Spanking in School Isn’t Such a Bad Idea

Janelle Harris

spanking dollMy fourth-grade teacher was Mrs. Hughes, a gray-haired lady who wore geriatric shoes and creased polyester pants. Looking back, she probably should’ve quit teaching because she was having a hard time handling the new breed of wild child that was coming down the pipeline in her old age. 

One day, two snaggle-toothed boys decided to stand up on their desks and rocket off like they were on diving boards, even after poor Mrs. Hughes warned them to stop. She calmly picked up the classroom phone and Mr. Gladfelter, the school principal, scooped them up and took them to the office, which meant each of them was going to have a one-on-one showdown with that waffle board paddle dangling behind his desk. Yes. They were getting a spanking ... in school.

All I know is when they came back, no one had any more problems out of either one of them. 

‘Corporal punishment,’ as a phrase, has such an ugly connotation to it. It suggests heavy duty beat-downs and military-style submission techniques. But push past the abrasive terminology and paddling, spanking, whooping, whatever you want to call it, I see it as a tried-and-proven technique for solving behavior woes, recklessness, and blatant disrespect from kids.

Every year, more than 200,000 students find themselves on the receiving end of some kind of corporal punishment in school. In 20 states — all interestingly clustered in the South and Midwest — teachers still have the legal right to spank a child, a surprising residual from old school days when giving a kid a swift smack on the butt was perfectly normal for relatives, neighbors, fellow parishioners, even community members to do if they saw a minor acting out of order.

When it’s done with restraint, love, and respect to dole out correction for the child and not used as just a mechanism to vent anger and frustration, I do believe in spanking. I know it’s frowned upon in this wave of equitable, hipster parenting where we’re all supposed to be mental peers and talk it out with our children in a psychologically cushy love fest, but sometimes I’ve had to get my message across with my hands. And I’ve told my daughter’s teachers throughout the years that they have the right to pop her across her tail end if she runs off at the mouth or otherwise behaves like she doesn’t have good home training.

And you know what? I see kids every day that I think could benefit from a slap across the butt cheeks — they’re acting the fool on the subway, they’re giving their teachers grief in school, they’re cursing and carrying on at the movie theater, they’re throwing temper tantrums at the grocery store. They need a spanking, not a time-out or a hug.

I suspect most schools sustain the right to spank more as a logistic lingering on their books than anything that’s actually implemented and carried out regularly. I could be wrong, since fashion designer Marc Ecko has launched 'Unlimited Justice' campaign against corporal punishment in schools. I do agree with some of his points.

I don’t think just any ol’ teacher should be laying hands on a child. It takes a relationship with the parent and trust in their level of reasoning, maybe even a phone call before the punishment is doled out, to make that the go-to move. And if a spanking at the hands of an educator ever resulted in bruising or enormous amounts of pain, then I would be handing out some butt whoopings of my own because that’s excessive force and not simple discipline.

Not every teacher should have the right to teach, let alone touch a child. But this is the part where parents need to know their kids’ educators outside of a fleeting meeting at PTA night. Way before push comes to shove — or spank — you should have a good sense of who your babies are spending most of their day with anyway. I believe that home-school association is definitely part of the key to keeping their behavior in check and helping them dodge the hand or the paddle in the first place.

Does your child’s school allow teachers to spank students? Do you support the rule or oppose it? 


Image via Ben Husmann/Flickr

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