As part of a new policy that the Three Rivers Independent School District board approved Tuesday, the paddle, likely to be wood, will be used to administer corporal punishment when a student misbehaves at school. Corporal punishment is defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.
Trustees voted 6-0 on the motion with one member absent. The policy states only a campus’ behaviour coordinator or principal can administer the disciplinary measure.Students in the two-school district about halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi whose parents have provided written and verbal consent will receive one paddling for an infraction when they misbehave at school.
Upon registering children for the upcoming school year, parents will be able to decide whether opt in or out. “If the parent is not comfortable with it, that’s the end of the discussion,” Superintendent Mary Springs said. The district had a little more than 700 students in the 2014-15 school year.
Texas is among 15 states that specifically allow schools’ use of corporal punishment; eight other states have no laws or regulations against it, according to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, part of the U.S. Department of Education. In November, the education secretary at the time, John B. King Jr., sent a letter to state leaders urging them to end the use of corporal punishment in schools, saying the practice is linked to harmful short-term and long-term outcomes for students.
In the short term, students who are administered physical punishment for their actions at school show an increase in aggressive and defiant behavior, according to King’s letter. In the long term, students who are administered corporal punishment in school are more likely to later grapple with substance abuse and mental health issues, including depression, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress, according to the letter.
Three Rivers Elementary School’s campus behavior coordinator, Andrew Amaro, pitched the idea of paddling to district leaders earlier this year. Amaro, a Three Rivers native, said he hopes the new disciplinary measure will have a more immediate effect on students than in-school suspension or detention.
Before Tuesday, the district had a policy prohibiting the use of corporal punishment. It’s unclear in what year the board adopted that policy, but Amaro recalls being disciplined with a paddle during his time as a student. “I believe it worked,” Amaro said. “It was an immediate response for me. I knew that if I got in trouble with a teacher and I was disrespectful, whatever the infraction was, I knew I was going to get a swat by the principal.”
Students will be paddled for minor infractions, such as being disobedient to teachers or not following rules in the classroom, Amaro said. Other districts in the area that allow corporal punishment also require parental consent for such disciplinary measures to take place.
School districts in Texas are not required to report corporal punishment incidents to the Texas Education Agency, agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. Tracking the incidents will be crucial in evaluating the new policy’s effectiveness in deterring students from misbehaving consistently, Springs said.
“We will look at how many discipline referrals were made compared to last year and how many times (corporal punishment) was administered,” the superintendent said. “If it reduces the number of discipline referrals, then that is a good thing.”