Who Should Do the Paddling in School?

My first post, which was Paddling in School: Yes or No, was written as a result of U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy’s bill in Congress (H.R.5628) to do away with corporal punishment in schools. I left out some important points from my post yesterday regarding this issue.

  • The person doing the paddling should be someone who was not involved in the original incident. The principal is usually that person. When a teacher is angry at a student, emotions can run high. Some teachers or staff members take things more personally than others do. Teachers are exactly like parents in these situations. They are human too. The  scene running through the brain is the same for parents and teachers: How dare you? You did this to me — your teacher/mother? I care about you. I go out of  my way for you. The child will be resentful and learn little from his misbehavior if he or she is spanked while emotions are still running high.
  • Having the principal speak to the child one-on-one about the child’s poor choice, having him explain why students are not allowed to act that way in school, having him help the child think of other choices that he could have made are all part of the discipline process. We need to remember that discipline is not about punishment. Instead, it’s about helping the child develop  self-discipline. It’s helping the child understand that there are consequences to our choices/actions so that the next time the student starts to make a poor choice, he/she will apply the brakes while the thought is still in his brain and has not yet traveled to his hand or mouth.
  • It is extremely important that the child is able to quickly get back into the teacher’s good graces. Principals need to emphasize this point with their teachers during staff meetings: “Teachers, do not take these incidents personally. Learn to be objective and to be detached.” The child also needs to know that the principal still likes him and will not hold a grudge toward him.
  • The principal should expect the child to make an apology to the teacher, although normally the apology should take place the next day, when the child (and sometimes the teacher) is less emotional. For some children, a direct apology is very difficult. These children can write a written apology. For the rare child who cannot apologize, the principal can take the child to the teacher and say, “Samantha told me that she is sorry (if Samantha actually expressed this to the principal), but she is having a difficult time apologizing directly to you. So I am here to let you know that Samantha told me that she’s very sorry for what she did.” It is a good idea if the principal has forewarned the teacher so that the teacher can immediately say something warm and fuzzy to Samantha to let her know  that she’s pleased that Samantha is sorry and that Samantha is now back in the teacher’s good graces.
  • Spanking or paddling must always be done when the principal is calm. Some students try to get the principal’s goat while he/she is talking to them. The principal must stay calm and detached. He/she should never  humiliate the child; otherwise, the child will learn nothing positive from the experience.
  • Finally, paddling should be done only for serious infractions. I am talking about such issues as respect and safety, fighting, for example. This does not mean that the first time a child is in a fight that he should be paddled. The principal can say: “You are telling me that you understand why we can’t allow hitting and fighting at school. I am so glad that you understand that because it means that I don’t have to give you a swat this time. But  if  you do this again, you will get swatted.” Children are grateful and relieved, and they will remember what the principal said the next time they are tempted to fight and be less likely to fight. Swats should also be given for extreme disrespect to other students and for insolence and disrespect to adult members of the staff — but only if the behavior has become a pattern. Again, swats should not be given the first time a student commits a serious offense.

My friend, Thomas Aswell, has his own blog http://www.louisianavoice.com, where he talks about Louisiana politics. He read yesterday’s post, and in the comment section of my first post —Welcome to the First Post of My New Blog–you’ll find a cute story about the time his daughter was in first grade. It’s the third comment from the top. After reading today’s blog, what do you think my response would be? Should that little 1st grader have been paddled or not?


2 responses to “Who Should Do the Paddling in School?

  1. In fairness, I feel obligated to add this postscript to my earlier comment. The little boy’s teacher, who was just starting her very first teaching job, resigned midday Monday and left the school.

    • Yes. Any educator reading your comment would recognize the stress that a new teacher would undergo if this incident happened the first day of her teaching career. It would make me, at first glance, want to paddle that little boy. But I hope that as an experienced principal that my own “better angels’ would prevail and that I would remember that he is just a first grader. At his age he would have no awareness of how his actions would impact others. If I took a guess, I would bet that his parents had, for the last 6 years, encouraged him to be “cute” and “mischievous.” They wanted to raise a little Tom Sawyer. I could be wrong, of course. Regardless, the parents should have been brought in and “educated.” Their attitude should have been “100% dismayed” and they should have profusely apologized for what their son had done. If they truly understood, then they would have made sure that their son learned from this experience. Again, I do not believe the first grader should have been paddled until he showed the same types of behavior as the year progressed.