Suspension Is Out, Corporal Punishment Is In For a Missouri School District
Dr. Merlyn Johnson, the Superintendent of Missouri’s Cassville School District, told local outlet KOLR about the district’s plan to reinstate corporal punishment in the 2022-23 school year, which started on August 24, according to the district’s official webpage.
“The complaints that we have heard from some of our parents is that they don’t want their students suspended. They want another option,” he said to the outlet. “And so, this was just another option that we could use before we get to that point of suspension.”
While some parents have chosen to opt-in for the upcoming school year, others — like Miranda Waltrip, who has three kids in the Cassville district — are against the reinstatement. “I do not think it is appropriate,” she said. “You know, there are a lot of kids in the school district that don’t have parents that use resources the way that they should for their children,” reports Fox News.
She continued, noting Missouri’s history with paddling students: “We live in a really small community where people were raised a certain way, and they’re kind of blanketed in that fact that they grew up having discipline and swats. And so, for them, it’s like going back to the good old days, but it’s not because it’s going to do more harm than good at the end of the day.”
Cassville is indeed a small community just shy of 3,200 people, the 2020 Census reveals. The district’s paddling policy was officially discontinued in 2001, but the school board now sees it as the only viable alternative to suspending students, depending on it as a “last resort” before students are suspended.
According to Inside Edition, the school board released an online statement about their decision, assuring parents that potential paddling will be carried out by individuals who are explicitly certified to do so. Those individuals will be permitted to “use physical force as a method of correcting student behavior” in order to uphold “discipline and order in schools.”
The statement reports further guidelines to the recently-revived policy, noting that corporal punishment would be reserved for instances when “all other alternative means of discipline have failed and only “upon the recommendation of the principal.” Students will never be paddled in front of other students and the disciplinary measure must be done “in the presence of a witness who is also an employee.”
Additionally, the district ensures parents that students will not suffer any severe bodily harm from the paddling, and that students will never be hit on the head or in the face. Superintendent Johnson assured parents, again, reminding them that the policy “will only be for those parents who wish to be part of it.”
Dr. Stacey Patton posted a thread on Twitter that refutes this claim:
In another interview with the Springfield News-Leader, Superintendent Johnson admitted, “My plan, when I came to Cassville, wasn’t to be known as the guy who brought corporal punishment back to Cassville. I didn’t want that to be my legacy and I still don’t,” adding, “But it is something that has happened on my watch and I’m okay with it.”
According to him, many local parents were not only in favor of the policy but had specifically requested it be reinstated. After initially pointing out that paddling was not permitted by school policy, Johnson noted that, since the disciplinary measure was revived, “We’ve had people actually thank us for it,” he told the outlet. “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.”
Still, for some parents, paddling students is a bridge too far. Waltrip further explained her opposition to the policy, saying, “You know, I feel like if they had a different outlet like counseling services and school instead of corporal punishment, that would be the more appropriate answer.”
She continued: “At the end of the day they are having to hold the child down and spank them or use whatever means that they can to make the child submissive when that is not the issue, it is the fact that they need to be heard because children act out for varied reasons.”
28 states have banned corporal punishment over the last century-and-a-half, with New Jersey’s ban dating back to 1867, according to Find Law. However, half of the states banned corporal punishment at some point in the 20th century. The most recent bans came from Delaware and Pennsylvania in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
A thread from Twitter account “LatinxParenting” goes into more detail about this “new” policy: