Why School Leaders Say There’s Nothing Sexual About Paddling Students

A typical wooden paddle used to administer school corporal punishment.
MIAMI (2012-03-15) -

Our story on Florida schools that paddle students was picked up by NPR and we’ve gotten some comments from folks who wondered about a sexual element to spanking.

John Shelley wrote: "Why do they hit the kids in the butt? Is this a sexual thing?"
Conky Swayze wrote: "There’s so much sexual connotation with spanking that it does walk in that grey area."

Some who have been on the receiving end of a paddle say people outside of their community just don’t understand their culture.

Melynda Howell is the guidance counselor at Sneads High School in Jackson County Fla., which uses corporal punishment.

She graduated from the high school and said the last time she got a spanking from a male principal, she was 13 years old, and she had gotten in a fight with another girl in the school.

“We don’t see any sexual element whatsoever,” Howell said. “The principal was a male authority figure just like my father, so there was no difference to us, to me.”

Sneads, Fla. is a small town in the Florida Panhandle with a population of about 2,000.

Howell says in this part of the rural north, high school girls and boys are not considered too old to get a spanking at school.

“Most kids in our area have that type of discipline at home so they’re more comfortable with it in the school environment, Howell said.

“If you don’t experience that in California or at home, of course you would not be as comfortable with that at the school level.”

Schools with paddling polices are required by law to bring in a witness, and notify the parents after the punishment is administered.

But most schools volunteer to ask parents for permission before students are paddled.

The Community Trusts School Administrators

Some Florida schools, like Sneads High School, have polices where school administrators can only spank students of the same gender.

The principal of the school, Laurence Pender, says he has never hit a female student. For that he calls in his assistant principal, Faye Parker.

But Pender says his small town would support him if he did paddle female students. He says parents expect him to act like a parent to students under his supervision.

“Its not something that is joked about or laughed about. It’s a very serious thing,” Pender said. “Its punishment.”

Schools that want to use corporal punishment have to apply every three years, and hear testimony from parents in the community.

Outside of the Panhandle, the community in rural Madison, Fla. decided high school students are too mature to get paddled, according to Willie Williams, principal at Madison County Central elementary and middle school.

The community decided teenage girls and boys in middle school can still be paddled.
And Williams says the community trusts the school administrators to discipline students in this way.

He says school corporal punishment works well in a small town because everyone knows each other.

“If I were in a big community, where I wasn’t known, where I didn’t get a chance to speak at church... for students to know that I know their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, I don’t think it would be possible in an urban area. I really don’t.”

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