Spanking is no longer allowed in many schools throughout the country. However, some school districts still allow – and practice – the act when administrators or teachers feel it is necessary to keep students in line and maintain control of the classroom. In most of those cases, students can be spanked without parental consent and under the strict guidelines of the school district. However, some parents do not feel that the current guidelines in place are enough to protect their children. In some areas, spanking laws have come under fire once again, as schools are faced with the quandary of abiding by parent wishes and keeping a disciplined classroom in order. We will take a look at some of the areas where this issue is being revisited in public schools.
A Brief History of Spanking
Spanking, also referred to as corporal punishment, is defined on Wikipedia as the "deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offense, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer." It is also used as a deterrent for unacceptable behaviors or attitudes. Spanking often involves the use of an implement, such as a belt or ruler, rather that hitting the offender with a hand.
In schools, the discipline is generally administered by a teacher or school administrator, on the buttocks, using a paddle or open hand. Most schools do not require permission from the parent to perform a spanking, although some schools do send home a permission slip to parents before spanking a child who has been classified as "special needs."
Today, spanking is legal in domestic settings throughout the United States, although the rules for school districts are much less consistent. In most states, districts form their own policies regarding spanking, so rules can even vary from community to community. In some of the areas where spanking is currently allowed, parents and lawmakers have banned together in an effort to reverse the legislation so that corporal punishment is no longer used in the school setting. However, there are compelling arguments on both sides of the coin that make this issue a very complex one for lawmakers to form an agreement on.
Texas Allowing Parents to "Opt Out"
New legislation recently passed in Texas will allow parents to "opt out" of the corporal punishment practices within their children's schools. A bill authored by Alma Allen (D-Houston) allows parents to sign a form releasing their children from the corporal punishment policy if spanking is allowed in their schools. Allen told Statesman.com that the problem lies in the fact that districts that do allow spanking are not regulated under state law. Allen said, "Some districts let parents opt out. But [elsewhere], parents have no right to say no."
Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) voted in favor of the bill as well. He told the Statesman, "This lets me as a parent say no, you cannot spank my child, because in my house we don't discipline our kids in that way. This is simply allowing a parent to make the decision on how to raise their children."
However, not everyone agrees with the Texas bill. In fact, in the first vote, the bill was defeated. Supporters of the bill called for a second vote and talked to various house members to alleviate concerns about what the bill might mean. The second vote passed, with 12 members of the House switching their vote after discussions with fellow lawmakers, according to a post at the Houston Chronicle. Still, there is concern over what this bill could mean.
Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) told the Statesman that the measure is a violation of local control. Miller said, "Here is one more mandate coming out of Austin telling local school boards what they can and cannot do. If a school district wants to ban corporal punishment, I'm fine with that. But it needs to be on a local level."
More Debate in North Carolina
North Carolina is another state divided on the issue of corporal punishment. While many school districts in the state have already banned the practice, McDowell County still allows it as an option. However, some activists and legislators want to eliminate corporal punishment throughout the state of North Carolina, or at least require parental permission before a spanking is administered, according to a report at WSAV.
Current policies in the state do require parental notification, but it is unclear whether the notification must take place before or after the discipline. The policy also lists the infractions for which corporal punishment can be used, including repeat behavior or chronic disruptive acts in the classroom.
Bringing Spanking Back in Tennessee
Although spanking is allowed in Shelby County Schools in Tennessee, it is currently banned in Memphis, according to a report at My Fox Memphis. However, one Baptist preacher – who also happens to serve on the Memphis City School Board of Education – hopes to change that. Pastor Kenneth Whalum Jr. wants corporal punishment brought back to Memphis schools to allow teachers the opportunity to regain control of classrooms and show students they are cared about enough to be disciplined. Currently Tennessee school districts are in the process of a consolidation, which could mean policies in other counties could spread into Memphis, such as the allowance of spanking that is currently in effect in Shelby County.
Few parenting topics inspire as much debate as the issue of corporal punishment, and this controversy intensifies further when the principle is discussed in the public school setting. With committed opinions and beliefs on both sides of the issue, spanking in public schools is sure to be an ongoing discussion point for many years to come.
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