Over the weekend Gov. Rick Perry explained why he believes the separation of church and state is the work of Satan thusly: "Well, let me just go on the record and say I believe in Satan." That sounds crazy until you look at what we do to each other in Texas.
A North Texas mom named Anna Jorgensen offers an unfortunate example. Her daughter got in trouble at Springtown High School near Fort Worth because another student copied off her work. Though she claimed innocence, she received a choice: Get a two-day suspension, or take a paddling from a principal. Jorgensen's daughter took the suspension but was so eager to get back into the classroom that she requested a paddling on day two.
The school called Jorgenson, who agreed to let a government employee beat her child with a blunt instrument on her backside because, she said, "Her grades are very important to her."
Jorgensen said she only agreed to the paddling because the school policy required female school employees to beat female students and men to beat boys. Otherwise, it would just get a little too weird. So when her daughter came home with a bruised and blistered bum, Jorgensen called the school to complain. Turns out a male administrator swatted her and claimed he was unaware of the school's same-gender policy when it came to inflicting physical pain in a humiliating manner to correct bad behavior -- on the child's part, of course.
Jorgensen did what any caring mother would do. She took pictures of her daughter's damaged derriere and called the media. By the time she and her daughter sat for an interview with Dallas' ABC affiliate, the school district scheduled a meeting not to consider whether corporal punishment might be a barbaric overreaction but to reconsider whether the same-gender policy was needed at all. "I think Taylor is proof that we need to keep that policy," Jorgensen told the reporter. "I don't believe a man intentionally meant to do that to her, but it still happens, because men are too big and strong to be hitting 96-pound girls."
That meager observation represented Jorgensen's moral high ground in a down cycle that separated basic values ("Love one another as you would yourself") from common sense ("Don't put your embarrassed daughter on TV").
School spankings aren't as rare as you'd think. Corporal punishment remains legal in 18 states, including Texas, where three-quarters of the school districts give it a green light. That's right. It's theoretically possible to receive corporal punishment in Corpus Christi. That phrase "beatings shall continue until morale improves" is official school policy in most Texas counties.
I'm for sparing the rod, so spare me the argument that if you were spanked and turned out OK, then your kids can handle it, too. My folks spanked me -- rarely, and with obvious regret -- and in the 5th grade I took a paddling for engaging in horseplay with a ruler. And now that I think about it, grabbing my ankles in front of my classmates was a little humiliating. I know my parents love me and my teacher was doing his best. But I'd kill anyone for doing the same to my sons. Maybe violence is a cycle.
This week the Springtown school board decided that it was kosher for school administrators to punish the body (that is, administer corporal punishment) of students of the opposite gender, but only if the parents gave written permission.
Enraged, Anna Jorgensen said she regretted allowing them to spank her daughter and expressed regret that she compounded her daughter's humiliation by calling the media.
Just kidding. That's what a decent person would do. But Jorgensen did express regret.
"I have tried to be very professional and not personal about it," said a reportedly tearful Jorgensen. "I didn't know the media would turn it into all of this, and I feel very sorry for putting Springtown in that spot."
Yes, poor Springtown.
Kids grow up so fast these days in Texas. I just wish the adults did, too. Jorgensen's awful choices and the school district's response help explain how a lesser child of God like Rick Perry could govern a state.