived in those times and you are forgetting those kids who got it at school then got it at home too. I never got the paddle at school but I remember the threat very well. We should not want to make kids behave with threats, Kds can be taught to behave in acceptable manners without the fear of being hit.

  3. Corporal punishment is not the way to teach period. In fact corporal punishment and the fear of it actually shut down the frontal lobe where logical thinking takes place. It is much better to do some brainstorming together to figure out resolution and as a last resort remove the child from the situation and have them use their brain by doing a puzzle (preschool) or reading an interesting book until they are in a place of peace and can talk constructively about the problem situation to find a solution.

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