A Florida school district that has long subjected misbehaving students to corporal punishment recently announced it would be suspending the practice and will likely ban it entirely.
According to local reports, officials at Santa Rosa County School District in northwest Florida decided to phase out the practice in order to protect teachers from potential liability issues.
Even though parents in the district are required to give permission before their kids are subjected to paddling, in recent years, some parents have filed complaints with the state Department of Children and Families after corporal punishment incidents, local outlet WEAR-TV reports.
“I can no longer protect my employees. Even if they’re following protocol and involving the parents,” district superintendent Tim Wyrosdick told the Northwest Florida Daily News. “Our employees are awesome individuals who work so hard. They don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
The 2013-2014 Santa Rosa Public School District Code Of Conduct defines corporal punishment as “the moderate use of physical force or physical contact by a Principal or Assistant Principal … to maintain discipline or to enforce rules.” According to the handbook, instances of corporal punishment are limited to once a day and vary by grade. Young children can get up to two strokes of a wooden paddle, while older students can get up to four strokes.
WEAR-TV reports that more than 400 incidents of paddling have been documented in the district since the 2011-2012 school year. Parents have had mixed reactions to the district's decision to suspend the use of corporal punishment.
“I think it depends on the situation, the school system, the comfort that the parents have, the culture that they have at home,” parent Shannan Posey told the outlet of paddling.
Meanwhile, parent Marie Caton said that even though she initially consented to paddling for her son, she was actually devastated when she heard the punishment taking place in an adjacent room, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
“If you were going to paddle a child, would you know how hard to hit him with a long, thick board to get his attention but not hurt him?” she told the outlet. “I don’t think anyone does.”
Nineteen states still allow the practice of corporal punishment in schools. According to the most recent federal data on corporal punishment, 7,303 students were subjected to paddling in Florida during the 2005–2006 school year.