Missouri school district brings back spanking


CASSVILLE, Mo. (NewsNation) — One school district in southern Missouri is bringing back an old school method of disciplining students: the paddle.

Cassville School District is stirring up controversy among parents in the community by bringing back corporal punishment by paddle. The highly controversial punishment was recently reinstated by the district as a last resort option to handle misbehaving students.

The policy states that schools will enforce corporal punishment only if parents give permission.

The superintendent said this is the result of a survey sent out to parents last year. The parents responded to the survey saying discipline is one of their biggest concerns.

The school board approved the reinstated policy after it was initially dropped back in 2001. The opt-in policy states students will be spanked when other methods of discipline, such as suspensions, have failed.

Hitting a student on the head or face isn’t permitted, and students won’t be punished in front of others. Two adults would be involved: one would spank while the other would be a witness.

But many parents were shocked by the decision and thought the renewed form of punishment is inappropriate, while some people are for the change.

“Sign the paper or don’t. I mean, what does it matter what somebody else’s child is going to deal with? Deal with your own child,” Tessa Walters, the grandmother of a child with ADHD and ADD, said. “I mean, they have the option: either sign that paper that they can spank your child, or don’t. But let’s not, you know, sit there and say, oh, you know, you’re installing violence at school. It’s just ridiculous. The things that they’re saying is just dumb.”

But health experts have said the practice is detrimental to students, and education psychologist Dan Robinson said corporal punishment doesn’t work.

“There’s overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment has two real bad things associated with it. One, it’s not a very effective punishment, it doesn’t work. Kids keep committing the same offenses, so to speak, when they are corporately punished, so it doesn’t reduce the misbehavior,” Robsinson said.

The second issue, he explained, is that it can cause damage to the child’s emotional and mental health.

“The second one that concerns most people is there’s some damage that can occur to the child when you use that type of punishment. One obvious one is there’s increased aggression in the child, antisocial behavior goes up, so you know, the list is too long to mention,” Robinson explained.

He said that corporal punishment as a whole has been mostly eradicated, with most school districts having it on the books but not using it.

“It’s barbaric, at best,” Robinson said. In the past, there have been many injuries associated with corporal punishment, he explained. Schools become liable when a child is injured, and Robinson provided the example that the punishment can break tail bones. “It’s just a really barbaric form of punishment.”

Robinson said he believes schools should be implementing positive behavioral support systems where kids are reinforced, or rewarded, for doing the right thing.

“You can prevent a lot of the misbehavior through appropriate classroom management systems, as opposed to thinking about ways in which you need to punish if you’re going to punish a child for misbehavior,” he said.

He suggested rather than inflicting physical pain, that schools consider taking away privileges, such as taking away a cellphone for an hour a day or a video game.

“That’s also a form of punishment, but it doesn’t involve physical pain that can have lasting consequences,” Robinson said.

Currently, 19 states allow corporal punishment in schools. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional in 1977 and left it up to states to set their own rules. The most current data reports about 70,000 children in the United States were hit at least once in their schools.

NewsNation affiliate KOLR and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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