Do Not Bend Over
Advice to a student who asks: "How can we protect ourselves from corporal punishment at school?"
By Jeff Charles, September 14, 2007

Hi Sarah,

If there is any way possible, get out of the paddling school altogether! Maybe your parents can move to a non-paddling district. Or if you are extremely self-motivated and can find someone to work with you, home schooling might be an option. You will have to follow a regular, approved course.

If you must stay in that school and work within the system, the simplest message is: "DO NOT BEND OVER." This is much easier if you have your parents' support, but even if you do not, you should refuse to cooperate with assault and battery and sexual abuse. They will have to physically manhandle you and pull you across the desk or chair if they wish to paddle you.

If students like you are silent, many adults who mean well will think everything is OK. Or even if they recognize that paddling is not completely OK, may still believe it is nothing too serious. However, I can tell you from experience that if an adult hears a teen girl telling him or her that she feels spanking and paddling are sexually perverted and a sexual violation, you will change some minds and gain supporters. They may have felt the same thing deep down, but thought it was only them and did not know you felt it too.

You should speak to board members, students, and staff whenever you get the chance, over and over, and never let up. You need to be far more educated on the topic than they are, so you can lay to rest all the false teachings used to support paddling. Write or obtain no-paddling pamphlets and hand them out to friends and students (this may violate some schools' rules). You may be able to form a teen club to develop nonviolent school management techniques, such as an agreement to use only minor penalties for minor violations (dress code, tardy, etc.) If your school has any other clubs, Federal law may prevent the school from banning your club. Try to generate some news stories to help get your message out.

Know that you are making a principled stand, and the benefit to you individually may not outweigh the cost of trying to change a corrupt system. You may be railroaded into artificially high and burdensome In-School Suspensions (ISSs), where you may have to sit in a stuffy basement, miss schoolwork (even to the point of failing a course for someone on the edge), or have restricted restroom access, etc. This is abusive and you are within your rights to protest. You could point out that most schools in the US do not use paddling or ISS. ISS was originally designed to be an alternative to out-of-school suspension for severe violations, but in paddling schools it has come to be used for trivial offenses.

Consider not getting involved in any extra curricular activities (except a club to end paddling!) -- not cheer-leading, not sports, not the chess club. The reasons are many, but chiefly these activities will be used to coerce you to bend over. You will be forced to miss sports if you choose alternative punishments, but not if you choose paddling. If you get involved with activities and the other kids want you to participate, or they tease you for being a "sissy" and not taking your paddling, the pressure will work against your resolve. Often coaches themselves are abusive paddlers and you may get extra swats for any offense.

If you get any press, save the clippings so when you apply to college, if your GPA has been harmed by fighting paddling, you'll have the clippings to explain it. You may have to study harder on your own, maybe with tutors or by attending junior college classes in summer, so that your ACT or SAT scores will be far higher than what your GPA might suggest. It will be further proof that your GPA was artificially harmed by your principled stand against school paddling. If you do have to attend a "lesser" college than you might have otherwise, I think you will be better off in the long run. Many educated and outwardly successful people spend a lifetime battling hidden demons resulting from paddling and abuse in schools.

The sad fact is most paddlers enjoy paddling, pretty much 100% in my view, and they will blackball you and start nit-picking and writing you up for things they never would have otherwise. They will make you the example to deter other students from getting similar ideas. Realize that if they didn't enjoy paddling, as they claim, they could stack the deck against it and schedule lesser detentions that did not remove students from classes and sports or lower their GPA. Instead, they strongly coerce students to bend over.

About one in 25 people* in the US, and I suspect about one in ten among paddlers, is a sociopath with no conscience at all. They enjoy paddling more if they know it causes lifetime harm. They seek out jobs where they can employ sadism and power trips -- and there is no better job on earth than that of "school paddler". They will act holy and innocent, while secretly making your life hell. Still, there are some paddlers who need to feel it is trivial and harmless. If they are doing no harm, so what if they enjoy it? So when you make it not trivial and not harmless and not funny, it directly challenges a necessary pillar of their justification.

In spite of the difficulties and negative consequences you will surely encounter, I think in years to come you will be able to hold your head higher than if you just bent over and took it. By attending a paddling school you are already set up to have lifetime negative consequences, so that is a given. Your only choice is which ones you want to buy into -- temporary restrictions and lower GPA or lifetime regret and hidden sex and sadism fetishes? Even students who are not paddled are harmed by being in an abusive environment, and many with lifetime spanking fetishes were merely around paddling, not victims of it. Standing up to a corrupt system shows your true strength!

Remember, too, the question isn't whether you ever do something wrong, but whether you should be forced to submit to quackery and physical and sexual abuse when you do. There are certainly nonviolent and non-invasive ways to discipline students that do not harm them, their grades, or the school's test scores. Discipline is teaching, not punishing. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, as even the highest paddling states have at least some non-paddling school districts. Twenty-nine states and 109 countries have already abolished school corporal punishment, and those schools do as well or better educationally than those who still use it. This proves it is never necessary.

I like a comment I heard some years ago, I think attributed to actor Kirk Douglass to his sons: "Bend over backwards, but never bend over." That is a good attitude for high school and for life.

*Dr. Martha Stout, practicing psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in her 2005 book, The Sociopath Next Door.


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