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The Mamafesto: School discipline is still like the Wild West

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine,,...

From paddling to cleaning potties, something is wrong with school discipline

When it comes to discipline at school, most of us are familiar with the "time out" or "go to the principal's office" variety, especially if we're looking at elementary school.

After all, school is a place where kids go to learn, and most teachers are pretty adept at redirecting students and appropriately handling poor or disruptive behavior. Unfortunately, not all teachers or schools are, and there are still many that are using either corporal punishment or other awful means in order to get students to behave.

In Ector County, Texas, one mother recently claimed her son was spanked with a paddle by a junior high employee. The paddling was so intense that her son was left with deep, painful bruising. What did the student do to merit the corporal punishment? He placed some glue on a substitute teacher's chair before school break. While that was absolutely not an OK thing to do, the punishment was completely inappropriate.

The mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, said her son had the choice of a two-day in-school suspension or receiving "swats" with parental approval. While her son did choose the spanking, the mother says she was never notified, let alone gave approval. How the school decided it was OK to dole out that physical punishment without parental input is beyond me.

More: Mom shocked to find that school spanked her son

Like many other things (gun control and mandated, paid maternity leave for instance) corporal punishment in schools is something the U.S. is still woefully behind on. While much of the industrialized world has banned such harsh physical punishments in their public schools, it is still a "valid" and legal form of punishment in 19 states!

If spanking kids isn't bad enough, another school has recently come under fire for forcing a preschooler to clean out a clogged toilet with his bare hands. The Flagler County, Florida, school was having problems with their younger students using too much toilet paper, and instead of using this as a teaching moment to talk about how much toilet paper should be used, they decided to go a whole other route — one that we usually discourage kids from attempting. Most parents spend their time teaching their children not to put their hands in the toilet, and for good reason: It's gross! The school is now looking into whether or not the teacher will be disciplined over this incident.

More: Teen Mom sparks discipline debate with spanking video of her little girl (VIDEO)

As a former high school teacher, I get it. It can be frustrating when students misbehave, but to resort to corporal punishment or disgusting humiliation in order to discipline? That's not OK, especially when it comes to physical punishment. We live in a society where somebody can get arrested for hitting another person, so why is it OK to allow a school to do that freely, especially without any parental involvement? I would be beyond livid if that happened to my child.

To imagine that any school in this day and age would resort to something as atrocious as a spanking, particularly for junior high kids, is horrific. There is also something incredibly uncomfortable about a grown man "swatting" a young teen until the point of pain and bruising. That is not something that belongs anywhere, let alone a school. The only lesson being taught there is that physical punishment is acceptable, when frankly, it's not.

Let's catch up with the rest of the world, at least on this one, please. No more spankings in school. No more making a 4-year-old stick his hand in a nasty toilet to unclog it. Please.

More: Woman arrested because her stepson walked to school

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