Schools and spanking: Isn’t it time we stopped used religion to justify violence?

This article originally appeared on September 2, 2022 at Baptist News Global.

“Make education violent again” seems to be the slogan for a public school district in Missouri.

The Cassville School District decided on June 16, 2022, to bring back spanking after parents requested for the schools to spank their kids.

Merlyn Johnson

In a scene reminiscent of Pontius Pilate washing his hands and blaming the people, Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told the Springfield News-Leader, “Parents have said, ‘Why can’t you paddle my student?’ And we’re like ‘We can’t paddle your student,’ our policy does not support that.’”

Yet the superintendent went along with the parents’ desire to change the policy, allowing school officials to hit kids by “swatting the buttocks with a paddle” with up to three swings.

“It is something that has happened on my watch and I’m OK with it.”

Johnson said: “My plan, when I came to Cassville, wasn’t to be known as the guy who brought corporal punishment back to Cassville. I didn’t want that to be my legacy and I still don’t. But it is something that has happened on my watch and I’m OK with it.”

The policy defines corporal punishment as “the use of physical force as a method of correcting student behavior.” It requires that “corporal punishment shall be administered only by certified personnel and in the presence of a witness who is also an employee of the district.”

It is unclear who “certified” spanking personnel would be. Will they undergo spanking training or have a spanking test they have to pass? Will it be a written exam or will the administrators be tested by spanking each other? Will they be identified with a spanking badge? And will their spanking certification expire at some point and have to be renewed?

In an attempt to sound reasonable, the policy states, “Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.”

The response from the parents for reinstating spanking after more than two decades has been mostly rejoicing. Johnson said: “We’ve had people actually thank us for it. Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things but the majority of people that I’ve run into have been supportive.”

Miranda Waltrip, who is a parent of three children in the district, is not among those rejoicing.

“We live in a really small community where people were raised a certain way, and they’re kind of blanketed in that fact that they grew up having discipline and swats. And so, for them, it’s like going back to the good old days.”

Loss of bodily autonomy and consent

Of course, the “good old days” also were the days when people were generally unaware of the need for bodily autonomy and consent. While the policy requires “a parent or guardian being notified and providing written permission for the corporal punishment,” nowhere does it mention asking the kids if adults have their permission to hit them. They have lost their bodily autonomy. And they’ve given no consent to be hit by adults.

“They’ve given no consent to be hit by adults.”

Kalia Miller and Gabe Moore, who are seniors at Cassville High School, are organizing a protest that already has more than 100 classmates involved. Moore told the News-Leader: “Most students are scared, the fact that they’ll be hit by a 30- or 40-year-old man, and mostly women are scared that they’ll be spanked or hit by a man with another guy in the room and they would feel embarrassed or see it as a call-back to trauma. … It’s really frightening for a lot of students. Some students see it as abuse, and it is abuse.”

Continue reading at Baptist News Global.

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