By Erica Quinones
Elm Staff Writer
The Georgia School of Innovation and the Classics (GSIC) in Hephzibah, Ga. has recently introduced paddling as a punishment, despite the presence of scientific studies that show this method only negatively impacts the mental health of children.
Despite corporal punishment being denounced in schools and at home by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1975, established as “legalized violence against children” in a 2006 United Nations treaty, and being shown to actually inhibit academic performance, GSIC’s faculty believe they know best.
Granted, they know more about consent than most. GSIC sent home a consent form to parents requesting permission to beat their children. In this case, as in many corporal punishment cases, the consequence for denying the school the right to beat your kids is the student’s loss of an education. According to a Time article on the topic, “opting out of the corporal punishment requires parents to agree to a five-day suspension policy in place of the paddling.”
A five-day suspension is an entire academic week. Those who would be punished with paddling are sanctioned after a three-strikes rule, but the school does not specify what is severe enough to warrant a strike.
If a student speaks three times in class, will they be paddled? If the parent denied consent, will they be suspended for talking at inappropriate times? The extreme punishments are neither fair for students nor parents. Parents who do not agree with corporal punishment may consent because the alternative is too damaging. They have very little actual say in the treatment of their children.
Arguably, the decision to send their kids to a charter school is enough reason to consent. They willingly applied for an alternative way of learning, and that’s what they’re getting. But a major reason for charter schools is for a better public education. Not only is that something GSIC has failed to give, as seen in their lackluster academic scores, but their new policy will only make it worse.
In a 2010 joint statement by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Watch, they discussed results from two 2006-2007 joint reports. The reports found that many children subjected to harsh disciplinary practices suffered problems with depression, fear, and anger. Similar consequences as those cited by the APA are stemming from spanking at home.
The reports also found that the threat of corporal punishment did not work as “a deterrent,” unlike what GSIC’s Superintendent, Jody Boulineau, has claimed. Instead, it created a hostile environment that caused students to disengage. The environment cultivated a dislike for authority, higher likelihoods of dropping out, and the deterioration of peer relationships.
There is no good reason for this sanction. Paddling does nothing and has been proven to do nothing for decades. But still we seem to forget or forgo it. When 22 states permit paddling in public schools and the United States’ signature is not on the aforementioned UN treaty, it makes it pretty clear that safeguarding our children from senseless violence is not a priority.