Corporal punishment controversy: parents, administrators divided on whether schools should allow it

TULSA - Some students in Green Country are still getting paddled at school. Thirty-one states have banned corporal punishment in schools, but Oklahoma is not one of them. 

It has become a controversial topic and many parents disagree on -- local districts' policies on paddling.

You can still find a paddle at the principal's office at Berryhill High School, but it's been a while since it was regularly used.

Berryhill is one of the districts in Oklahoma with a policy that does allow corporal punishment. But superintendent Mike Campbell says he has asked principals to hold off on picking up the paddle. It is the parents who sometimes request paddling as an option.

"I think corporal punishment probably has its place with some students, some students it doesn't," Campbell said.

Until just a few years ago, Owasso schools also allowed paddling, but assistant superintendent David Hall agrees the liability the districts face made them reconsider too.

"Throw in the fact that if they request that you give swats, you give swats to someone and then if they happen to have a bruise show up, they turn around and threaten to sue you," Hall said.

This topic hit a nerve on our KJRH Facebook page . Our post got hundreds of responses in just a couple hours and most people responding are strongly in favor of corporal punishment. A few people commented saying spanking children has been shown to hurt their social development and self-esteem.

But most people commenting seemed to agree with Troy Morris. The Sapulpa father says he was paddled in school and thinks Oklahoma needs to keep the option.

"If I got it at school, I got it at home," Morris said.

Many individual districts are banning the paddle even if the state does not.

Tulsa, Broken Arrow, and Bixby Public Schools also no longer allow it, and even in Berryhill administrators say times are changing.

"You know, I just don't think it's worth an administrator ruining a career," Campbell said.

The latest estimate from U.S. Department of Education found from 2002  to 2010 about 9,070 kids statewide got some type of corporal punishment. That's less than 1.5 percent of the total number of students. And those numbers are expected to drop once new data is calculated.

So how is the trend affecting behavior?

"I have not heard one principal say that they wish it was still available," said Hall regarding Owasso schools.

"Our suspensions are down this year over what they've been the past 10 years," Campbell said of Berryhill schools.

As the Berryhill paddles sit gathering dust, many Oklahomans remain divided on the impact their use has on students.

"It is old-fashioned; seems to work. Schools want to use it, I think it is something in the arsenal that should be used," Morris said.

The American Psychological Association has adopted a resolution urging schools to never use corporal punishment.

Let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter: @stevenromo.

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