Arguments Against School Paddling

Supplemental Arguments Against School Paddling

1. School paddling is inconsistent with Title IX, because it inherently impacts boys and girls unequally. Unlike boys, girls who have entered puberty would have to reveal intimate personal information in order to avoid the chance of this punishment being unfairly compounded by menstrual discomfort or of being a risk factor where there is the possibility of pregnancy or other female-specific vulnerabilities. Either the school does not address such concerns when paddling girls — concerns which many students may be too embarrassed or intimidated to volunteer — or it intrusively does inquire about them. There are at least two known incidents where paddling had medical consequences due to a student being female, one in Dunn, N.C. from 1981 (ref: "Don't Inflict My Pain on Others," by Shelly S. Gaspersohn, USA Today, Oct. 23, 1984) and another in Scioto County, Ohio from 1997 (ref: "Some Ohio schools not sparing the rod – Corporal punishment allowed in districts," The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), Sept. 24, 2000).

With children of any age, moreover, discomfort following a paddling is apt to be greater for girls, due to pressure on the inflamed and/or contused area of their bodies resulting from their normal mode of urination or, alternatively, to muscular discomfort if they awkwardly avoid this pressure. This disparity was illustrated in the case of an 8-year-old in Florida who had to use her hands to support herself astride a toilet in order to urinate without aggravating the lingering pain she was experiencing (ref: State v. Paul E. King, Florida Supreme Court Case No. SC05-258).

2. The general immunity to litigation — if not also criminal prosecution — which some state laws (e.g., Texas and Alabama) and the courts have given teachers and principals when it comes to paddling effectively and unconstitutionally denies students and parents the remedies that were essential to the Supreme Court's decision in 1977 upholding school corporal punishment.

3. The balance of available redress in the case of an injurious or otherwise unjust paddling is further weakened by the modern day prospect of unwanted, widespread prurient attention to victims via corporal punishment-themed adult websites, which may inhibit parents from seeking redress for their unjustly paddled child for fear of the publicity such complaints could generate.

4. The legitimacy of male principals spanking female students is at odds with prevailing sexual harassment codes [see item 6 on second page of linked document], which bar male employers from spanking female employees — including minors.

5. The spanking paddle itself was originally invented not for use on schoolchildren, but rather as a tool for beating slaves. The idea was to have something that would inflict terrible pain without causing the kind of permanent tissue damage that could lower a slave's market value. While the corporal punishment of slaves has most often been portrayed as using a whip, it was also fairly common practice by the mid 1800's — at least in certain states — to use a paddle instead. This will not be news to anyone who has studied American slavery in depth or seen the 1975 movie "Mandingo." Although nobody would suggest that students today are paddled with the same degree of severity that slaves were, it is important to recognize that extreme severity is what this instrument was designed for. It is virtually unheard of, moreover, for school personnel to receive any professional training in how to paddle students, to be required beforehand to demonstrate competence at doing it safely and judiciously, to have their paddles inspected and held to any standards of size, weight, composition or craftsmanship, and least of all to have the velocity of their swing measured. Thus, we can reasonably expect that paddlers will often times hit harder than they intend to or, in some cases, hit parts of the body they don't intend to.

6. The spanking of kids at school could be videotaped without anyone's knowledge, which is a lot easier with the tiny cameras they make nowadays. If someone were to circulate that video on the Internet, it could be really humiliating for the student. Not to mention that there's a black market for images of children being spanked. The FBI broke up a nationwide child-spanking pornography ring in 2002, incredible as that may sound, and at least two of its members worked in public schools. [See also Principal Tim Mizelle, Willow Hill Elementary, Portal GA, 1994; ref:]

7. Despite dire warnings that school discipline would deteriorate if paddling went away, Memphis has seen a reduction of discipline problems since enacting its ban. At the national level, one finds that dropout rates, violent crime and other social problems are most concentrated among states and localities where paddling is still allowed. School shootings have occurred most often in states that allow paddling — and paddling may have even been a catalyst for the one in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It is worth noting, moreover, that among the top 100 U.S. schools ranked by Newsweek in 2003, not a single one is a paddling school.

8. The many groups supporting a ban on corporal punishment include the Alabama Association of School Boards, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses.

Tennesseans for Nonviolent School Discipline