by Audrey Payne | copy editor
Once a form of discipline often used by parents as well as various school administrators, different forms of corporal punishment are now re-emerging in the 21st century. In fact, just a couple months ago, NFL player Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse after spanking his son with a switch. But for those who have experienced this type of punishment at some point in their life, the effects seem to be particularly vivid.
“We had taken a picture on a 50’s day where everybody had dressed in the 50’s kind of gear, and they (the coaches) didn’t like the things that we did in the picture,” assistant principal David Bordelon said. “So those that were in the picture, when they got to the field house that day, they asked us to take our pants down…and they whipped us with a coat hanger on the buttocks.”
For those who grew up primarily during the 60’s and 70’s, corporal punishment was not an uncommon form of discipline. Although finding a school that still uses this form of punishment is rare, this method of discipline can still be found in modern society.
“Those were kind of the days where hazing was also allowed. That was in the early/mid 70’s where longer hair on guys was in style, but there was a group of upperclassmen who didn’t like that so they were allowed to shave our heads with tape cutters, things like that, and rough us up a little bit in the process. That was condoned in those times,” Bordelon said.
According to Bordelon, if the intent was to force students into submission, then the punishment was done correctly.
“It was effective in getting compliance from kids. I did witness a couple of events that actually scared me at the time when I was younger. But it was effective, and if that was the goal, to have folks comply, then in that regard it was effective. Whether it was the best way to do things, I think we can all agree now that no, it wasn’t.”
But different people seem to have different opinions about the effectiveness of corporal punishment, including Kathleen Donoghue, who admits to spanking her children when they misbehaved.
“I would usually spank them (my kids) for outright defiance, if they would just blatantly defy something I’d asked them to do, or sometimes in dangerous situations, like if they ran in the street when I told them to stop,” Donoghue said.
Although it was her decision to spank her children, Donoghue went on to explain how spanking can have negative effects on a child if the reason for the punishment is not explained and/or misinterpreted.
“I think of it as a disciplinary tool. I also think there are diminishing returns on spanking. It can be used very judiciously so that you aren’t overusing it, and you need to have a clear guideline in your own mind of when you would do it. You don’t ever want to do it out of anger or lashing out at your child,” Donoghue said.
However, it seems that there are times when corporal punishment can be an effective form of discipline- which happened to be the case for junior Jessica Ekstrand, who explains how being spanked actually seemed to have a more significant impact rather than being verbally reprimanded for misbehaving.
“It’s more physical and permanent. You’ll remember it. If you did something bad, you’ll actually remember being spanked instead of someone just telling you, ‘You can’t do that, that’s a bad thing- you’re not supposed to do that.’ You remember a spank more than a lecture,” Ekstrand said.
Ekstrand went on to explain how the feeling of guilt associated with misbehaving seems to intensify when a child is spanked by someone that they respect, especially their parents. In fact, according to Bordelon, the desire to establish a more respectable relationship between students and school personnel seems to have encouraged some schools to try and re-evaluate their approach to corporal punishment.
“In 30 years of being in this business, and also being a kid in this district for 12 years, and also experiencing some of those things, the most effective way to discipline or to get young people to comply is to build a relationship with them,” Bordelon said. “It takes more time, but I think it’s ultimately the most effective and emotionally, it can be rewarding.”
Even though this type of punishment is rarely used in the education system any more, public opinion regarding spanking seems to have evolved as society has evolved, and whether or not spanking is considered abuse or simply a form of discipline seems to remain subject to interpretation.
“Spanking is not as accepted as a form of discipline as it used to be. If I started over today as a mother I may not spank or I may change the certain ways I consider doing it. I think it’s just one of those things you just have to decide for yourself. For some kids, it’s not as effective and you just have to judge each child and see whether it’s effective or not,” Donoghue said.
For more information about the national debate about spanking, click here.