So I am stunned. But it seems like vestiges of the 1950’s are all around us lately. I can’t believe that they still spank in some schools! A recent report at the National Public Radio website titled “Spanking Lives on in Rural Florida Schools” by Sarah Gonzalez discusses the widespread use of spanking or paddling in some rural Florida districts. Florida is one of 19 states that still allow spanking in school.
While parental spanking is a whole other issue for parents in this country, I thought that school paddling was a closed chapter. However, after a bit of research, I found that it was not. New Jersey was the first state to outlaw paddling in 1867; New York outlawed it in 1985. So I guess the 1950’s weren’t so long ago, after all.
In my mind, this is problematic on so many fronts. First of all, there is a large question of efficacy. The Center for Effective Discipline found that this does not reduce act as a deterrent for bad behavior. In fact, the students who most often received the paddle were the children who got into trouble the most. Also, it is a dicey type of discipline as hitting a student is often used as a punishment for a student who hits another student. So what are we really saying about hitting and violence in school? Additionally, The Center for Effective Discipline found that paddling could have short and long term physical and psychological consequences.
Parental consent is another issue. While there certainly are parents, like the ones mentioned in this story that believe paddling deters bad behavior and are staunch supporters of the practice in their district, the opposite is also true. Not all parents in a district agree. Even parents who did not consent to have their children paddled in school found their children being paddled anyways. In my mind, this is completely impermissible and intolerable. Parental consent is of necessity! I think it is also important to have more of a universal policy of something of this nature. At least in Florida it seems that each district makes its own policy on paddling and the if, when, and how it is used.
There are a lot of politicians and policy makers that are looking backwards to “how it used to be” to fix social issues across the spectrum. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, my shout out this week encourages us all to take pause before having seemingly knee jerk reactions to large problems when efficacy is in question and particularly when child welfare is also in question.