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School District Allows Paddling after Parents Wanted Alternative to Suspension

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

If you’re a parent in Cassville, Missouri, then you can rest easy that your child won’t get suspended for violating a school rule right away, but instead could be paddled after parents sought new punishment options.

In an interview with local news outlet KOLR, Dr. Merlyn Johnson, Superintendent of Cassville School District, said the district surveyed parents before the end of the last school year and learned that they didn’t want their children suspended. In a small town of just over 3,000 people, paddling is a form of discipline meted out in many households, and parents believe that this should be an option in schools. Johnson said that parents will have a chance to opt-in for corporal punishment for their children, and paddling will only be used as a last resort before instituting a suspension.

“The complaints that we have heard from some of our parents is that they don’t want their students suspended. They want another option,” Johnson told the station. “And so, this was just another option that we could use before we get to that point of suspension.”

The paddling plan takes effect for the 2022-2023 school year. School administrators will be in charge of the paddling, and another certified school employee will also be in the room as a witness. However, if a student resists, there doesn’t appear to be a contingency plan or any indication that the administrators and employees will be armed in any way in addition to the paddle.

As you can imagine, not all are happy with the new corporal punishment option, with many seeing it as taking a step back to a time when smacking and slapping was an acceptable form of discipline.

“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,” said Miranda Waltrip, a parent of three students attending the Cassville schools. “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.”

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Waltrip suggests offering counseling instead of paddling and reminds adults that children “act out for varied reasons,” and can’t imagine having to hold down a child while a school administrator spanks him or her.

If parents opt-in for paddling of their children, then can always opt out later, and a principal has to approve of the use of paddling in each particular situation in the first place.

Johnson noted that schools will only use paddling as a last resort, and only if parents opt-in, which they can do at any point in the school year. They are also able to opt-out if they change their minds.

Missouri is one of fifteen states that allow corporal punishment on all children, while four states allow it for certain students, The Clarion Ledger reports. The U.S. Constitution mandates that any law not stipulated within the document is the purview of the states, and most states have instituted a ban on in-school corporal punishment. Critics of paddling or spanking say that its use in schools is inconsistent, with certain groups of students targeted for the punishment, with proponents saying it is a punishment that fits the crime and gets the students back into the classroom sooner than a suspension would.