This School District Brought Back Paddling For Students, Ignoring The Experts

A school district in southwest Missouri welcomes students back with a reinstated policy that's been gone for two decades: paddling students.

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As our kids head back to the classrooms, a school district in southwest Missouri welcomes students back with a reinstated policy that's been gone for two decades: paddling students. Despite the practice being widely considered harmful, the school district insists it’s what parents want. Here's what you need to know.

According to The Washington Post, 1,900 Cassville R-IV School District students returned to class this week amid the return of an old disciplinary measure. Parents were recently notified that the school board approved a policy in June bringing back corporal punishment.

The policy would allow staff members to "use physical force as a method of correcting student behavior." It also states that paddling — using a wooden paddle to hit students on the buttocks — would only be used as a last resort, and parents can opt in or out, per Springfield News-Leader.

The policy also notes that the punishment must be done without a "chance of bodily injury or harm," and there needs to be a witness present, The Washington Post reports. In addition, a report from the principal or teacher involved in the punishment needs to send a report to the school's superintendent explaining the reasoning why corporal punishment was used.

Barry County district, which includes the Cassville R-IV School District, abandoned the use of corporal punishment as a measure for its schools in 2001. So why has it been brought back now? According to reports, parents asked for it.

"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,'" superintendent Merlyn Johnson told Springfield News-Leader. "There had been conversation with parents and there had been requests from parents for us to look into it."

"We've had people actually thank us for it," he continued. "Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things but the majority of people that I've run into have been supportive."

Corporal punishment in schools is governed at a state level. However, its use has been steadily dropping since the late 1970s. Currently, it's legal in 19 states, including Missouri. But the Cassville superintendent is right in saying people would be appalled at the district reinstating corporal punishment in the classrooms.

For the past three decades, study after study has shown how dangerous corporal punishment as a form of discipline for kids is in both the short and long term. A 2015 report on the history of corporal punishment in U.S. public schools found that states that continue to allow corporal punishment show higher rates of child poverty and child mortality, and has lower college graduation rates than states that have banned school corporal punishment.

Another study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2021 found that kids who are spanked show behavioral issues similar to kids who have been abused and neglected. And a 20-year review on the impact of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found numerous studies that show the risk of enduring negative development outcomes resulting from physical punishment. It also noted that no study has found physical punishment enhances developmental health for children.

The United Nations considers corporal punishment to be a human rights violation, plus all major organizations related to the health of children, including the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have called for an end of the practice at home and school.

There isn’t a federal law against the use of corporal punishment in schools, and the vague language of what constitutes abuse verses discipline isn’t clear. Until such a law is introduced, and abuse is clearly defined, kids will continue to bare the scars.