Spanky panky

Posted: Thursday, July 31st, 2008


Since joining the staff of as an editorial assistant and staff writer, I’ve found out a lot about the wide world of education in this country. I’ve written about what kids are and aren’t learning in Sex Ed class, whether standardized testing is hurting our students, and the debate over extending the school day. (To be fair, I’ve also extolled the virtues of roller coasters and outlined how to throw a medieval birthday party: the stuff of journalistic dreams). But in my most recent article, I found something out that I would never, ever have guessed: remember how misbehaving children used to get paddled by school administrators, oh, mid-century or so? It’s still legal in over twenty states.

Yep, that’s right. Somewhere in our great nation an assistant principal is rolling up his sleeves and preparing to take aim at some child’s rear end with a wooden paddle or the deceptively soft palm of his bare hand. Does the image surprise you, disgust you, or give you the vague satisfaction of knowing that justice is being done?

I must admit to being shocked, puzzled, and not a little hungry for details. I mean, where do people find these paddles? (Hint: fetish websites have a wide selection.) What do these paddles look like? (Hint: a hardwood such as ash or hickory is preferred, and a paddle with holes, like swiss cheese, cuts down on wind resistance. Think wiffle ball.) And above all, why do people think that inflicting physical punishment on children in a place of learning is acceptable? (Think about it: children are the only subset of society whose members can be legally hit. Cats and dogs? Not so much).

But the fact remains that for a large percentage of the nation’s parents, corporal punishment seems to do the trick. I was spanked (infrequently) as a child. Weren’t you? And we turned out okay, right? So the argument goes …

However, the transition from at-home spanking to in-school spanking is one I find it hard to justify. Sure, sometimes kids misbehave in school. They’re insolent, they start fights, they lie and they just don’t seem to care. But adults are supposed to take the higher ground. If we all started swatting one another on the bum every time things didn’t go our way, can you imagine the interpersonal chaos that would ensue?

But enough about me. I want to hear from you: the people who’ve been paddled at school, the parents who’ve seen their kids disciplined this way, the teachers and administrators that like it and hate it. And no, I’d prefer not to hear from those adults who spank other adults. That’s a whole different story.

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11 Responses to “Spanky panky”

  1. Kat Says:

    Wow…I had NO idea this was still legal and happening! The first day my child got paddled in school would be the last day he was in attendance there. How can we expect teachers and administrators to help kids learn to solve conflicts without fighting if hitting is in their own bag of tricks? It makes my stomach churn to think about this.

  2. Danielle Says:

    While I wasn’t spanked as a child, I do remember getting my “mouth washed out with soap” when I came home spouting some bad words I’d picked up in the school yard. It was enough to make me never curse at home again…

    That was my mom, not my teacher. And she did not do it lightly. The paddle, though? In school?! I can’t believe this is still going on.

  3. Robert Says:

    Thanks for the reminder that something as ridiculous as this is still happening in our modern society. Why is it that some teachers, administrators, and care-takers feel that they have the right to hit a misbehaving child? If they can’t properly manage the stress caused by children, then perhaps they’re in the wrong line of business.

  4. graham Says:

    In Tanzania corporal punishment is very common, in schools and out- sometimes for no good reason. One thing I noticed as an effect of this is that the kids associated the punishment with getting caught, not with the actual action. As a result to avoid punishment the kids tried their best not to get caught (rightly so), and if they did, they would lie like politicians, even if you witnessed the event.

    Once I saw a kid kick a soccer ball into my window and break it. I went outside and asked the kid, who was trying to sneak away, still holding his soccer ball, “are you going to apologizes for breaking my window?” boy: “I didn’t break your window” me: “I SAW you break my window” boy: “no you didn’t” ….

    In many cause using physical punishment seemed to have the opposite desired effect of trying to keep a child honest. They were beaten whether they owned up to a transgression or not, so might as well try to get out of it.

  5. Danielle S Says:

    I remember bringing home a note for my mom to sign that would give the teacher permission to spank me if I was bad. (This was in first grade not 8th) ;) I remember thinking, no way. My mom wouldn’t let anyone do that. But alas, they had free reign. She signed the paper without a second thought. I look back and think I am no better or worse for it. I don’t think I could recall a time a teacher actually spanked me. But my parents….different story, and I do know that I am better off for it. I learned right and wrong at a very early age. I do think some of the ways we were punished as kids would not fly in today’s “time out” world of parenting. But, as a to be parent, I think, “do I want anyone spanking my kid?” Sure, now I can say sure. But, I’ll tell you how I really feel once he’s here.

    Great post…love the title.

  6. Patrick Says:

    Never needed a spanking from teachers, a phone call to my parents or even worse a (gulp) request for my parents to come into the principal’s office always had the desired effect. I don’t think teachers should spank, but in a situation where the child isn’t being disciplined at home, I would think not having that threat of discipline would make a teacher’s job much more difficult. There has to be an answer outside of corporal punishment in the school though.

  7. Ron Says:

    If you spare the rod, you spoil the child. When I grew up in the rural South, this expression was common. Yes, I was spanked by my teachers and my parents (infrequent). Actually, my dad never spanked me, and my mom probably spanked me 5 times during my childhood – well maybe 10 times. I would like to think I was a good kid. But actually, my mom did not have to spank me. Her LOOK when I did something wrong was as effective as a spank. In schools, I had 3 teachers in elementary school who believed in spanking. My 5th grade teacher was a big spanker. She used an 18″ ruler that was very thick and it did hurt. My spankings were usually NOT for misbehaving but for “forgetting homework”, not memorizing a poem, etc. I must admit I did not forget my homework, and I memorized my future poems. Nevertheless, spankings in schools need to be banned. I thought in the 70′s and 80′s practically all states had outlawed corporal punishment. Rose, do you have a list of the spanky panky states. They deserve to be spanked or EXPOSED.

  8. Rose Says:

    Although corporal punishment is legal in over 20 states, it is generally practiced in the following states: Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Idaho, New Mexico, Missouri, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

  9. Sue Says:

    Yup…swats are still OK in Texas. What’s funny is that many of the older children would rather get swats than detention or some other form of punishment. Years ago my big boy thought it would be a good idea to skip school “But mom…I’m a senior!”. Well the principal got a hold of him and then called me at home. “I have your boy here in the office! He skipped school yesterday,” he advised me. “His punishment will be three days of detention or swats. Which should I give him?” Well, knowing my son all to well I had the foresight to ask which method of punishment he had chosen. The principal let me know that he had chosen the swats and that was why he was calling…to get permission. (Yes, in Texas they call and ask the parent’s permission.) You should have heard the yowl of anquish from my son when the principal advised him that his mom had suggested that if he wanted swats he should be punished with the detentions. My boy was sooooo mad. He came through the door that afternoon and demanded, “Why didn’t you let me get the swats? One minute and I’d have been out of there! Now I have to be at school at 6:30 for three days in a row!” I just smiled and said, “I guess you just answered your own question.”

  10. themay5 Says:

    I think corporal punishment in schools is completely unacceptable. As a former teacher, I would never think to spank or hit any of my students. To me, it suggests a lack and/or loss of control by the educator. There are several more effective ways of dealing with disruptive behavior than hitting a child. I also don’t feel it is the decision of someone other than the parent to decide whether to hit a child or not. As a product of Catholic school education, I was not spanked but a trip to the principal’s office definitely did the trick for me. There is a really great debate about spanking going on right now at Experts from both sides debate the issue…really interesting discussion on the topic!

  11. Vamp_Gurl6 Says:

    Hey, i thought that it was horrible for them to hit kids when they are in elementary, i mean that can hurt a kid, why would someone do that???????????????

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