Texas School District to Implement ‘Paddling’ Punishment

Jul 24, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

How would you feel if your child's school voted to approve physical punishment with a wooden paddle?

That's just what happened in Three Rivers, Texas, where the district school board voted yes — unanimously — on administering corporal punishment when students misbehave.

If you're blinking in disbelief and wondering what century this is, well, we are too.

CBS News reported that school district trustees voted 6 – 0 (!!!) that a principal or "behavior coordinator" may spank or strike a misbehaving child with a wooden object.

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"Paddle" is a very friendly-sounding word reminiscent of water sports, but make no mistake. A wooden paddle is anything but a friendly choice of discipline.

The district represents only two schools in a region approximately halfway between Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

Students in this district will only receive a paddling as a disciplinary measure if their parents have provided verbal and written consent for the paddling to be carried out. Parents can decide whether to "opt in or out" of the paddling package when they register their children for the upcoming school year.

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No, really. We swear. This is not a joke. Sign up for school lunches, paddling or both.

Superintendent Mary Springs reassured everyone (and by "everyone," we mean "no one"), saying, “If the parent is not comfortable with it, that’s the end of the discussion.”

We feel like this decision has the potential to go seriously awry in this district of more than 700 students.

But Texas is not alone in OK'ing corporal punishment at school; 14 other states permit it as well, and eight other states have zero laws or regulations opposing it according to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (part of the U.S. Department of Education).

Last November, John B. King Jr. (the education secretary) urged state leaders to stop the use of physical punishment in schools, citing many negative short- and long-term effects from the practice. But the Three Rivers Elementary School's "campus behavior coordinator" (why does that sound so ominous?), Andrew Amaro, said he has great hopes that the paddling will improve discipline. In elementary school children. Let that sink in.
You know why Amaro wants to see paddling at the school? Because he got paddled as a kid.

“I believe it worked,” Amaro said. “It was an immediate response for me. I knew that if I got in trouble with a teacher and I was disrespectful, whatever the infraction was, I knew I was going to get a swat by the principal.”

WTF. We're pretty sure tarring and feathering helped rein in bad behavior too back in Colonial America. But for the love of God, this is 2017.

So what can a kid earn a paddling for? Being "disobedient," Amaro explained.

Well, that clears that up.

The worst part? School districts in Texas are in no way required to report paddling incidents to the state education agency according to that agency's spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson.

But Springs, the superintendent of Three Rivers, insists there will be tracking.

"We will look at how many discipline referrals were made compared to last year and how many times [corporal punishment] was administered," Springs said. "If it reduces the number of discipline referrals, then that is a good thing."

Or is it?