Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some thoughts on Corporal Punishment

Ok....  I'm up on my soapbox again, but after all, this is my blog, which means it's my soapbox.  I realize that this is a controversial topic, and you may not agree with me -- feel free to move on, it won't hurt my feelings one tiny bit.

We've all seen the recent story about the five year old child in Georgia who was paddled by the school principal.
Mom was present during the paddling, took a video of the paddling,and posted it online.  And there's no question that it's difficult to watch the video of the child screaming 'Mommy, help me'.


Georgia state law allows corporal punishment by a school, in the form of paddling or spanking a child.     

I can't tell how long mom has been living in Georgia, but the child has been attending school since September.  The corporal punishment rule is not something that is seldom discussed, or rarely used. And by the way, it's not just Georgia.. it's Georgia plus 19 other states.  Yes, less than half, but not by much.  My point is, before people decide they are shocked by this rule, they need to understand that this is not unique... not by a long shot.

The force cannot be excessive, and the parent or legal guardian is notified in advance.

The child was spanked once, and mom was present. While the media is hyping the fact that you could clearly hear the spanking, I'd suggest you slap your hand against your own thigh.  The noise is quite significant, even with rather minimal contact.  I'm quite certain it would have been in the news if the spanking left any marks on the child's skin.

The rules clearly and specifically identify certain infractions, in detail,  that can result in corporal punishment.. and spitting (the alleged infraction) appears on the list.

... and mom acknowledges that her child did spit on another child. Which turns the alleged infraction into a clear infraction.

The parent can refuse to allow the punishment, but only with a written letter from the child's doctor.

Interestingly enough, mom never says anything about this.  She states that she considered taking the child out of school in order to avoid the spanking - but never says why the child shouldn't have been punished, or even why the child shouldn't have been punished by the school.  I can find no report of mom offering to discipline the child, herself, for action that she agrees was wrong.  Instead, mom focuses on the fact that the school warned her that if she took the child out of school, the child would be suspended.

Wow...suspension?  That seems a bit harsh.
But it turns out that the child had already missed 18 days of school. That's 3 1/2 weeks... nearly a month of school.  Georgia requires 180 days of instruction.. which means the child had already missed 10% of the total number of school days for the entire academic year, and this is only mid-April.  So now it doesn't seem quite so harsh that the school might say one more day would result in suspension.

But let's not move away from that letter from the doctor, quite yet.  Apparently, mom was worried that she'd be arrested if she did not allow the punishment.  This seems an odd concern.  Except that it turns out that mom WAS recently arrested under the truancy laws -- because the child had missed too many days of school.  While mom asserts that the child was ill, Georgia truancy laws grant exceptions for special circumstances, including illness.  But that's documented illness... and mom didn't have the documentation supporting her claim that the child was ill.

So, what do we have?
We have a child who clearly misbehaved. We have a school district that specifically allows spanking, under clear and defined criteria.  And, after meeting all the criteria,we have a school principal who spanked a child, once, in the presence of witnesses.

What do we not have?
We do not have a mother who places a priority on school attendance.  We do not have a mother who offers to impose her own discipline. We do not have any evidence of excessive force.

See where I'm going?  And by the way, I'm intentionally ignoring the odd bit about mom 'pretending to text' so that she could video the spanking.  I'm intentionally ignoring the fact that - while mom admits in interviews that her child spit at another child, the video never shows mom pointing out to the child that he misbehaved.

I'm much more upset at mom's behavior that gives the child the idea that school is unimportant, that it's ok to spit at people even if the rules say you shouldn't, and that actions don't have consequences, than I am at the fact that 20 states in the country allow schools to spank children.

We're focusing on the wrong things, people.  The important thing isn't that schools impose corporal punishment, and it's not even that this parent chose to video the event and then spread it on the internet. It's that rules are there to be followed.  Parents have an obligation to teach their children to respect rules and laws, and discipline their children when appropriate.  And if parents won't follow through... well, frankly, I think we should apologize to the schools when we pass this burden on to them, and then thank them when they do as we've asked.

It's time for a cup of tea, although even tea won't fix this problem.

1 comment:

  1. Although I never have agreed with corporal punishment with my own kid, I find myself agreeing with your points. Odd that. I guess it must be the 'gotta follow the rules' thing. I've always set out clear rules and consequences (or, I've tried anyway). Perhaps they should have spanked the mom?