Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Florida Schools Want the Right to Paddle Misbehaving Students

Sarah / Gonzalez

The wooden paddle sits on the principal's desk at Sneads High School in Jackson County, Fla.

Spanking in school may seem like a relic of the past.

But in Florida, students from preschoolers to high school seniors are still being paddled by teachers and principals.

In parts of the state, mostly in the rural north, getting spanked at school, on your butt, with a wooden or fiberglass board, is just part of being a misbehaving student.

“I been getting them since about first grade,” said Lucas Mixon, now a junior at Holmes County High School in Bonifay, Fla.

“It’s just regular. They tell you to put your hands up on the desk and how many swats you’re going to get.”

Florida is one of 19 states that still allow public schools to paddle, according to the Center for Effective Discipline.

The most recent data show that 3,661 students were spanked in 2010, according to the Florida Department of Education.

Most school districts in Florida have opted out of using corporal punishment. But almost all counties in rural north Florida have policies to allow schools to paddle students.

State Rep. Ari Porth, a Democrat, sponsored a bill to ban school corporal punishment statewide.

He said where students live should not determine whether they get spanked at school.

“I got my butt beat and I know what’s right and wrong. And my children are going to know what’s right and wrong.”

- Bud Glover, parent in Bonifay, Fla.

“When I heard that this practice still exists, I was mortified,” Porth said. “No child should not feel completely safe when they go to school.”

But the bill failed. It never even reached a committee in the Florida Legislature.

And that’s just fine for parents like Bud Glover of Bonifay, a small town 15 miles from the Alabama border.

It’s a place where tradition is valued and paddling is considered tradition.

“I got my butt beat and I know what’s right and wrong. And my children are going to know what’s right and wrong,” Glover said.

Glover represents the feelings of many parents in this part of Florida who support such punishment.

“I think the problem with society is we quit paddling.”

He says the state should not tell parents in his small town how to discipline their children.

But in South Florida, student Camila Cacho, a junior at Miami Beach High School is astonished that the state still allows the practice.

“That’s so dumb, why would we allow people to hit students?” Cacho said. “I would feel embarrassed. That’s degrading.”

Students Make Paddles in Wood Shop

The instrument often used in school spankings is a wooden or plexiglass paddle.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact

Holmes County High School principal Eddie Dixson with senior Cole Long. Long thinks all schools should paddle students to teach kids "discipline and respect."

There are no statewide regulations on what the paddles should look like, so each school district creates its own.

The paddle at Holmes County High School looks like a really short rowboat paddle. It’s about 16 inches long, 5 inches wide and a half an inch thick.

You can’t buy them at a store, so Holmes County High asks woodshop students to make them.

Senior Cole Long has never made a paddle, but he’s been on the receiving end of one.

He says he’s been paddled for things like “throwing papers, throwing pencils, a couple times for cussing, back-talking.

“I used to be a really wild child,” he said.

A couple of months ago, Long won $7,200 at a bull-riding competition in Texas. But even for a bull-rider, Long says the paddle stings—depending on who’s doing the spanking.

“The assistant principal, he hurts, he hurts,” Long said. “I’ve had it plenty of times from him and he gives it to us a little bit more.”

Long thinks all schools should paddle students because he says the spankings teach students discipline and respect. And much of the community agrees.

Paddling without Parental Consent

But every once in a while, a parent from one of these small towns will object, like Tenika Jones of Levy County.

Last year, the principal at Joyce Bullock Elementary sent home a waiver asking parents for permission to paddle students.

Jones says she didn’t sign it. But her son, Geirrea Bostick, was paddled anyway.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Gierrea Bostick, 6, was paddled on his second week of pre-school without the consent of his mom, Tenika Jones. The paddles allegedly left welts on Gierrea's bottom and Jones has filed a notice to sue the Levy County School District.

He was five at the time. It was his second week of pre-school.

Gierrea says the principal spanked him twice for slapping another boy on the school bus. He says the principal first told him to take his jacket off.

“Then she spank me on my booty,” Gierrea said.

“I cried all the way home. It was really hard.”

Gierrea’s mom says the paddling left welts on Gierrea’s bottom and she was outraged.

“If I would have hit my son how she hit him, I would have been in jail, I would have been on the news, I would have been messed up trying to get my children back,” Jones said.

“She whipped him up and to me that’s child abuse.”

Jones has filed a notice to sue the Levy County School District for paddling her son without her permission.

But Robert Rush, a civil right attorney in Gainesville, says state law does not require schools to get parental consent.

“If the school board and the principal specifically authorize corporal punishment, it can be administered lawfully against the parents’ wishes,” Rush said.

Rush says the school principal sets the policy for paddling. And if the school acts in accordance with that policy, then “it’s very hard to sue them,” he said.

“They’re immune both civilly and criminally by law.”

But Rush says attorneys could argue excessive force was used.

The school’s principal, Jamie Handlin, and the school district would not comment because they’re in pre-litigation.

But Handlin told the Williston Pioneer newspaper, “Nothing was violated.

“I disciplined out of love not anger,” she said.

Supporters: Paddling Keeps Kids in School

Schools are the only public institution where hitting is allowed. It’s not allowed in prisons, hospitals, mental institutions or the military.

The most recent statistics show that 223,190 students in the U.S. received corporal punishment in 2006, according to the Center for Effective Discipline.

But school corporal punishment in general has been on the decline.

New Jersey was the first state to ban school corporal punishment, in 1867.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

The paddle at Madison County Central elementary and middle school hangs on the door of the principal's office, though he does not administer the punishment himself. The plexiglass paddle was made by a member of the community.

The next state, Massachusetts, didn’t follow until more than 100 years later, when child protection laws started popping up and paddling students starting falling out of fashion.

New Mexico is the most recent state to ban paddling. The ban passed just last year.

Deborah Sendek, a clinical child psychologist with the Center for Effective Discipline, says many studies on school corporal punishment show paddling does not deter students from misbehaving.

“What we tend to see is the students who are paddled are paddled repeatedly throughout the course of the academic year and the following year and the following year,” Sendek said. “That’s one of the things that tells us it’s not effective.”

And Sendek says paddling can have negative short and long term physical and psychological consequences. 

“The rule in school may be that we only hit for certain things and we only hit with a paddle,” Sendek said. “But if we have a culture where we believe it’s okay to hit, then it can be generalized.”

But supporters of school corporal punishment argue that paddling keeps kids in school, because the alternative for students with bad behavior would be suspension.

Willie Williams, principal at Madison County Central elementary and middle school, agrees.

The only problem is he can’t bring himself to administer the punishment. And when others do it, he says he can’t watch.

“I’m a softy, really, at heart,” Williams said. “I actually have to walk out.”

As principal, Williams could ban the practice at his school. And Williams said he would, “if I believed in that. But I am a part of the community.”

And Williams says this community supports school corporal punishment. And in rural Florida, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

You can hear why Florida schools can paddle students against parents’ wishes here.

Jessica Pupovac / StateImpact

Most districts do not paddle students, and the ones that do are largely located in Northern Florida. Click on the map for more detail.

Comments

  • Bruceseaman

    When you have to use physical force to teach a student what you expect from them, you have taught them that physical force is a valid option in getting others to do what you expect them to do. Take that lesson into the school yard, into the classroom, and at home, and you have made a huge mistake. If anyone has to resort to physical force – teacher, administrator, parent – they have lost, the child has won by showing your limited range of capability. It is definitely not something a school should be doing; if parents want their kids paddled, let them do it themselves at home.

  • gm

    My goodness, what is wrong with these people that are glorifying hitting children.  These are professionals…at least think they are, and they should KNOW BETTER!! Shame on Florida and the florida lawmakers for failing to protect children from abuse

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julie-Ann-Worley/742610771 Julie Ann Worley

     AL, AZ, AR, CO, FL, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and WY are the 19 U.S. States that allow disciplinary beating of schoolchildren in taxpayer funded schools in 2012!
    National Protest Against School Corporal Punishment will be held at TN State Capitol in Nashville Thursday, April 5, 2012 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to Demand Governor Haslam and TN lawmakers Abolish Corporal Punishment/Pain to Punish Tennessee students K-12, already Illegal in Nashville Schools and Schools in 31 U.S. States. Search “A Violent Education” for disturbing facts! Support Federal Bill H.R. 3027 “The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” , languishing in U.S. Congress NOW, at donthitstudents dot com 2/3 of Tennessee schoolchildren K-12 attend schools in “Paddling Schools”. Did you know that Tennessee State Law does NOT require parental consent or notification for children to be hit with thick wooden paddles by school teachers, coaches and administrators in schools? Newschannel 5 reported the following on March 9, 2012:CROSSVILLE, Tenn. – A legendary local football coach is in trouble, accused of going too far with corporal punishment on a student.
    A grand jury indicted Vaughn Davis on charges of simple assault. This after the mother of a 14-year-old special needs student complained to the district attorney.
    “Mr. Davis took him outside and had him bend over a rock and paddled him three times,” said the child’s mother, who NewsChannel 5 did not identify to protect the identity of the child.
    She said her son is recovering from a traumatic brain injury from an ATV crash and any further trauma like padding to his head or spine could have killed him. The boy was on the school’s “No Paddle” list, but the mother said it still happened.”Search “A Violent Education” for disturbing facts including graphic descriptions of injuries, “Teacher Immunity Laws” and No legal redress for families of injured students, even the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear school corporal punishment appeals! Support Federal Bill H.R. 3027 “The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” at donthitstudents dot com

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.lang3 Stephen Lang

      I agree 100 percent that School Corporal Punishment must stop. And thank You for being brave enough to have a photo of Yourself in conjunction with You’re comment.

  • gm

    Here is a petition to end corporal punishment in schools.  This has got to stop. How can any reasonable person trust someone else to raise their children??!! Just about every week you hear about some educator abusing a child, you cannot trust educators to discipline in this manner. http://signon.org/sign/end-corporal-punishment?r_by=1759117

  • rob

    Well the bruising and Welting Problem shouldn’t be a problem anymore.. I’ve shipped off
    an appropriate size Paddle Boards for elementary age students.. This may avoid future injuries either physical or emotional since you’d have to use quite allot of force to cause that to happen with that sized board.

    • Mhcope3

      Again with the grammar and spelling errors. Only uneducated people are silly enough to believe that whacking students with pieces of wood is appropriate.

    • bronxriver73

      Hey Rob…you wanna TRY paddling my kids? You do know the consequences of that, don’t you? I would have to EDUCATE you on such things, and “education” can be painful. Got my meaning?

  • Wadeditty

    There must be a bunch of perverts in Florida schools.       

    • Not so hard paddling

      NO Were not Perverts either.. Sometimes a good mild to moderate dose of the Paddle on the errant’s behinds does wonders for them,. Believe me.. A non brute / not so hard force paddling sometimes gets there attention more then anything else,.

      • Wadeditty

         You
        wrote to my email address. You didn’t tell me your name. My mind hasn’t
        changed. I think school paddlers are a bunch of perverts.I grew up in
        the sovereign state of Alabama. I am victim of School Corporal
        Punishment. It’s a sadistical, barbaric way of disciplining
        children, All arguments to keep school corporal punishment alive are
        intellectually bankrupt. I think school paddlers would of made good
        hitch-men in Hitler’s army. We should debate this matter face to face,
        and place the debate on you-tube. Maybe CNN, would notice it. I can set
        up a debate from anywhere through The Hitting Stops Here. I do volunteer
        work for them. I’ve challenged scores of school paddlers to a debate.
        None will debate me. They are cowards.  How come it is people on the
        internet who support the barbaric practice of paddling kids will not
        use their real name? I think you are a coward.
        Let’s debate,
        Wade Ditty   

      • Mhcope3

        I love the grammar in this statement. It is usually the poorly educated that resort to primitive methods of coercion that have been shown to have detrimental effects on victims.

      • bruisedhamstringsinshortshorts

         Hey perv, if you’re going to bruise my scranus stretched over the tailbone in an ankle-grab, the LEAST you can do is make it sting with afterburn.  Don’t be so wishy-washy.  Or it won’t be as good for me as it is for you.

      • outraged

        I’ll bet the pervert doing the paddling gets a thrill from it.

      • bronxriver73

        “NO Were not Perverts”
        I don’t care what you call yourselves…touch my child and you will pay for it. I couldn’t be plainer in my warning, now could I?

  • s.larey@yahoo.com

    Degrading and insulting. You have NO right to put your hands on a child! Your job is to teach academics. PERIOD!

  • Guest

    While I approve of corporal punishment, it’s inappropriate in a school setting. The question underscores the fact that society views schools more like warehouses or penal institutions for children than as an educational entitlement by the student. The student is the customer (the “boss”) and the school is no different than any other vendor (except that it functions more or less like a monopoly provider). Someone I’m hiring to do a job for me has no business imposing discipline on me for self-appointed rules. I pay the money, I make the rules. You serve at my pleasure or you’re fired. Period. Academics need to the off their high horse and understand their proper palace in the employer-employee relationship. They’ve got it all backwards.

    As for crime, I’m all for corporal punishment as an option to incarceration or community service. Jail just costs the tax payers a lot of money and, in my view, putting someone in a cage for days on end is probably worse than CP. Community service is better, but also requires a lot of time and taxpayer expense. I think for juveniles 12-17 and young adults to age 26, CP should be a judicial option, carried out in a semi-public forum (a jury of witnesses) with a doctor present.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.lang3 Stephen Lang

      You have GOT to be kidding Faceless Coward!!! And also Nameless Coward as well. You are no better than Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson!!Why don’t You just slither back under that filthy,slimey, and moldy rock where You came from? C.P. should NEVER be used on anyone!!!!

  • James Brian Peterson

    At 17 years old in 1968,I was a dedicated practitioner of the Korean martial art of Hapkido with only 2 months towards testing for Black Belt. As such, my only interest in high school was to get it over with so that I could join the Army and start building a career.Unfortunately,the wrestling coach (who should have known better) who had been unsuccessfully badgering me for the preceding 3 months to “be a man and go out for wrestling”,finally decided that my polite but consistent refusal of an entirely voluntary school “athletic” activity was somehow indicative of a profound flaw in my character that required,in his words,”an attitude adjustment”-which of course meant a paddling.The next day,I was summoned to his office over the school PA system,which was their combined humiliation and intimidation tactic in that the wrestling coach was also in charge of “discipline”i.e.,beating people. To make a long and ugly story short: as soon as he grabbed me by my shirt,I simultaneously jabbed him lightly in the solar plexus(I had no justification to permanently injure or kill him)and proned him out in a very painful wrist lock;there by rendering him immobile and helpless.I then informed him that he;(1) lacked the requisite permission slip from my parents to paddle me;(2) had just committed simple battery on me;(3) thereby not only exposing him to legal action,but perhaps the entire school system as well in that my father was a lawyer;and (4) with no witnesses,how could he explain the fact that a 17 year old kid standing 5’8″at 170 pounds was able to deck a 6’2″,230 pound ex-marine wrestling coach in his late 30′s ? He wisely decided to let me leave without further difficulty. That was 43 years ago,and to this day I regret not having,at least, broken the bastard’s wrist. The most important thing that I learned that high school taught me is that bullies deserve no mercy.

    • bronxriver73

      Nice shot! I cannot believe that these, ah, “christian” (spelled with a Small “c”) parents ALLOW some teacher to touch their kids on a private part of their body. If that was my child, I would’ve put my foot up their…well, you know.

  • outraged

    Why not just allow them to discipline with a hatchet, a knife, or a gun, especially for repeat offenders! IDIOTS!!!! You cannot paddle your kids at home.You get reported for child abuse. Why should it be allowed at school? If the idiots at the schools cannot get the kids to behave without using violence then they should not be teachers. Get a job you would be better suited to doing, like slopping hogs! Great lesson! Let’s teach kids that the solution to solving a problem should be a violent one. IDIOTS. REDNECKS. CAVEMEN. You set civilization back with every breath you take.

  • char

    New Mexico needs to paddle! we struggle w our son because there is no punishment, only playtime in the office for a “cool down” which he abuses daily! it is a consequence that is useful as.long as not overdone. who wants to be spanked at school? well maybe its just embarrassing enough to deter early bad habits and dangerouse behaviors. i would rather my son be spanked than allowed to go on bullying and acting out because the schools allow it. What if other were your child he hurt while getting his way day after day? To me its unnaceptable to take that option away from those of us who have behaviorally challenged children.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.lang3 Stephen Lang

      So You want Your Son to be a Brainwashed MORON instead of putting Him on the proper Medication to control His behavior? Oh yeah,and SHOW YOUR FACE YOU COWARD!!!! I’ll bet that char is not even Your real Name eather!!! Your Mentally Ill Son needs Medication.He does NOT need to be beaten black and blue with a blunt object You Moron!!!

    • bronxriver73

      I agree Stephen…”people” like Char are bible-thumping IMBECILES! I am so glad that they are the…MINORITY in this country!

  • char

    Im not saying paddle to make it hurt, most children are so embarrased at the whole class knowing they got paddled that it may be helpful. they dont want to look bad in front of thier peers.

    • bronxriver73

      Char, why would you let some dude paddle your child? Isn’t that your job?

  • joe maxwell

    Please notice that most of the places like Bonifay Florida and other places that allow hitting students are redneck areas of America. These bully school officials love the idea that they are allowed to use violence on minors, and that the backward laws support them. If the possibility exists, and I have to tell you it does, that even one of these men or women that beat our children are closeted perverts, isn’t that reason enough to stop these physical assaults?

  • annanymus

    you can’t hit someone out of love! If you result to physical force your doing it out of anger and all your teaching is fear not right from wrong. Your teaching kids to hide what their doing if you don’t like it instead of honesty. Hitting children is wrong but its even worse if its at school and without parental permission.

  • nblock

    It’s sad that some communities support corporal punishment. Shouldn’t teachers who are college-educated, whose education included how children learn and develop and who have been taught alternatives to corporal punishment be good examples for such communities? They should be wonderful models for such communities. nadineblock.com

  • bronxriver73

    I’d like to see them TRY to spank my child without my permission. I may go to jail for assault, but the person who touches my child WILL be assaulted. Can you dig it?

  • Johnny LoveFive

    All these jokers against it saying how it teaches violence and crap, which leads to violence in the community. Well, why then in the 70′s and before when all states had it did we not have all the shootings and violence we have today? We need discipline in the school that sticks. These in school suspensions, and other crap, DO NOTHING!!

    • Trevor

      Actually there were shootings back then,ever heard of charles whitman?

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