There is an ongoing debate in the United States among parents, educators and other experts concerning paddlings at school. Currently, 23 states in the US allow corporal punishment in their school systems. The popular trend worldwide is a ban on corporal punishment. Nearly all of the other industrialized countries in the world have banned it.
Locations Allowing Paddlings
According to statistics collected in 2004, nearly one in every 10 students in the Mississippi school systems will be paddled within their school years. The paddlings that occur in Texas account for nearly 20 percent of all paddlings across the country. Nine percent of students in Arkansas receive paddlings each year, and Alabama closely follows this with six percent. Other states ranking high in paddlings are Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia and Missouri.
Definition of Paddlings at School
Typically, the paddling is carried through with a one- to two-inch thick wooden paddle. Often, the paddle has holes drilled through it to harshen each strike.
Sometimes it's the teacher who administers the paddlings. Other times, there's a designated disciplinarian within the school who performs all paddlings of students. More often than not, the paddling occurs behind closed doors; but, in extreme cases, students are paddled for their wrongdoings in front of their peers.
Offenses for Which Students Receive Paddlings
It's a wide range of wrongdoings for which students receive paddlings. They range from things as serious as skipping school, disrupting class and talking out of turn to trivial, smaller issues such as picking one's nose.
Arguments for Paddlings
Many educators and parents across the United States agree that paddlings at school are a normal, accepted and effective form of discipline. They tout the philosophy of "Spare the rod, spoil the child."
Many feel that they lived through the same experiences without long term damage to their psychological states or any diminished abilities to perform at school. They argue that children need and want discipline. Parents express concern that if children don't feel the threat of any discipline, chaos occurs in the classrooms. They point out that assaults on teachers within some school districts that do not allow paddlings in school have risen dramatically. They claim that students become uncontrollable and unruly without the threat or the fear of receiving a paddling.
Arguments Against Paddlings
According to reports, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the PTA have all called for a stop to paddlings in school. However, a nationwide ban is impossible due to a landmark Supreme Court case decision in 1977 that allows for corporal punishment to be performed in schools.
Many parent groups have been formed across the country working to ban paddlings from their school districts. They claim that children are harmed physically (sometimes severely) and hindered mentally due to the paddlings they receive. Cases have been cited where children were afraid to return to school, they became withdrawn and their grades dropped. Students have developed physical ailments such as headaches and stomachaches after paddlings, due to the amount of stress they endured. A small percentage of students have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder as a result of a paddling at school.
These organizations in favor of banning paddlings contend that paddlings only work to demean children. They say that positive reinforcement and peer mentoring are much better methods of discipline. The argument that paddlings only teach violence and force are prevalent throughout these groups' claims. Additionally, these groups advocate that punishment like this at the hands of anyone besides a school administrator would be considered child abuse.
What Happens Next?
Nobody really knows where the future is going for children within United States school districts as far as corporal punishment is concerned. Currently, there is no law that can be used to ban paddlings in school nationally. The debate is sure to continue between proponents and adversaries of the paddling issue. Until a national ruling is handed down, school systems are relying on their state or local laws to determine the issue for them.