Georgia School Brings Back the Paddle to Make Students Respect Again

“History shows there used to be a much higher regard for the respect of others and authority.”

A Georgia charter school is bucking the national trend and bringing back paddling as a form of punishment.

Amid a decline in the use of corporal punishment in the United States, the Georgia School of Innovation in Hephzibah has informed parents of the institution of the “paddle policy,” local TV station WRDW reported last week. In anticipation of the new school year, parents were asked to grant educators permission to administer punishment in the form of spanking children with wooden planks.

School board chairman Robert Buchwitz told Pluralist that administrators were moved to action by their perception that young people have lost respect for authority.

“We feel it’s an option that is effective in correcting bad behavior,” he said. “History shows there used to be a much higher regard for the respect of others and authority when corporal punishment was an option in the public school systems.”

The consent form sent to parents laid out exactly how the paddling will go down: It will follow a “three strikes” policy; it will happen behind the closed doors of a school office; and will be meted out by designated school staffers.

“The student will place their hands on their knees or piece of furniture and will be struck on the buttocks with a paddle,” the form said, adding that “no more than three licks should be given.”

The paddle will be 24-inches long, six-inches wide and 3/4-inches thick, according to the document obtained by the local news outlet. Parents can choose to opt out of the new policy, but if they do, their kids may be subject to up to a five-day suspension instead.

Superintendent Jody Boulineau told WRDW that the response to the form has been mixed, with about a third of parents agreeing to allow school officials to administer paddling.

Georgia School of Innovation and the Classics’ move came amid growing ​concerns in some quarters that American education and parenting has become excessively permissive, resulting in a generation unprepared for disagreement and adversity.

Buchwitz said via email Wednesday that only three administrators will be allowed to implement paddling and that parents are encouraged to be present and even do the paddling themselves.

Asked why the school decided to bring back a disciplinary policy that was excoriated by the Department of Education in 2016, Buchwitz said that when schools got to soft, students lose respect for educators.

As a result of “dropping” physical punishments and relying on suspension instead, many schools are now seeing “so much unruly behavior […] that teachers are having a hard time managing their classrooms and having a learning environment,” Buchwitz said.

Buchwitz admitted that students at the school are generally well-behaved. He said that the school began considering paddling not as a response to their misconduct, but as an alternative to suspension, which he said can have an impact on academics.

As for policy’s potential to create an imbalance between kids who have been signed up for the spanking and kids who were not, Buchwitz said that the school will be sensitive to how things play out in practice and make changes where necessary.

“If we see where this policy needs to be tweaked or isn’t effective we will certainly adapt as needed,” he said.

Paddling is legal in 20 states and still in used in schools across the nation, according to ​CBS News.

However, experts generally ​agree that corporal punishment in classrooms is detrimental to the mental and emotional development of students. Numerous human rights groups have ​recommended that lawmakers outlaw the practice outright.

In a 2016 letter to the nation’s governors, former Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. ​urged states to make the practice illegal in public schools.

King also cited data collected by his administration showing that corporal punishment is not only “harmful, ineffective,” but also “often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities.” King observed that of more than 110,000 students who received corporal punishment in the 2013-2014 school year, over a third were black. That despite black students making up just 16 percent of the public school population.

Still, Buchwitz said that his personal experience has made it clear to him that paddling is a net positive.

“I disagree with the utmost respect for the ‘experts’ that have made that discovery. But I can speak from personal experience as I was paddled in the 5th and again in the 12th grade,” he said. “I know of several others paddled during my childhood and we all turned out perfectly healthy with no adverse reactions from being paddled.”

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