Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still Paddling in Public Schools

In a couple of weeks, my school will have its first faculty meeting of the new academic year. At this meeting, we will set school-wide goals for the year, meet new staff members and iron out mundane scheduling issues such as recess coverage and bus duty. And, as always, at some point during the meeting, our formidable principal will lean forward and announce, "I say this every year and I'll say it again for the new teachers. If you ever hit a child, I will fire you." I've been at the school several years now and the proclamation is just another harbinger of autumn. But the first time I heard it, the words startled me. Hit a student? What kind of teacher would do such a thing? Why would such absurd words even be uttered? After all, isn't all that knuckle wrapping and bottom paddling long gone with the one-room school house?
No, apparently it's alive and well in 21st century America.
According to an Associated Press article by Libby Quaid, 223,190 public school students were paddled at least once in the 2006-2007 school year. Forty percent of these children live in Texas or Mississippi. Other pro-paddling states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida and Missouri. 
Far from being a fireable offense, in places where corporal punishment is allowed, teachers and principals generally have legal immunity from assault laws. 
Where do the paddles come from? Some of them are actually made by students in shop class.
Here is the disturbing report by Human Rights Watch on Corporal Punishment in US Public Schools.  

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