TEXAS VIEW: State it clearly: No ‘paddling’ in Texas’ schools

THE POINT: It’s time for all schools in Texas to “opt out” of corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment should be relegated to the past. The recent arrest of a high school principal who paddled a student for a disciplinary infraction shows it remains a stubborn part of Texas’ present.

Even though the mid-September incident occurred in East Texas, such a disturbing form of discipline could be allowed at some San Antonio schools, although many officials have said it is unlikely.

Most school districts in Bexar County ended the practice of corporal punishment, or spanking, years ago. However, the language still lingers in some student handbooks. And Texas does allow corporal punishment.

As the Express-News reported, Texas is one of 17 states that allow corporal punishment in public schools, defining it as “the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.”

To state the obvious, schools should be safe places that foster learning, not places where adults can instill fear.

Districts that have kept the language include Southside, East Central and Somerset ISDs, while others use identical language specifying they prohibit practices that include “techniques designed or likely to cause physical pain” but add the confusing caveat “other than corporal punishment as permitted by district policy.”

Randolph Field, Fort Sam Houston, Lackland and Alamo Heights ISDs specify in their board policies that they don’t permit corporal punishment. Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD’s board policy states it “may be used as a discipline management technique.”

But officials at all of these districts said they don’t use corporal punishment, regardless of what their policies do or don’t spell out.

To eliminate any confusion, school boards within these districts should remove the language. Not only is corporal punishment wrong under any circumstance, it’s also applied disproportionately.

According to the Intercultural Development Research Association, Black students disproportionately receive corporal punishment in schools, as do students with disabilities.

“Corporal punishment does not teach nor lead to improved behavior,” according to IDRA. “It is associated with negative outcomes, poor behavioral and mental health, and reduced cognitive ability and self-esteem.”

A decade ago, lawmakers in Austin added a provision that allows a parent to opt their child out of corporal punishment.

Don’t chalk this up to “spare the rod, spoil the child.” There are many ways to constructively discipline students when warranted, such as defining specific consequences, setting clear limits and getting help from other adults, including parents.

San Antonio Express-News