The Internet is outraged at a video that’s quickly going viral in which a mother films her young son being spanked with a paddle by two employees at the child’s school. The video is distressing, as both child and mother, Shana Marie Perez, are clearly upset. It’s tough to watch, and if you choose to press play, please proceed with caution.
There’s a lot of anger to be felt when you see a video like this, and that anger is incredibly justified. The question many of us may be asking ourselves is, “How could someone let this happen?” And, more often than not, that question is directed at the child’s mother, who seemingly stood by and did nothing while her son was beat at school.
But things are not always as simple as they seem. The accompanying text to the video posted on Facebook makes it clear that Perez felt helpless to stop what was happening. She indicates that if she said they couldn’t do it, her son would be suspended, and if that happened, she would be jailed for truancy. We have no way of knowing whether that scenario would have played out if she had stopped the beating, but what’s important is that she believed it would.
Perez was faced with many parents’ worst nightmare: a situation in which she felt powerless to help her child. Georgia is one of 19 states that still allow corporal punishment in schools. And Georgia state law does not make it easy for a parent to opt out of corporal punishment for their child. The law states, “If a parent or guardian does not approve of the use of corporal punishment against their child, they must provide a written statement from a physician stating that it would be detrimental to the child’s health.”
Where our outrage should be directed when incidents like this happen is not at the parents who feel trapped and forced to let schools take action they don’t agree with but at the systems in place that make it difficult, if not impossible, for parents to advocate for their children. The process for a parent to opt out of corporal punishment for their child varies by state, and many parents may not even realize that its use is still allowed in their state. They may not know that they needed to think about opting out in the first place until it’s too late and they’re faced with a situation like Perez found herself in.
We send our children to school for them to learn, grow and, hopefully, be safe. We don’t expect that the school itself will be the place that administers harm or abuse to our children. But if we’re really outraged, we should be looking up the laws in our own states and working to change outdated and harmful laws where they still exist. Because we know better than we did 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago. Today we know that spanking is detrimental to a child’s health and well-being. We have better ways of handling children that we deem to be misbehaving.
No parent should be forced to have to watch their children endure a beating at the hands of the people tasked with keeping them safe. Now it’s on the rest of us to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
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