Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paddling Preferable to Juvenile Justice System?

Whether to paddle kids is an intensely personal family decision, but as long as it's done formalistically, not in anger, and with parents' permission, I don't have great concern to learn from the Austin Statesman that:
Texas is one of only 20 states that still permits corporal punishment. The main reason for its standing as primary paddler is, of course, its size. In terms of spankings-per-student, Texas ranks only 8th, behind Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Georgia. (Basically, the SEC, with the exception of Oklahoma.)

But that’s still 49,157 instances of paddling reported during the course of the 2006-07 school year — just under 300 per school day. Of those cases, 10,222 blows were administered to students with disabilities.
300 kids per day statewide doesn't seem like an intolerable level given the number of students in Texas schools. It happened to me a time or three over the years, or maybe even a few more, if you were to really pin me down (or secure a copy of my much-threatened "permanent record"). In retrospect, I'm none the worse for wear. Most of it in my case was done by coaches, not principals, FWIW.

I've never seen anybody get hit with a shaved baseball bat as was alleged at the end of the story. For me, this description was more familiar: "The paddle used to hit children is typically around 15 inches long, between two and four inches wide, and one-half inch thick, with a six-inch handle at one end." Yup, I thought, that's the one. :) Some paddlers in my day would have you sign the beast as a trophy afterward.

The best part of the punishment compared to using police and the courts is that once it was done it was done: Paddling was quick, certain, but also contained an immediate opportunity for redemption afterward. As far as I recall, I left school on pretty good terms with every teacher, coach or principal who ever laid wood to my behind. Nobody held a grudge.

By contrast, today behaviors for which I received swats on the playground - from schoolyard fights to carving graffiti into a tree with a pocket knife - frequently land a kid in juvenile hall awaiting a court date, probation, or worse. Which is preferable?

If it makes you feel better, think of it as an "alternative to incarceration."


Unknown said...

However, I know that it is sexist. Why? In Tennesse they will only do this to boys. Girls do not have this option even if they want it. As a teenager here I can remember that the boys could get demerits whacked off but the girls had to serve them.

Anonymous said...

For once, Grits, I couldn't agree with you more. What troubles me even more is the number of parents who insist that their children not be paddled by teachers and sign instructions to the school administration to that effect.

Let's see, at 10 a child can be sent to TYC without a parent's permission. At 14 a child can be certified as an adult in a criminal prosecution and sent to prison without a parent's permission; and yet some parents get all bent out of shape because some school official "touched my baby" by applying a couple of pops to his or her backside in an effort to get the child's attention and correct his or her behavior? Go figure.

BB said...

I am shocked that Scott Henson would approve of using physical force to punish a child. Particularly given the research indicating that at best it is ineffective, and at worst it is harmful. It has also been shown empirically that some teachers more readily use corporal punishment on minorities in comparison to white children.

Teachers,like many parents usually resort to the utilization of corporal punishment when they are angry.

There are better ways to modify the behavior of a child.


Anonymous said...

BB, don't be shocked. Grits comes across as a Conservative Libertarian, considering some of the political and religious views he's espoused on here in the past.

I'm not surprised at this opinion of his, but I am dismayed that he and others see things in black and white terms. It doesn't have to be "either juvie or swats." There are other options. This is a false dichotomy, and swats aren't necessary for any adult who takes the time to communicate and show consistency with other forms of discipline.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like send them to TYC! I agree with Scott on this one. My mom, dad, and teachers all beat my butt! And I darn sure learned from it! No doubt about it. Made it to college, grad school, and I'm not living off the government trough! So I guess spankings didn't scar me for life!

Luke said...

People who claim any particular method of discipline is always right (or always wrong) are ignorant of the fact that every child is different and they respond to different stimuli.

The parenting advice books contradict each other with ideas coming in and out of fashion like clothing fads. If you read enough of them the only possible conclusion is that even the "experts" don't really know what they are talking about... that and each book has only about 20 pages of true *content* and several hundred pages of examples and not-so-clever ways to repeat or re-explain the same theories.

ckikerintulia said...

There's a difference in paddling and beating. I got one spanking all the years I was in public school. It didn't humiliate me or scar me physically or psychologically. And it is terrible that police are called in for schoolyard fights. When I was in HS two guys got into an altercation that led to fisticuffs. No handcuffs thankfully. One of the guys later became mayor of Tulia, the other was a well known businessman.

Anonymous said...

"As a teenager here I can remember that the boys could get demerits whacked off but the girls had to serve them."

Oh go ahead and admit it. Girls whack off too.

Anonymous said...

Although I support paddling and have no problems spanking my own kids, I wouldn't touch another kid for nothing. This is a sue happy society and if the school offical leaves a bruise, write the check.

Anonymous said...

Hm, another "BB" on here. Guess I better sign differently. But I mainly agree with BB. I admit my reasons are anecdotal and personal, although I'd love to see some empirical evidence b/c I think this is a canard that needs debunking.

I've worked with plenty of low-income students (white and non-white), many of whom had kids. My experience was that the very populations who embrace whippings with the most gusto just so happen to be the ones with the highest rates of incarceration.

I love celebrities who wax nostalgic for how their mom or grandma whipped them with a switch and how that supposedly kept them in line. What a load of crap. For every kid who "benefits" from that, there are 10 others who learn nothing, nada, zero.

My oldest son is 8 years old, has fairly severe ADHD, but he is well-behaved (mostly), respectful, and a straight-A student. I didn't have to hit him to get there, and don't believe physical discipline is essential to childrearing.

I appreciate Scott's disclaimer about not hitting out of anger, but the reality is that most of the time it IS out of anger. It is a total loss of self-control by the adult, and how can that possibly instill self-control in the kid?

I won't describe my reaction should a Texas school official manhandle my kid, but the phrase "Old Testament" comes to mind...:)

Sorry this turned into such a rant.

Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Grits, should spankings be allowed in juvenile detention facilities? Aren't spankings the same as assault? Why can't kids at schools forcefully strike other kids without getting in trouble if hitting is an acceptable form of communicating displeasure with another person's actions?

You say you turned out "okay," but here you are, advocating spanking in schools. You're assuming your opinion isn't flawed or a "bad" result of your spankings.

Try reading the empirical evidence and research regarding spanking and then explain why it's the preferable form of discipline. A person can't. Other forms of discipline work. People resort to spanking because it's easy and makes them feel like they "did" something. The question is whether it was the best thing.

I don't think parents are evil for spanking their children sometimes, but it's dishonest to say nothing else works better and to also advocate that schools hit children. How do you know when a child has been abused, or raped, or if they're misbehaving because of a disability? Why compound children's pain with physical violence? Public schools must accept all children and work with them. You're mistaken in thinking the best way to "serve" these children is to inflict pain on them in an environment where they should feel safe and trusting in the adults around them.

Hook Em Horns said...

Paddling or Tasers?

Anonymous said...


Top 10 Highest Incarceration
Rates by State per 100k people
1 Louisiana 846
2 Texas 683
3 Oklahoma 664
4 Mississippi 658
5 Alabama 595
6 Georgia 558
7 South Carolina 525
8 Missouri 514
9 Michigan 511
10 Florida 509

The 10 worst states, by percentage of students struck
by educators in the 2006-2007 school year:
1 Mississippi 7.5
2 Arkansas 4.7
3 Alabama 4.5
4 Oklahoma 2.3
5 Louisiana 1.7
6 Tennessee 1.5
7 Texas 1.1
8 Georgia 1.1
9 Missouri 0.6
10 Florida 0.3

Gee, I wonder if there is a correlation?:~)

Anonymous said...

Damn skippy Grits.

Common Sense Cop

Anonymous said...

The comments pointing out the empirical evidence about the ineffectiveness and outright counterproductive impacts of physical punishments are well founded. The evidence is overwhelming and easy to find through any library literature search.

For every person who has annecdotablly benefited there are 10 per perhaps 100's or 1000's who have not. Among the prison population you will find many of the most physically punished people around. Many did not know on any given day whether they were going to get hugged or slugged.

gravyrug said...

I think the very fact that once the paddling is done, the consequences are over is a point against it. I knew quite a number of kids I was in school with that were thrilled to be able to get off with something as light as a paddling. It was treatment they were used to, and therefore no big deal.

This is not to say that involving the cops is necessarily any better. There is plenty of middle ground for school officials to work in.

Anonymous said...

Our schools have way too many problems that can't be solved by bringing back the paddle. We need to abandon public education as soon as possible.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hmmmm, if there are so many "better ways to modify the behavior of a child," or there are "other forms of discipline," why doesn't anyone describe them instead of just making oblique references? Right now what they're doing is calling the cops instead.

As for 4:47, everybody loves to attach labels instead of construct arguments. I'm called liberal and communist every other day on this blog and now I'm bashed as a "conservative libertarian"? Apparently I'm like Steven Colbert; research shows both conservatives and liberals both think he agrees with them, except in my case it's the opposite bc everyone believes I'm their ideological counter.

The correlation between paddling and school results is BS. There are a LOT of other factors those states also have in common.

KatDerrick, if "sexism" is the big problem then the tactic is easily democratized, though it's probably also the case that boys are a greater source of serious discipline problems.

Finally, no I don't think paddling is useful (or constitutional under existing court precedents) in juvenile detention facilities, and I don't see any more contradiction in swats punishing fistifcuffs than in capital punishment punishing murderers or arrest and incarceration punishing kidnappers. It should be a low-end, intermediate sanction available to schools, not for prison or jail guards, and in that context I simply believe that there are a LOT worse things that can and do occur in our public schools that concern me much more.

Sodding Wick said...

I first saw a girl's naked behind in sixth grade, in class. Mr Matthews made a girl bend over his knee, lift her skirt, and pull down her underpants so he could beat her bare ass with a board.

The humiliation was fearsome.

And that's what this is about, forcing someone to submit to grievous public humiliation. There are alternatives to this debasing humiliation, just as there are alternatives to incarceration.

If paddling is a good idea, why is it never used on adults?

For one, beating an adult with a stick is aggravated battery, a felony.

Beating a helpless little child with the same stick is 'discipline'.

See the difference?

When I was little, my mother would slap my big sister in the face to punish her. When my sister wanted something from me, she would slap my face until I gave in. This was my first clear lesson in violence.

If you cannot solve a simple problem with nonviolent means, you should not be at liberty.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not "beating," Sodding Wick, "Paddling." Not "slapping" in the face. "Paddling." We can have no conversation if you insist on inane hyperbole.

And what happened to that girl who was paddled in the 6th grade? Where is she now? In prison or living a happy life thinking a lot less about that incident than you apparently do? What's the end to that story? And what was so traumatic for you about seeing her butt?

Like a lot of things, when it's misused it's wrong. But there's a difference between beating a child in anger and paddling as discipline, just as there's a difference between kidnapping and arrest and incarceration by the state in response to a criminal act. If you can't understand that difference, I can't help you.

Anonymous said...

The paddling’s I received at school were humane, the beatings from my keepers at tyc were not. The difference is my teachers at school genuinely cared about us where as the red nicks at tyc in my day genuinely enjoyed abusing us. Unfortunately for me it was always a game to get attention in both worlds. In my own life and as a parent raising children as well as in the work I do with at risk teens, it is my opinion that disciple at home by the parents, parents in the plural is the key word here, out of love and not in anger is vital to successful child rearing.
Sheldon tyc 47333 II c/s

BB said...

You are being hypersensitive. I am usually on your side and I visit your blog every day. On this subject we simply disagree.
As a result of the inevitable emotions involved, many adults transition from reasonable force they believe necessary to punish to physical abuse. It's a fine line, and many don't realize they crossed it until it is too late.
I won't discuss at length your analogy to capital punishment, but just as you don't teach that it is wrong to kill by killing, you also don't teach little Johnny that it is wrong to fight at school by using physical force against him.
After I had studied the literature on the subject, I discussed my findings with my children and explained to them that I would never spank or slap them again.
Several weeks later my oldest got into trouble and I took her cell phone away from her. The child approached me 2 days later and asked if she could have a spanking so that she could get her phone back!
I had horrible experiences in school with teachers who would get angry and then strike us with their wooden boards. Shame on the public official who ever treats one of my children in this manner. The responsibility to correct and modify a child's behavior rests with that childs parents.
The physical abuse in TYC has always been to some extent a direct result of the common belief that those youth needed more corporal punishment. A large number of the TYC employees assume this as an enjoyable part of their professional responsibilities. They assume we can beat these adolescents into compliance. It's like legitimized corporal punishment at the state level in secure juvenile facilities.
It's a fallacy. what happens is that people just get hurt, and the cycle continues.
Violence begets violence.


Anonymous said...

ACLU and Human Rights Watch just published a report, "Impairing Education," on how students with disabilities are paddled at a disproportionately high rate.

We haven't even touched on the complexity of determining a kid's responsibility for behaviors when they are disabled - esp if it is a mental disability.

Hard for me to see how paddling is justified, ever, for such a child.

Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to post the link:

Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Regarding your comment, "Hmmmm, if there are so many "better ways to modify the behavior of a child," or there are "other forms of discipline," why doesn't anyone describe them instead of just making oblique references?"

Ask and you shall receive.

Myself? I just tell my kid he lost his car keys until I'm happy with his school relationship.

Labels? Hey, I got you beat. In one e-mail I was called both a liberal Commie AND a Nazi so don't feel bad (never was honored with the libertarian tag, though).

With all due respect, I do have to disagree with your position though. First, I don't think you would ever accept anecdotal evidence as acceptable against any position you concur with yet you are using your own example as proof of the effectiveness of spanking. I know a guy who used the health care unit at the Harris County jail and he's healed. I also know a guy who served years in prison and he's doing great so no problems with the prisons, either. Yet we know neither is an accurate reflection of the norm.

Second, if it is acceptable in public schools due to its success as a form of low end intermediate sanction in controlling behavior, the same logic should apply to TYC "schools". They also would need low end intermediate sanctions. Why would we deny them an "effective tool"? Yet, I think we all agree that it is inappropriate in TYC. Same logic, I believe, applies across the "board" (bad pun!).

I won't even go into the slippery slope argument where the spanking penalty spreads to much lower level offenses or where the degree of spanking increases (more strokes, better designed paddles to cause more pain per stroke, etc) depending on specific school management and district administrations (Yep, I remember the talk about paddles with holes cut into them to reportedly cause more pain to the student).

There are choices between the cops and the paddle. It's a continuum, not a dichotomy. It just takes some interaction skills and a little work on the alternatives and, as has been discussed by many, the school districts seem to always look for a simple, cookie cutter approach that doesn't require thought or discretion.

I would request you do the same outstanding work on corporal punishment that you have done on so many other issues and review the information yourself. It's there. For someone right (or would that be write?) on so many occasions, I believe you are wrong on this one. Thanks in advance. :~)

Anonymous said...

"Painfully" wrong, I might add!:~)

Anonymous said...

This is a false dichotomy. It probably stems from the "spare the rod and spoil the child" crap that many of us were taught. Having raised two boys I learned that spanking a kid is not an effective method of discipline (and certainly nor nearly as effective as taking away the game console which is a highly effective method). I just don't think it's right to hit a kid, for all kinds of reasons.

As to any adult, particularly from the government, spanking my kids...well I consider that a battery and that adult better be prepared to confront me, physically or otherwise.

By the way, according to the Texas Family Code 151.001

"(e) Only the following persons may use corporal punishment for the reasonable discipline of a child:

(1) a parent or grandparent of the child;

(2) a stepparent of the child who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of the child; and

(3) an individual who is a guardian of the child and who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of the child."

Seems like the plain meaning of that statute makes corporal punishment in schools unlawful.

Unless you have a genius attorney general who writes an AG Opinion saying that black is white.

BB said...

International rankings usually indicate that approximately 16 nations are deemed to be more civil than the United States. The vast majority of these 16 nations prohibit corporal punishment. Even in the home.

Hook Em Horns said...

BB said...

International rankings usually indicate that approximately 16 nations are deemed to be more civil than the United States. The vast majority of these 16 nations prohibit corporal punishment. Even in the home.

8/13/2009 09:28:00 PM

I will argue that most nations are more civil than the United States. Our system based on debate, thriving on argument both in the Congress and on CNN and FOX, is hardly civil. We talk civil and try to act civil but we imprison more people than anyone and that's NOT civil. Executing people is not civil and Texas leads the nation and world for that matter.

If we aren't going to paddle kids at school, it will only be because the people who don't want it done are yelling louder than those who do.

Civil? Never.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious to me that BB's peeps "sparred the rod" with him. lol


Nelson Muntz said...

If you are seen spanking your kid in France, don't be surprised if that lands you in jail. Some countries take crimes of violence seriously.

BB said...


You are wrong again.


Hook Em Horns said...

I've been paddled :-)

whitsfoe said...

I've been hit with the "Board of Education" on many more occasions than most of you.

I am now wise.

Enough said.

It takes no genius:
Texas 45 - OU 35.