Matt Bush, FISM News
The Cassville school district in Missouri has reinstated paddling as an alternative form of disciplining students whose parents have “opted in” to this form of disciplinary action.
Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told local news station KOLR that the change came as a result of a survey sent out last school year. Parents who responded to the survey described discipline as one of their biggest concerns within the school system.
“The complaints that we have heard from some of our parents is that they don’t want their students suspended. They want another option. And so, this was just another option that we could use before we get to that point of suspension,” Johnson told the station.
According to USA Today, the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that corporal punishment was constitutional and left the decision to permit it up to each individual state. Today, 19 states allow corporal punishment in the form of paddling and almost all 19 are southern states including Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The school board sent the survey, which led to corporal punishment being reinstated, to parents, students, and employees with responses being anonymous. All three groups identified student behavior and discipline as a “high concern” topic.
The Cassville school district investigated the use of corporal punishment along with two other options to aid in discipline: the creation of a Success Academy for kids who struggle in a traditional setting and a restriction on cellphones and other internet-ready devices. All three options were implemented for the 2022-2023 school year.
The corporal punishment option was adopted as an “opt-in” policy for this school year. That means that students will only receive this form of punishment if their parents actively choose to participate by opting their child into it. Parents can then opt in or out at any time during the school year.
Not everyone is in favor of the new paddling policy. Miranda Waltrip, a mother of three students in Cassville schools, believes the new policy to be inappropriate and would like to see the school district attempt other methods of correcting behavior.
“I feel like if they had a different outlet like counseling services in school instead of corporal punishment, that would be the more appropriate answer. At the end of the day, they are having to hold the child down and spank them or use whatever means that they can to make the child submissive when that is not the issue, it is the fact that they need to be heard because children act out for varied reasons” Waltrip said.
Studies show that the use of corporal punishment has decreased over the years and that schools are one of the last remaining public institutions where corporal punishment is still legal, including the prison system. The same article, published by the National Institutes of Health, shows that 34 nationally known nonprofits are against corporal punishment in school and that 74% of Americans are against the use of corporal punishment in school.
The school district handbook has a section entitled “Corporal Punishment” in the discipline section. The handbook states, “it shall be used only when all other alternative means of discipline have failed, and then only in reasonable form and upon the recommendation of the principal. Corporal punishment shall be administerd [sic] only by swatting buttocks with a paddle.”
In addition, corporal punishment can only be administered by a principal and with another staff member present.
Johnson said that at the end of the school year, his administrative team would evaluate all three new initiatives including corporal punishment.
“We go back to the drawing board every year and look at what our needs are and reassess and come back with something different, maybe, next year,” Johnson said.