When I read the Star-Telegram headline from a March 15 story, “Paddling in school is subject of House hearing,” I was certain I had read it wrong. Paddling is illegal, I confidently decreed. But, to my shock, corporal punishment is still condoned in the Texas public education system.
I always thought scare-tactic disciplinary action such as paddling and knuckle-rapping were archaic, exaggerated things of the past. But the aforementioned article proved that assumption wholly incorrect.
A state House committee on March 15 held a hearing considering laws to prohibit corporal punishment in Texas schools, according to the article. The proposal is a bipartisan movement cosponsored by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston), who spent four decades in the Houston school system, and Rep. Barbara Nash (R-Arlington), a freshman lawmaker who used to be on the Arlington school board.
Only 20 states in the country still allow corporal punishment, according to the article, including Texas. This speaks for itself; we are behind the times.
There is a plethora of reasons why corporal punishment should be prohibited, the first being the actual physical harm.
As cited in the Star-Telegram article, a 17-year-old boy from Wichita Falls endured a set of paddlings last year for missing a detention. He suffered “three swats” to the buttocks, which resulted in large bruises and welts that later required treatment at a hospital.
The boy’s mother said it exactly right when she expressed that “it’s just not right.”
Although some can argue the supposed effectiveness of corporal punishment until they are blue in the face, what cannot be argued is the simple fact that these school officials have no intrinsic right to inflict such punishment.
Would it be OK for a random stranger in the street to hit a child? No. Could a neighbor, friend or pastor? No. Why is a schoolteacher different? Some responsibilities are solely those of the parent.
Moreover, the banning of this practice would be a win-win for both children and school officials. No longer would school officials have to be accused of physical abuse, nor would school districts have to face lawsuits.
On a broader level, however, corporal punishment is simply detrimental to child development.
The University of Michigan conducted a 2004 study that found “even minimal amounts of spanking can lead to an increased likelihood in antisocial behavior by children,” according to leading researcher Andrew Grogan-Kaylor.
A long-term study of 442 boys born in 1972 found that 1 in 3 boys who were mistreated due to physical punishment would later exhibit criminal behavior in the future.
But really 8212; how can you blame these kids? If they are taught violence is a tool with which to procure desired results, then they will continue to use this pattern throughout their lives.
Violence is everywhere in today’s culture, whether it’s seen when turning on CNN, playing Xbox or experiencing bullying. School should be the sacred, safe place where children do not have to be afraid of violence, where they are free to grow and learn.
Perhaps the Christian Science Monitor said it best in an issue from 1989: “The fundamental need of American education is to find ways of engaging today’s children in the thrill of learning. Fear of pain has no place in that process.”
It’s time Texas catches up with the majority of the country and says no to violence as a means of discipline.
Emily Atteberry is a freshman journalism and Spanish double major from Olathe, Kan.