From the Daily: Texas messes

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published September 30, 2012

When a student violates a school policy in Texas, the punishment, depending on their action, could be as far-reaching as the paddle. At least this is what happened in Springtown, Texas, last week when a 15-year-old girl was paddled by her school’s assistant principal. As a result, the girl’s mother brought the issue to the school board, who then expanded their corporal punishment policy. This decision should be reversed and corporal punishment should be restricted to allow for only same-gender punishment, if any at all.

Texas is one of 19 states that haven't banned corporal punishment. According to Texas law, there's no comment on the gender or age of the student being punished, and in order for a child to avoid corporal punishment the parent must opt-out in writing. In this particular incident, the mother complained, not because the school subjected her daughter to physical punishment, but because she was paddled by a man, and left with severe welting. When it was brought to the attention of the school board that their same-gender corporal punishment policy had been violated, instead of punishing the assistant principal, the board expanded the policy to allow it across genders.

This type of violent and humiliating punishment has no place in an educational environment. According to a 2010 report by the Center for Effective Discipline, 75 percent of states that allow corporal punishment are below the national average in ACT scores and 75 percent of the states that have outlawed corporal punishment are above the national average. Furthermore, the 10 lowest-performing states on the ACT are states allowing corporal punishment. While it's difficult to correlate corporal punishments and test scores, educational achievement clearly needs to be the focus.

In order for a child to avoid corporal punishment under the current Texas law, their parent has to send in a letter specifically requesting that their child is exempt. Even if corporal punishment has the support of Texas voters, the policy should have to opt-in rather than opt-out of it, if allowed at all.

Furthermore, the lack of policy regarding age limits or gender restrictions creates inappropriate situations. When a middle-aged man spanks a teenage girl, there is an inherently inappropriate dynamic added to the situation. Neither students nor teachers should be subjected to this type of educational environment. Many students who are subjected to this punishment are young adults who understand why their behavior is wrong and do not require physical discipline.

Striking children in schools is not only wrong, but also detrimental to their education. Corporal punishment is not acceptable in any educational situation and is particularly inappropriate when administered to an older age group or when adults of the opposite sex are involved in the punishment. An educator’s job should not be expanded to include physical punishment.