corpunWorld Corporal Punishment Research   :  Archive   :  1976 to 1995   :  US Schools Nov 1981


School CP - November 1981

Corpun file 7263 at

St Louis Argus, Missouri, 12 November 1981

Corporal Punishment Eliminated

By Bev Pfeifer-Harms
Journal Staff Writer

The St. Louis Board of Education last week voted to outlaw corporal punishment in its classrooms.

The board, with nine members voting in the affirmative, approved the ban after months of discussion and despite protests by administrators that the policy remain in force until a discipline alternative was found.

Board member Nathaniel Johnson voted against the measure, while Daniel Schesch and Dr. Helen Thomas abstained.

The ban means teachers and principals will not longer be able to use physical means to enforce discipline.

"I'M AFRAID for little Johnny or Sue when they realize that the teacher can't touch them -- it can create more discipline problems," Johnson said. "I think the issue is the abuse of corporal punishment."

Schesch said the policy change produces a "gray area" for the district. "This could be a question of teachers' rights versus the policy. I think we've created a monster (where) any contact the student finds offensive could be (construed as) corporal punishment," he said.

But Superintendent Robert L. Wentz doubts those problems will materialize. "Clearly, some (teacher contact) isn't a violation. We are talking about physical force or threats," he said.

"We have had problems with (discipline) abuse in the past, but it's not widespread. When teachers have been found guilty, they were dismissed," he added.

The old policy stated a teacher could use a rattan, or short length of wood, to spank a child only after the school principal had approved the punishment and was there for the disciplining, Wentz said.

THE NEW POLICY states that no employee shall "cause or attempt to cause physical contact with any person when the employee knows that the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative."

In supporting the ban on corporal punishment, board member Dr. Lawrence E. Nicholson said, "I doesn't have a place in school. Aggression begets aggression and not the desirable responses we expect. An enlightened board of education, at some time, takes this stand."

Board member Marjorie Weir added, "I'm concerned if corporal punishment is the only method of discipline we have. And the concept that getting rid of corporal punishment will destroy all semblance of discipline in the schools is totally distorted."

Schesch said he hoped the district would provide workshops to retrain teachers who rely on the rattan.

According to Wentz, few teaches use the rattan today. A survey of most south side elementary schools revealed that only a handful still have a rattan in the building.

blob Follow-up: 15 December 1982 - Teachers Union Head Urges Restoration of Spankings

Corpun file 24308 at

Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville, 21 November 1981, p.16

Finding Of 'Cheat Sheets' Nets 35 Paddlings At Viper School

Click to enlarge

VIPER, Ky. (AP) -- Although officials at Viper Elementary School say the punishment was justified, the paddling of 35 eighth-graders has become a controversial subject in this Perry County community.

The discovery of "cheat sheets" for several history tests prompted the spankings, according to Principal James Boothe.

"We don't get a kick out of giving anyone a paddling," Boothe said. He administered most of the Wednesday morning spankings after the sheets were found.

Boothe said a eighth-grade teacher came to his office with a list of answers to several history tests, including a quiz that was to be given that day. The teacher confiscated the answer sheet in his classroom, Boothe said.

Standardized teaching materials were being used in the two classes, including ready-made tests and grading keys, he said.

"He (the teacher) gave the names of several students who had cheat notes," Boothe said, adding the teacher suspected something was amiss when normally poor pupils began making A's.

The principal said he individually questioned the pupils who were suspected of cheating.

"They kept saying. 'If we're going to be punished, you'd better punish the whole class,'" Boothe said.

All the pupils in one class and about 10 in the other each received "three licks" with a wooden paddle, he said.

"I think that the children got off very, very light," said School Superintendent Kenneth Colwell.

"From what I understand, it's being handled in a correct, disciplinary way," he added.

Sam Caudill, whose 12-year-old daughter Stephanie was among those punished, didn't agree with the school officials.

"I would say that they whipped some innocent kids," he said.

"She was pretty upset about it," Caudill said. "Stephanie was accused of cheating and she said she didn't cheat.

"I don't want to take a stand against paddling at all," Caudill said, but added, "Why would they whip a whole complete class?"

Herman Hall, whose 13-year-old son, Matt, also was punished, said he always told the boy he would be paddled at home if he was paddled in school. But Hall said he couldn't punish his son Wednesday.


The New York Times, 26 November 1981

Paddling Increases In Miami Schools

MIAMI, Nov. 25 (AP) -- Dade County schoolchildren in increasing number are making the acquaintance of Mr. Understanding and similar wooden paddles that translate school officials' new get-tough attitude into something the students can feel.

Paddlings in county schools increased 27 per cent last year, with 16,750 cases of corporal punishment reported by principals, according to statistics kept by the 224,500-student school district.

James Hunt, principal of Booker T. Washington Junior High School, rests Mr. Understanding on top of his desk in full view of students who are sent to his office.

"It takes all the anxiety out of their visits," said Mr. Hunt, a big man with a wide grin.

Last year, as principal of Lake Stevens Junior High School, Mr. Hunt administered 874 paddlings -- the record for the school system. He said the use of corporal punishment is up because there is a new, get-tough attitude in the schools towards unruly students.

Dade school principals and teachers who use the paddle -- only 48 of 261 schools reported no paddlings last year -- are under longstanding orders to follow procedures set by the school board. Rules specify that:

  • The paddle must be wooden and no larger than 2 feet long, an inch thick and 4 inches wide. It can be used only on the buttocks.
  • Elementary students can be struck only twice, junior high school students three times and high school students four times.
  • Another principal or teacher must witness the paddling, and no other students may be present to contribute to "ridicule or shame."
  • A principal must notify parents that their child was paddled and keep a record of the paddling. The record is forwarded to superiors.

Mr. Hunt was quoted in The Miami News in an interview published Monday that he thinks there were more paddlings than were reported last year. Some principals don't report them at all, he said.

"It hurts," testified 13-year-old Sonya Strachan, a seventh grader who was hit twice for fighting with a friend.

Mr. Hunt said he tells students he hates paddling as much as they do. Some students curse with pain when he hits them, he said.

"It's O.K. even if they turn around and call me a four-letter word," said Mr. Hunt, adding that he'd probably do the same. "I want to see some kind of reaction. When I don't, I worry that it's in vain."

Not everyone is happy with the trend toward more paddling. A school board member, Janet McAliley, is opposed to corporal punishment and has formed a committee of 30 principals, teachers and students to study its effectiveness. "What concerns me," Mrs. McAliley said, "is that we may be uselessly paddling the same kids over and over again for the same offense."

Mr. Hunt, also on the committee, said he prefers paddlings over suspensions because students' classwork doesn't suffer with the former.

School statistics show that boys are paddled more often than girls, that most paddlings occur in junior high schools and that more blacks are paddled than whites.

About this website

Search this site

Article: American school paddling

Other external links: US school CP

Archive up to 1975: USA

Archive 1976 to 1995: USA

Picture index

Video clips

Previous month

blob THE ARCHIVE index

blob About this website

blob Country files  Main menu page

Copyright C. Farrell 2001, 2013
Page updated July 2013