In time for the new school year, a Missouri school district is reviving an antiquated form of punishment children were susceptible to decades ago.
The Cassville School District reimplemented corporal punishment in its schools in June. According to Policy JGA-1: Corporal Punishment, “Corporal punishment is the use of physical force as a method of correcting student behavior. Corporal punishment, as a measure of correction or of maintaining discipline and order in schools, is permitted. However, it shall be used only when all other alternative means of discipline have failed, and then only in reasonable form and upon the recommendation of the principal. It should never be inflicted in the presence of other students.”
Although administrators, with permission from the parents, can strike students, they cannot hit students in the head or face. They also maintain that students will not suffer bodily harm even though educators use a paddle to dole out the licks. Parents in the district became aware of the new policy during an open house.
The district’s superintendent, Merlyn Johnson, released a statement regarding the decision to reinstitute the old-fashioned form of chastising children in school.
“My plan, when I came to Cassville, wasn’t to be known as the guy who brought corporal punishment back to Cassville. I didn’t want that to be my legacy, and I still don’t,” he said. “But it is something that has happened on my watch, and I’m OK with it.”
Parents can opt-out of having their children subjected to corporal punishment.
Johnson explained how residents received the news and that some adults wanted physical punishment back in the school.
“The forms were sent out to the parents on the open house night, and we are receiving them today. I’ll have a number later in the week. Parents have said, ‘why can’t you paddle my student?’ and we’re like, ‘We can’t paddle your student. Our policy does not support that. There had been conversation with parents, and there had been requests from parents for us to look into it.”
Students in the district won’t receive more than three licks.
Although the superintendent claimed parents were for the new ruling, one mother thinks the policy is trash.
Miranda Waltrip, a mother of three, said the use of corporal punishment would cause “harm” to children.
“We live in a really small community where people were raised a certain way, and they’re kind of blanketed in that fact that they grew up having discipline and swats. And so, for them, it’s like going back to the good old days, but it’s not because it’s going to do more harm than good at the end of the day.”
Cassville District Schools has a population of 1,856 students. U.S. News reported that the district has “87.3% White, 0.3% Black, 1.1% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander, 5.7% Hispanic/Latino, 0.7% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.2% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.”
According to The National Library of Medicine, 19 states within the United States allow corporal punishment in schools. The organization also revealed that Black students, especially Black boys, are unequally punished more when the practice is implemented.
The Supreme Court even got involved in the corporal punishment debate. In 1976, the high court determined that physical punishment in schools was constitutional and opted to let the states decide on their students’ fates.
Ingraham versus Wright set a precedent. The parents of James Ingraham filed a lawsuit against Principal Willie Wright after he removed the young man from class for being disruptive. Ingraham was subsequently held down and physically assaulted, resulting in him being taken to a local hospital. He was treated with painkillers after suffering from a contusion. Doctors also prescribed laxatives and cold compresses.
Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming are the states that still choose to punish children physically.