In too many schools, child abuse is a traditional value

Among the most disturbing stories of the day is the NPR report today on the use of corporal punishment in schools. It still exists. It’s 2017.

No doubt the country is still rife with people who think that all kids need is to be hit a little more. The 25 percent increase in reports of child abuse in Minnesota is testament to that, although those in favor of more corporal punishment in schools have a difficult time seeing any connection between the two. One is discipline the other is abuse. Alright, then.

In one North Carolina school, kids get the choice of “paddling” over suspension. The principal says most kids, tomorrow’s paddlers, choose the corporal punishment.

One of those students is Allison Collins. She’s a senior now and says she chose to be paddled her sophomore year after her phone went off in class. She describes it as, “My first time ever being in trouble.”

Collins went to the assistant principal’s office where she was told she had a day of in-school-suspension. Collins told Principal Matheson she’d rather take a paddling and so he called her father to get permission.

“And my dad was like, ‘Just paddle her,'” she says. “Because down here in the mountains, we do it the old-school way.”

These are the people, by the way, who told us late last year that they were tired of being looked down upon the uppity city people.

But city people join in the fun too, because surveys show that 75 percent of people support spanking.

“I think it goes back to traditional values,” says Cheri Lynn, a Robbinsville parent who substitutes as a band teacher and coaches the school’s shooting team. “A lot of parents still hold to the traditional values of corporal punishment. They use it at home, and so the school is an extension of home.”

“I think if more schools did it, we’d have a whole lot better society. I do, I believe that,” the principal of the school says, ignoring studies that show just the opposite.

Nineteen states still allow the practice, according to the National Education Association. Almost all of them are in the deep south. Mississippi, the state that’s dead last in just about everything, is at the top of the list of states using corporal punishment most.

No doubt, this is the mentality that got Angellika Arndt in trouble in 2006. She wasn’t paddled; she was a victim of the next progression in the mentality: a “control hold.” She was often held to the floor for an hour and a half at a time. Face down.

But that didn’t keep her from being a kid — a 7-year-old kid — who gargled milk at lunch one day at her Wisconsin counseling center.

A day later, she was dead. Because she gargled milk.

“Corporal punishment is an important risk factor for children developing a pattern of impulsive and antisocial behavior…[and] children who experience frequent CP… are more likely to engage in violent behaviors in adulthood,” the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners declared last year.

Minnesota doesn’t get off lightly on the general issue as the case of former Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson shows. After causing lacerations in “disciplining” his child and being indicted in his home state on the charges, Peterson’s fans, clutching their traditional values, defended his approach to child-rearing if not the results. Hitting a kid is OK, they opined, as long as it didn’t leave marks.

Besides, it’s how they were raised, many said, without a hint of irony.

  • wjc

    In the second paragraph, “One is disciple the other is abuse. Alright, then.”, you mean discipline, right?

  • wjc

    I have never understood the idea of hitting kids to get them to behave better. Aren’t you just teaching them that as an adult who is bigger and stronger than you, I can make you comply with my wishes by threats of or infliction of pain?

    Yes kids, when you get bigger you can beat others to get them to do what you want too.

  • Julie Worley

    See SCHOOL PADDLING BLOG dot com, not your grandparents’ school paddling! Search “School Spanking” on twitter or internet to see how Adult sites target and exploit SCHOOL CHILDREN for SEXUAL VIOLENCE!

    5th Federal Bill #HR160 “The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” in Congress NOW! ALL 50 States have FELONY ANIMAL CRUELTY provisions, yet Federal Tax $$ pay school employees to HIT CHILDREN K-12 with thick wooden boards to inflict pain punishment for minor infractions, ASSAULT with a DEADLY WEAPON (School Spanking Paddles are not allowed in any Government Building including the U.S. Supreme Court where Security deemed them deadly weapons) when done in public to any person, often against parents wishes with NO SAFETY REQUIREMENTS and NO LEGAL REDRESS for injuries and trauma to children. States leave the decision to local school boards. In the majority of the U.S., school corporal punishment has been BANNED FOR DECADES and is a non-issue, a VIOLENT CRIME, most Americans have no idea that children are still being hit by educators in schools.

  • Mike

    Having grown up in a state where corporal punishment was practiced in public schools (though no longer), I will say that I never personally witnessed any incident that seemed genuinely abusive or cruel. That’s obviously not to say those incidents didn’t occur, but in my experience of 12 years it was used sparingly and with restraint. The mere allowance of corporal punishment does not necessarily mean that it will devolve into the sadism and brutality of the some of the examples cited in this post.

    Any regime of discipline and punishment (and they are ubiquitous throughout all of human society) can be arbitrary and cruel in the wrong hands, not simply this one. It’s not illogical for a kid to choose a few swats on the behind with a paddle compared to suspension or detention. The former is over with pretty quickly; the latter is tedious and potentially worse for the student in that it keeps him/her out of the classroom.

    • Rob

      Physically assaulting kids with a hard object seems sadistic by definition. And where is the line drawn as to how many swats a kid gets, and how light or heavy the swat is?

      • Mike

        Hours of tedium spent in detention or suspension might be worse, depending on a person’s individual sensibilities. How do you determine how long in duration those are?

        • Rob

          Assaulting kids doesn’t make sense, nor do frequent detentions and long suspensions. I don’t have the answers, but you’d think that teachers and other education experts could come up with some 21st Century solutions.

          • Mike

            Ordinary corporal punishment is not considered “assault” by most people. That’s a rhetorical move meant to brand it as a criminal act. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but it doesn’t change the popular perception.

            Otherwise, I agree. There’s a big category of things that humans should have progressed beyond at this stage. Just add these to the pile.

          • Laurie K.

            After assisting with the selection of juries on cases involving corporal punishment, I am going to respectfully disagree with your assertion [which is not backed by anything other than your opinion apparently] that “most people” do not consider it assault.

          • Joe Maxwell

            Laurie K:Exactly! Thank goodness most of our nation forbids these rituals of assault in our public schools. The adult bullies that do this could not work in ANY other profession in these not so United States and do what they do without being arrested and incarcerated for assault and battery.

          • One option is to tell the kid, “hey, turn your phone off.”

            Too simple?

    • Joe Maxwell

      Mike: I did. I witnessed it, was threatened with it, and experienced it both as a student throughout school and again as a teacher when I was told to witness the paddling of students (for which I refused to do). Outrageous Legalized abuse pure and simple with no safeguards or limits; where anything goes. Today because of this disgrace that remains in our public learning institutions in 19 US states I am a child/civil rights and human rights advocate.

  • Al

    Reading “Little House” with my four-year-old, and we had to stop and discuss spanking, because she’d never heard of it. That felt pretty good, as a parent.

    Husband and I said we’d save spanking for when we really, really felt like we needed it, and never in the moment. We’ve never felt like we needed it so far. (We also have the luxury of a two-parent family – when one is angry, the other one steps in to discipline.)

  • Anna

    One swat on a fully clothed behind is okay in my opinion. The swat is to get the child’s attention. However, a reasonable consequence has to follow i.e. a timeout, no computer time for two days, no dessert after dinner, no favorite TV show after homework,etc. The consequence has to fit the seriousness of the offense and the age of the child.

    If you are spanking your child to correct unwanted behavior, and by spanking that means hitting more than once on bare skin or with your hand, a rod or belt, you are abusing your child.

    I “swatted” my son once or twice when he was elementary age when we were out and about doing errands/shopping. It was a very rare occurrence because my ex and I taught our son the importance of respect, good manners and self-discipline.

    If it was an activity he particularly wanted to do, we left immediately and went home where he was put in his room to think about what he had done. An apology from him nearly always followed usually with a few tears and a lot of hugs all around.

    There are probably many posters on this blog who think even swatting a child one time to get their attention is bad. I disagree.

    My deceased maternal grandmother taught me long before I was married you teach a child manners and discipline will follow.

    My son today is a successful engineer and his bosses love him. He is well-spoken, polite, friendly and very good with customers.

    No parent is perfect at discipline. The secret is finding what motivates your child to follow the rules. Beating a defenseless child is not one of them.

    • Thomas Mercier

      I wonder if his current employer swats him when he does something inappropriate at work. You know, to get his attention and make sure he learns the correct way to do his job. There are other ways to do that, but none would catch his attention in quite the same way.

      • Anna

        How many times has a lady slapped your face?

        • Thomas Mercier

          No “lady” has ever slapped my face, I reserve that title for women of good repute.

          • Anna

            You totally missed the point.

  • dave

    “Floggings will continue until morale improves”

  • Michael

    I guess we have to ask the question, what do we think we are teaching when we discipline a student at school by using paddling or spanking. Is it really solving the problem we would like to solve, or is just making us feel better, or is it a cheap way to say “We did something about the problem the child caused.”

    It is a very reactive action and I do not believe it acts as much of a deterrent to a child who is probably not stopping in the moment to think “Oh…if I do this I will get punished for it and I do not like being spanked/paddled.” Either that or the other reaction starts “Hmm..I want to do this, but if I get caught I will get spanked, I better be careful and hide what I am doing” so why are we doing it? Do they have to get “punished” for forgetting to turn off their phone, or being bouncy in class, or other minor infractions or should we be looking for a different solution. But that also takes more time, and more follow up, and more planning so it is certainly harder on the school staff…

  • It seems pretty simple: Don’t. Hit. Kids.

    It doesn’t work.

  • WagTheDog
    • Mike Worcester

      Beat me to it 🙂

      • >>Beat me to it<<

        No pun intended?

        • Mike Worcester

          Ha! Not really but if that makes the comment more amusing, sure 🙂

  • Joe Maxwell

    The only way to stop the assaults of young people in our schools is to criminalize the actions of the adults that resort to the violence. It is a tradition and culture of violence that exists in these communities and it is carried over into their backwards rural schools.Every group in our society is protected from physical violence (even convicted felons) except our most vulnerable citizens–young human beings in school. It is unbelievable that in 2017 this is even an issue at all knowing of the harm that this has caused. As more and more victims of violence are created we can only hope they will join our crusade to help STOP the violence in the schools of the USA.

  • Mike Worcester

    //“I think if more schools did it, we’d have a whole lot better society. I do, I believe that,” the principal of the school says, ignoring studies that show just the opposite.

    I would challenge this principal to provide concrete data on how it would accomplish what he believes it would. Data that would correlate physical punishment with improved manners and politeness. Data that does not inject any sort of nostalgic or sentimental qualities to the discussion. I’ll be over here waiting.

    • I’m guessing he’d throw up a link to a Calvin College study by researchers there. An evangelical Christian college. The ironies of this issue are juicy.

  • earlrichards

    See it should be against the law for adults to hit small children.

    • Kassie

      It should be against the law for adults to hit anyone, child or adult, who isn’t consenting.

  • Kurt O

    There wasn’t any paddling when I was in school, but the nuns still had their ways to exert their authority without hitting us:

    Kids who did something pretty bad had to kneel in the hallway with their noses touching the wall. If was really bad you got paperclips to kneel on.

    Obviously I was never bad enough to experience that.


    Did you hear something? I swear I just heard a voice say something about lying being a sin…

    OH NO!!! It’s the ghost of Sister Valeria and she’s jingling chains of paperclips!!

    Gotta run!

  • chlost

    My husband attended school in the 60’s and 70’s in suburban Minneapolis. He regularly tells the story of his junior high phy ed teacher’s discipline method. The offending students were made to bend over, and pass through a gauntlet of the other students, who were forced to hit the offender on the butt. If someone on the gauntlet did not hit, or did not hit hard enough, that person was the next to pass through the gauntlet. My husband’s parents never hit their children. He was horrified by the entire process. He has felt guilty that he hit others in order to avoid being hit.