JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – In Mississippi, more than 70 school districts still think corporal punishment is the best way to handle behavioral problems.
However, there’s a much-heated debate about whether it does more harm than good.
WJTV 12’s Lanaya Lewis talked with two school districts with two different ways of doing things and one parent who thinks the time for paddling has passed.
Madison County Schools is one out of nearly 85 percent of school districts who permit paddling in the schoolhouse.
“As a school district, our number one goal is to educate students and part of that is having an orderly, disciplined classroom,” explained Madison County Schools Communication Coordinator Gene Wright.
Tucked away in the Madison Station Elementary School’s principal’s office is a wooden paddle, but they didn’t show it WJTV.
Wright says the paddle is rarely brought out, and there are strict rules when it is.
“The first step is to contact parents and discuss with them what they think the best approach would be to solve the issue. We have our policy right here where you can see our student handbook.”
In the student handbook, the rules regarding corporal punishment mention parents must be contacted first, no students can be present, and there must be a certified staff member and administrator present during the punishment.
Wright added if a parent wants to opt out of corporal punishment they have the right to do so.
“If a family decides they want to opt out of corporal punishment as a discipline option, they can absolutely do that. We request parents to send in a letter so that we put it in the student’s file.”
Traveling to Holmes County Consolidated School District, things are done differently.
Former Holmes County student, now Superintendent Dr. James Henderson, started with the district July 2018.
His first order of business was abolishing corporal punishment.
“There was a 5-0 vote pending that we execute with fidelity our P-B-I-S system, and as long as we were to do that than they were comfortable with the removal of corporal punishment.”
Henderson says it wasn’t easy getting corporal punishment removed from the district. Parents and faculty members weren’t too fond of the idea.
“If you continue to physically abuse a child, or spank a child, whip a child, paddle a child… that’s what that child will know. That child will grow up doing the exact same thing, and it also increases aggression.”
In Smith County, Marcie Massey, a mother of two agrees with Henderson.
She grew up getting paddled in school but doesn’t want the same for her children. Massey explained procedures surrounding corporal punishment make her uneasy.
“According to the principal if an incident happens they call you and they ask you if you want your child to be paddled or get a three-day suspension, and I’m like what if you can’t get in touch with a parent, what do you do then?”
Massey says she’s found no benefit to corporal punishment and she hopes to see something meaningful put in place.
“These kids need therapy. Legit therapy, not just a paddling. Like they need someone to talk to about these issues. Like why are they doing this, why you think this is okay?”
WJTV 12’s Lanaya Lewis reached out to all 82 Mississippi counties and found those who did practice corporal punishment had written rules that parents must consent first before paddling is administered.