Texas School District Is Bringing Back the Paddle -- Because Apparently It's 1957

classroom kids desks

When your kids screw up at school, you expect that they'll be forced to sit out during recess, come home with a note from the teacher, or -- if it's really bad -- end up in detention. But apparently those "modern punishments" just aren't doing the trick for residents of a small city outside of San Antonio, Texas. Last week, trustees for the Three Rivers Indepent School District voted to bring corporal punishment back to the classroom, in the form of an old-school wooden paddle.


The motion was passed 6–0 among the trustees, though one member -- and apparently all sense of reason -- was absent from the vote. For the upcoming school year, parents of students in the two-school district will have the choice to opt in or out of principal-administered paddlings whenever their kids act out in school.

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"If the parent is not comfortable with it, that's the end of the discussion," Superintendent Mary Springs told USA Today in regards to the new disciplinary action. But, even with the knowledge that it's an optional punishment, it's hard to imagine what good could come from school officials gaining the ability to physically harm their students. Many modern parents, myself included, might question if hitting kids in school is even legal.

Guess what? It is.

Surprisingly, Texas is one of 15 states in the US that still allows corporal punishment in schools. Eight states don't have any laws on the books governing the use (or disuse) of physical punishments for students. And a 2016 report by Education Week showed that as recently as the 2013–2014 school year, over 110,000 students were still being subjected to various forms of corporal punishment inside the classroom.

And this is all despite evidence that corporal punishment is ineffective and potentially damaging as a form of discipline. Last year, a landmark study of 150,000 kids published in the Journal of Family Psychology showed children who are spanked are more likely to defy their parents, and also more prone to aggression, cognitive difficulties, antisocial behavior, mental health issues, and using hitting as a tool for asserting themselves.

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Many are understandably appalled by the Three Rivers school district's decision. In a heated discussion on Facebook, hundreds of people joined in to write off the measure as unnecessary, archaic, and even abusive.

Wrote one commenter, "So hitting a defenseless child for making a poor choice [in order] to teach them a lesson and respect is okay? Can someone please explain this to me? ... Because if an adult hit another adult because they thought said adult was making a poor choice and needed to be taught a lesson ... they would be in jail for assault [and] battery."

Another put it more succinctly: "You paddle my kid and I'm going to paddle your face."

But others had no issue with the idea of the school principal taking a paddle to a child's backside. "Omg yes yes yes," wrote one woman. "These kids today need someone to show them respect and consequences. I think they need to bring back etiquette and morals [and] respect for themselves as well as others."

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Obviously, "discipline" and "respect" mean different things to every parent, and each of us has the right to choose how we handle bad behavior from our kids. But signing a permission slip that allows school officials whom children trust to whack them with a wooden paddle for minor infractions? That punishment doesn't belong in a school in 2017; it belongs in a history book. 

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