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School punishes kids for laughing too hard

Lots of things can get you paddled if you are a child who goes to school in Tipton County, Tennessee: Cheating, smoking and vandalism are all potential corporal punishment offenses. Oh yeah, and laughing can get you spanked too, apparently.

A fifth-grade and sixth-grade student who attend Covington Integrated Arts Academy in Tipton County, Tennessee, found that out the hard way when they were paddled for laughing and talking on a school bus. Their parents, Elizabeth and Chris Ragsdale, were understandably angry when they learned about the punishment, pulling their kids from the school and sharing their displeasure with a local news outlet.

They’re actually pretty familiar with the county’s stance on paddling, since their son was physically punished for fighting with another student a few months ago. They were mad then too and asked the school to at least notify them should administrators feel the need to start wailing on their children again, but the school didn’t acquiesce, since it doesn’t need parental permission to do it.

Elizabeth Ragsdale, the children’s mother, has had enough, saying: “I feel like they are abusing their privileges up there of being administrators and being over our children… It just feels like everything that my kids told me has resulted in them fearing what’s going to happen when they go to school.”

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The school has taken a pretty hard “sorry not sorry” stance on the whole thing, though the superintendent has magnanimously offered to “make sure the school followed policy.” He will probably find that it did, since the policy is to, you know, paddle children.

And can you really blame the school? Doesn’t the sound of a child’s laughter just enrage you so much that when you hear it you have the irresistible urge to just hit them over and over again? No? You probably wouldn’t make a very good addition to the administrative team at Covington, then.

If you were so inclined, you could make an argument for spanking. It seems unlikely, though, that even the most pro-spanking corporal punishment advocate would consider “laughing” to be a paddling offense.

Yes, it’s dangerous to distract a bus driver, and yes, kids do it all the time. If you’ve ever had to meet a child at the bus stop, you know that when those little folding doors whoosh open, the decibel level rises exponentially. It just seems like there are multiple steps to be taken (verbal warnings, suspensions, detentions) before “spanking” is put on the table.

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Kids shouldn’t be able to just get away with behavior that’s not allowed, certainly, but on the spectrum of crappy things that kids do, “laughing” is right up there with “making fart noises with their armpits.” It’s a nonissue. There has to be some point where we allow kids to be, you know, kids. We have to not collectively freak out if some students are jazzed to be out of school and have the audacity to be jovial about it.

Kids spend so much of their time in school, and there should be some latitude there. Expect them to behave, yes, but maybe allow them the outlet of something as innocuous as laughing without fear of reprisal.

More: Mom shocked to find that school spanked her son

Unfortunately for the Ragsdales, unless they jet-pack out of Tennessee, their children could be spanked in pretty much any school they attend. Similarly, all schools in the Tipton County district share a discipline policy, which of course includes corporal punishment for minor offenses.

You can find that policy in their handbooks, right above the “bullying” section, which encompasses a range of offenses from “physically harming another student” to “causing emotional distress to a student” and “creating a hostile education environment.”

The complete blindness of this is so absurd that it’s almost funny.

Just don’t laugh.

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