BIW Versus Paddling in Schools

Now that school is back in session, I thought that I would take some time to talk about an all-importnat thing that happens in our schools in 19 states: paddling. I know. It sounds completely archaic for someone other than a parent to discipline a child using physical force, but it's actually allowed.

Delaware allowed paddling in schools when I was a kid, and don't you know, it was outlawed here the year I graduated high school in 2003.

My family moved from New York to Delaware in the late 80's and I entered the school system in the year 1991. But it wasn't until we moved to Sussex County, Delaware and my mother had me change schools that she became aware of paddling in the school districts here. It was a shocking revelation for my mother--a feminized woman with a double masters' degree who ran her own successful therapeutic business--that adults hit children in school.

She was further scared by my awful third grade teacher who announced during parent-teacher night that paddling was for the protection of children. When my mother asked how, the teacher said [and forgive me for paraphrasing here] that:

Suppose a little dark boy pushes a blonde girl on the playground. That needs to be dealt with and I would paddle him. 

Obviously this was a shocking thing for anyone to say aloud, let alone a teacher. She was no better a teacher than she was a human being, as it was, and she started the school year with the students by showing us all her paddle that she kept as the solitary item in her bottom desk drawer. For some reason, this teacher couldn't fathom why I was sick every day during the third grade. I still blame the fear she instilled in me that year as the reason why I didn't fully absorb my multiplication tables.

Lucky for me, I was a good student, and I mostly forgot about the fact that people could be paddled at all... that was until middle school. I had switched schools my eighth grade year to attend a school for the arts. It had grades K-8 and a principal who was hands down one of the most awful humans I had ever met. He hated me for some unknown reason, but as it turned out, he pretty much hated everyone who was a child.

There was this kid who was in first or second grade. His parents were really poor. He rode my bus and came dressed for school in the same outfit nearly every day. His clothes were almost always ill-fitting and dirty. But he was a cute kid, and he was really funny. One day he accidentally soiled himself and tried to hide his soiled underwear by flushing them down the toilet at school. This did not work and the toilet overflowed causing a huge flood in the boys' bathroom.

When he was caught, the principal paddled him. Paddled. Him. I was so shocked and horrified by this fact that I actually cried over this little kid's paddling. I even brought it up to my teacher, who told me it was none of my business. But something inside of me knew it was wrong; the situation was humiliating enough for the child in the first place. Secondly, it wasn't necessarily wrong or bad what the child did, it was just not the most logical thing to do--but he was seven for god's sake. I just kept imagining this poor little kid, scared and already embarrassed, being paddled for trying to hide his accident.

And that was the day that I knew I was against paddling. Because "wrong" is such a subjective word. And so "appropriate" as far as punishment is concerned. Also, hitting children teaches them to hit and I don't believe that it entirely effective. Let's also take a moment to discuss when male administrators paddle female students at the high school level--does that sound like "discipline" to you??

Paddling will surely remain a topic of conversation among the parenting community, but really, whether you have children or not, shouldn't we all be concerned about the message this is sending our children? Because someday--whether you have children or not--those kids are our future, and I don't want them thinking that corporal punishment is a way to handle their problems.

Do you agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments section below. 

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