Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Never Too Old to be Surprised

I was a rather naive teenager. I was surprised when I went to college to find the extent of sophistication and intelligence among my college peers. And I had thought I was so smart.

I was rather naive as a young nurse. I thought that I would save lives on a daily basis and be the personification of Florence Nightingale herself. I was surprised to find that many nursing duties did not involve heroics.

I was rather naive as a young mother. While an experienced babysitter and competent nurse, I was surprised to find how difficult mothering could be.

As I grew older, I became more skeptical and less naive. I had begun to think that nothing could surpise me after all that I had seen and heard.

Action for Children in North Carolina published a report last week about corporal punishment during the last school year. I was not only surprised, but totally appalled. Corporal punishment is still allowed in schools in 21 of these United States!!! Striking a child, prohibited in juvenile detention centers is perfectly fine in many public schools throughout the U.S. I am sorry to say that North Carolina is one of those states that does not prohibit paddling in public schools. Our legislative code leaves the decision to the local school boards. Twenty-six school districts in NC allow spanking of children from kindergarten through high school. Most of them do not exempt special needs children from the spanking policies.

Here is the NC code about corporal punishment in public school:
Principals, teachers, and others may use reasonable force in the exercise of lawful authority to restrain or correct pupils and maintain order; local boards may not prohibit use of such force but are to adopt policies governing administration of corporal punishment, including at a minimum: notice to students and teachers; teacher and no other students present.

I honestly thought our nation had progressed beyond allowing teachers to assault children and teens with wooden paddles or canes. Worse, according to "Action for Children," students with disabilities received corporal punishment almost 300 times in 2006 here in the State of North Carolina. And those were only the reported instances.

This post is not in any way intended to criticize parents who spank their children, especially a swat on the behind with the open hand. But to allow teachers to spank a child with a wooden paddle? Do you really want your teenage daughter spanked by her male teacher? Or any teacher? No, the purpose of this post is to remind us all that there are laws and regulations that we thought were long gone from our states. That we remain naive and uninformed about many aspects of our society.

Proponents of spanking in schools will begin with the oft used quote, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." School district officials will begin by telling you that many times the students or parents themselves choose spanking over other alternative punishments. What they are not likely to tell you is that most of the alternative punishments involve suspension or "in school suspension" in which the student is not allowed to attend classes for several weeks at a time.

It should come as no surprise that most public school spankings are done in the "Bible Belt" states and most of the spankings in North Carolina are in the western mountains. I leave you with photographs of real paddles actually used in public schools. I honestly believe that a parent using one of these paddles to routinely discipline children at home would be reported to Child Protective Services.


Sam said...

Huh. It reminds me of dog training, in some ways. People have gradually begun to move away from the excessively negative and physical corrections in dog training, and have looked towards other methods of getting things done. It seems that the same has occurred to some extent with regard to corporal punishment in schools, but, you're right, the only acceptable amount is none.

If parents choose to spank their children, that's their prerogative, I guess. But if I had kids, I wouldn't want a teacher doing it.

TSannie said...

That's all kinds of horrifying. Hard to believe this still goes on.

robin andrea said...

It's hard to imagine that this stuff is still going on in the 21st century. When I think about the Texas School Board recent decision about history textbooks, I think we may be devolving.

Cedar ... said...

yes,... disappointing to say the least that this is still happening. There are positive ways to discipline. And yes, Robin Andrea, that TX decision to "re-invent" history and events is another disappointment. Big disappointment!

Rae said...

It is wrong no matter how you look at it for a teacher to be paddling a child. Discipline starts in the home. Unfortunately it is lacking in many homes now days. There has to be a better alternative than to hit a child.

Cheryl said...

I can remember my brother getting the cane at shcool, many years ago now. My mother was furious and made an appointment to see the headmaster. He had in fact been punished for a crime he did not commit.
Like you I thought times had changed, evidently not. It makes me feel sad to know these punishments still take place.

Rudee said...

It is appalling. I'd have to say, I'd be a fierce advocate for my child. I don't think a teacher would paddle one of my kids, especially my special needs child, more than once. There'd be hell to pay.

jeannette stgermain said...

This is horrid. How can that be??? What about "time out" or a reward system (having No reward is punishment enough for young children) -it's more important that teachers in their training learn how to control rowdy and undisciplined kids, rather than making use of physical punishment. Ultimately disciple should be the parent's task!

Busy Bee Suz said...

Wow. I had no idea that was still allowed. I remember getting spanked in school, it was humiliating.
I think that studies will show that this type of discipline (in the long run) does not work.

dAwN said...


JeanMac said...

I, too, am appalled. We had a sadistic teacher in Grade 4 - for every spelling error, you got one strap on the hand.I'll never forget "little Sammy" - I'm sure he was learning disabled and was strapped daily. I can't believe I didn't tell my pparents - although, I'm sure they could not have done anything to stop it.

Jayne said...

I just simply think that there are other ways to enforce consequences rather than striking someone's behind, for goodness sakes. Heck, these days, all my sister has to do is to even threaten to take away my nephews phone... amazing deterrent to unwanted behavior!

Appalachian Lady said...

Those paddles are awful. I remember the nuns using rulers in our elementary school--quick slap hurt pretty bad. I was so frightened, I didn't learn much at all the first few years. Finally, I came out of my shell in the 5th grade where I had positive reinforcement from a kind nun (who later left the convent).

Leedra said...

I shudder to think what the paddle with drilled holes would do to a child - or adult.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn, this is timely. I have been stewing over this article I read recently about a push to reduce hitting disabled students.

Good grief.

Phoenix said...

People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can use the resources I've posted if they want to learn more. All materials listed may be accessed at the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

Plain Talk About Spanking
by Jordan Riak,

The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
by Tom Johnson,

by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

American Academy of Pediatrics,
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
American Psychological Association,
Center For Effective Discipline,
Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone.

Sam - I totally agree.

Robin - Oh, don't even get me started about Texas. OMG!

Phoenix - thanks for the useful information.