The Principal of Jasper County Primary School in Georgia has created a controversy which is growing and sparking debate about corporal punishment in schools. On Wednesday, Principal Pam Edge brought a 5-year-old boy into her office after he tried to hit one child and spit on another. His mother was called in and when she tried to stop the paddling (with what looks like a small cricket bat), Shana Marie Perez was threatened with jail.
Perez, whose son Thomas has missed 18 days of school this year due to illness, was arrested two weeks ago for truancy because of his absences. Principal Edge used this to blackmail Perez into allowing her boy to be paddled, saying that Thomas would be suspended otherwise, which would lead to Perez’s arrest. Perez wrote on the Facebook post which accompanies the video:
… they told me if he could not get a paddling he would have to be suspended and if he got suspended for even one day I WILL go to jail for truancy… Jasper county made me do this… I could not go to jail or my kids would have nothing … I can’t take care of my kids in jail… And I was not texting I was recording this… I couldn’t do anything to stop them. I told them they couldn’t do it unless I was in the room and I wanted to record it so I can have proof…
That was why Perez was there in the first place, to record the actions of Ms. Edge. The principal told Thomas to put his hands on the arm of a chair, promising not to pull his pants down. Her aide helps with this. Thomas asks how many times they will hit him and is told only one time, “unless you wiggle around.” He cries and pleads for his mom to help him, running to her as Ms. Edge threatens to make “mama wait outside the door,” which she, eventually, is forced to do. When they were through, Perez says that she “snatched him up” and told Edge that Thomas would be changing schools, something which Perez admits she can’t do at present.
The Jasper County Schools website posted a statement about the incident:
The Jasper County School District is aware of the video released by Ms. Perez. Unfortunately, the District is barred by State and Federal law from commenting about the specifics of this incident. The District respects every student’s right to privacy. However, we can speak generally about the District’s code of conduct which allows corporal punishment as one of the consequences for behavior. That code of conduct is provided to all parents. When corporal punishment is used, it is with parental consent. The District is investigating the incident and looking into its’ discipline policies at this time.
This sort of punishment is, according to other parents whose children attend Jasper, common. It is legal in Georgia and 18 other states for schools to paddle or otherwise strike a child. Poor parents have their hands tied in a situation like this; they can’t afford to send their children to private schools . If Perez had been arrested, her children could have been taken by Child Protective Services — depending on the father’s situation or if family members couldn’t take care of them. Perez notes that Thomas’s absences were for medical reasons and, now that she has a bond for her arrest if he should get sick again she is screwed. This is just another way in which the poor are beaten down.
Was Thomas misbehaving? Yes, of course, he was. But apparently, Georgia schools live in the 1950s, when it was perfectly fine for a school to paddle a child for doing so. Heck, even in the 1970s, the Dean of my Junior High handed out swats. But we know more about children and their behavior, now. All a swat does is reinforce their helplessness in the face of the adult world. Kids can learn to hate school and stop trying to learn. Then, another domino effect comes from that, with uneducated, untrained young people who will end up un- or under-employed and poor, with the cycle beginning anew.
This is the 21st century. If you are a teacher or principal, you are supposed to be able to handle misbehavior without resorting to corporal punishment. If you can’t, you need a refresher course. Spanking, swatting, paddling, etc. are for parents to decide on, not schools. Schools must learn to — as they tell the kids — use your words. Otherwise, they are a throwback to a Dickensian world.
Here is the video:
Feature Image via Screen Capture