Here’s an type of opt-out list we don’t often write about: Corporal punishment in schools is legal in lots of states, but if you assumed parents could always opt-out, you’d be mistaken. According to a report from WHNT in Alabama, one student was beaten until he was bruised because he failed a science test.
The kid, who says he (and his mom) reported the teacher to the local news because he wants to save other kids from being bruised, describes the incident:
“It felt like he was trying to touch the ceiling and when he came down… it felt like he was trying to smack me through the wall.”
The news station investigated and found that the teacher apparently didn’t break any laws, but that the school district handbook doesn’t specifically allow kids to be subjected to corporal punishment for purely academic offenses, such as failing a test. As for a “no paddle” list, there’s apparently no such thing in DeKalb County, Alabama.
WHNT NEWS 19 called the DeKalb County Superintendent’s office more than a dozen times to ask about the rules and regulations surrounding corporal punishment. They refused to answer our questions but did say they follow Alabama state laws. We called the Alabama Department of Education and officials told WHNT NEWS 19 that corporal punishment “is authorized under the policies and guidelines developed by the local board of education.”
Melissa Lewis says nowhere in the county handbook does it state that a child can be disciplined for anything academic related. WHNT NEWS 19 also studied the handbook and learned Lewis was right. The handbook does list some violations, but academics are not one of them. Furthermore, the handbook says corporal punishment should only be administered with “moderate use of physical force” and only in order to “maintain discipline” and “enforce school rules.”
Principal Bell says all kids should always be given alternatives to paddling such as in-school suspension. But Payton says he never received that alternative. Payton said, “He just lectured us about how his dad beat him and said that’s what I am going to do to you.”
Perhaps all this could have been solved if Melissa opted to sign a “no paddle list.” Several schools across the country are giving the power back to the parents. But after doing some digging, WHNT NEWS 19 learned no such option exists in DeKalb County.
The mother in this case has filed a police report and is waiting to see if the county district attorney will press criminal charges. In the meantime, the school has sent a memo “discouraging” paddling “for the time being.”