A school in Georgia has reinstated corporal punishment by paddling as a way to discipline students.
The Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics (GSIC), a charter school for students from kindergarten to Grade 9, sent a consent form home to parents detailing the new policy. Jody Boulineau, superintendent of GSIC, told WRDW that roughly 100 forms have been sent out and one-third have given consent to paddle their child.
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“In this school, we take discipline very seriously,” Boulineau said. “There was a time where corporal punishment was kind of the norm in school and you didn’t have the problems that you have.”
He calls it “one more tool that we have in our disciplinary toolbox.”
The policy states that students will be held to a “three strikes” rule in which a third offence that merits being sent to the principal’s office could result in a paddling. If the parents consent to a paddling, the student “will be taken into an office behind closed doors. The student will place their hands on their knees or piece of furniture and will be struck on the buttocks with a paddle.”
No more than three “licks” will be issued and an adult witness needs to be present. Any parent who doesn’t sign the consent form must agree that their child could face up to five days of suspension.
So far, the response from parents has been mixed.
“I’ve heard, ‘Great, it’s about time,’ [and] ‘We’re so glad that this is happening again, they should’ve never taken it out of schools.’ All the way to, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you are doing that,'” Boulineau said.
He admits that he doubts the policy will be enforced very often and that it will act more as a threat to deter bad behaviour.
However, experts believe even if it does prevent students from acting out, it’s sending the wrong message.
“All this is telling kids is that it’s OK to hurt other people and take control over someone else,” says parenting coach Julie Romanowski. “This is saying it’s OK to physically push your weight around. It’s a misuse of power.”
What’s worse, she doesn’t believe it will accomplish what it’s setting out to do. By threatening a child as a disciplinary tactic, all they’re listening to is the fear and not the underlying message, which is to behave or follow the rules.
“That’s just going to distort their perception of how the world works and learn the message that fear is what you use to get what you want. It’s gangster mentality,” she says.
In addition, it adds to a sense of insecurity and anxiety within the child.
“I can totally understand that intervention is needed [if a child is repeatedly acting out],” she says. “A person wouldn’t come up with this policy without seeing severe chaos within the school, but how that intervention looks is what really makes a difference.”
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The state of Georgia is one of 19 that allows paddling in schools as a form of discipline, but few schools have a policy that explicitly permits it.
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