If you’re of a certain age, you probably heard your parents or grandparents sing “School Days,” a 1907 song with these catchy lines, “School days, school days. Dear old Golden Rule days, ‘Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of the hick’ry stick.”
While corporal punishment – spanking – has largely fallen out of favor in the U.S., one Texas school system is bringing it back. Starting with the new school year, the 700 students in the Three Rivers Independent School District will be subject to whippings using a wooden paddle, so long as their parents don’t object. Young scholars will face a possible paddling for minor infractions like being disobedient or ignoring classroom rules.
The district’s Board of Trustees approved the measure by a 6-0 vote, expressing a hope it will be more effective in correcting behavior than such punishments as in-school suspensions or detention. Only a school’s principal or “campus behavior coordinator” may wield the paddle under the new policy. Parents will be required to give written consent at registration for their child to be subject to a whipping.
Three Rivers is going against the flow with this move. Twenty-seven states have banned corporal punishment, while 15 specifically allow spanking. Eight states have no policy on the matter. The Three Rivers District previously barred physical punishment. Many educators and mental health oppose the practice on the grounds it can cause both short and long-term problems.
The U.S. Department of Education issued a letter in November urging all state to ban corporal punishment. Students subjected to physical discipline are more likely than their classmates to become increasingly defiant and aggressive, according to the letter.
In the long term, they are more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
Three Rivers officials say they will closely monitor whether spanking has an impact on classroom behavior. If the practice results in fewer kids being sent to the office for discipline, the policy will be deemed effective.
Regardless of what those result show, we probably haven’t heard the end of the debate over spanking in schools – in Three Rivers, and across the country.