It happened as we were conducting practice walkthroughs during principal training. I was working with a group of administrators on gathering formative data on teacher instructional practices and, as we were making our way down the hallway, I overheard one principal say to another, “…after that smart @$$ comment, I turned to [name] and just said, ‘Whup ‘im.'”
I let out a half-laugh as I turned to him, not sure whether to be aghast or amused at the absurdity of joking about spanking a student. The moment I saw his face, however, I realized that he wasn’t joking. I’m sure several emotions were evident in my expression as the realization of what he was saying sunk in – disbelief, disgust, horror. Mentally recoiling, I managed to create space between us as we continued walking, giving one of the other principals a chance to come up alongside me and whisper, somewhat apologetically, “Corporal punishment is still legal in Texas.”
I have memories of classmates being called to the office for punishment that can only be categorized as child abuse, but I had naively assumed that those brutish practices had been discontinued in the ’80s. How wrong I was.
I recently told a co-worker this story and she, like me, found it difficult to fathom that this form of punishment was still legal. She forwarded data from The Center for Effective Discipline on frequency of corporal punishment by state (and those that have banned such practices). I’ll let the data speak for itself. I am especially dismayed to see that Colorado, my adopted home of 15 years that I consider to be such a role model for healthy living and innovative ideas, still hasn’t banned corporal punishment.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is corporal punishment still legal in your state? Is it still a part of your school’s culture? How frequently is this happening in your world?