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Corporal punishment in Texas schools:

Why Pampa ISD is bringing back spankings

TV presenter in front of Pampa High School
KFDA-TV Amarillo, 10 March 2020

Except where stated, all statistics in this article are from the biannual reports of the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Pampa Independent School District (ISD) is a public school district in Texas. Back in the 1990s, it banned corporal punishment. At a meeting in the summer of 2019, the Board of Trustees directed district administrators to explore bringing it back.

 Working in conjunction with the district's School Health Advisory Council, administrators developed a wide-ranging plan of research, stakeholder surveys, and student and parent focus groups. They studied legislation, the pros and cons of corporal punishment, and policies in neighboring school districts. They provided regular updates to the Board. In early 2020, after six months of consideration, the Board voted 4-to-3to reinstate corporal punishment as a discipline management technique effective with the 2020/21 school year.

Reporter with paddle

 The district Superintendent told the local newspaper that even though the vote was close, "we will move forward with it". August 2020 will bring an end to the more than two-decade absence of paddles from the district's schools. The new discipline policy applies to all students, through the 12th grade.

 Based on input from teachers, parents, administrators, and students, Pampa ISD sees the restoration of spanking as a means to improve student behavior on all campuses, "taking what it says are vital steps to improve the educational environment," according to an Amarillo, Texas television news report.

Texas map
Pampa ISD is part of Gray County, highlighted in red on this map of Texas.

 Pampa ISD lies in the Texas Panhandle (the northernmost 26 counties in the state), which contains 62 school districts and two charter schools with 226 campuses in a 26,000-square-mile area. These districts have an average daily attendance of over 80,000 school students. A number of other Texas Panhandle districts have found corporal punishment to be an efficient and effective form of student discipline.

 An article in the local newspaper, The Pampa News, was titled, "Pampa ranked as most conservative city in Texas" (23 January 2020). The article noted that Pampa's population is 65.8 percent white and 28.4 percent Hispanic, the remaining 3.6 percent being split between all other ethnicities.

 Given Pampa's conservative nature, it is surprising perhaps that its schools prohibited spanking for over two decades. But at its 29 July 2019 meeting, at the recommendation of Superintendent Tanya Larkin, the Board agreed to develop a task force to "consider adding corporal punishment as a tool for student discipline". Ms. Larkin was the 2019 Region 16 Superintendent of the Year of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). The Board requested that she deliver her findings and recommendations by the May 2020 Board meeting. Ms. Larkin and her staff acted thoroughly but swiftly and the Board was able to make its decision three months early.

PHS students

 This article describes the process Pampa ISD developed to analyze the pros and cons of reintroducing corporal punishment; presents the information the district gathered as part of its process; summarizes the public response to the district's decision; and highlights some questions of practical implementation that at this writing are still open for decision.

 Several of the teenage students surveyed expressed their support for adoption of the new discipline policy. As one student wrote, a spanking at school is "an efficient, character building influence to more controlled behavior". Others commented, "That is a cool idea", "I think we should do it!", "We need this to happen", "I think it would be a great idea", and "Let's get spanked, it would be better for the community".

 A large number of Texas secondary schools have seen that using corporal punishment can lead to fewer out-of-school suspensions. Presumably this is not because the schools give students the option to take a paddling to replace an out-of-school suspension. If the student's misconduct is serious enough to justify removal from the school, it is probably too serious to be disciplined with swats. Rather, it is more likely that when adolescents know that a painful paddling is possible, their overall behavior improves. This leads to a reduced number of instances of misconduct that could result in an out-of-school suspension.

 Recent years have seen a notable increase in the firmness of Texas school discipline at the secondary level, and a corresponding improvement in student conduct that has led to fewer suspensions. More than 100 Texas secondary schools used a paddle for discipline during the 2017/18 school year that had not done so during the 2015/16 school year. At the following such schools, the number of days that students missed school dropped by at least three-quarters over that two-year period. A 100% decrease means that the school did not suspend any students out-of-school during 2017/18. The schools are:

Abernathy Middle School (80% decrease)
Bowie Junior High School (100% decrease)
Brazos High School (85.9% decrease)
Canton Junior High School (79.5% decrease)
Central Heights Middle School (78.8% decrease)
Chico Middle School (100% decrease)
Floydada Junior High School (75% decrease)
Friona Junior High School (100% decrease)
Hughes Springs Junior High School (91.7% decrease)
Latexo High School (75% decrease)
Littlefield High School (100% decrease)
May High School (100% decrease)
Perryton High School (84.2% decrease)
Ranger Middle School (90.9% decrease)
Refugio Junior High School (94.1% decrease)
Robert Lee High School (75% decrease)
Runge High School (93.1% decrease)
Seminole Success Center (100% decrease)
Tahoka Middle School (75% decrease)
Tidehaven Intermediate School (83.3% decrease)
Winters High School (85.7% decrease)
Winters Junior High School (100% decrease).

 At these schools at least, it appears that the use of reasonable spanking has helped to keep more of the teenagers in school.

Teacher Survey

The district began by surveying teachers, administrators, parents, and students. All the teachers received an on-line "Survey for Pampa ISD Teachers Regarding Corporal Punishment," which they filled out on 15/23 October 2019. The majority supported corporal punishment.

 On a scale of 1 to 5, teachers were asked to indicate whether they agreed, somewhat agreed, were neutral, somewhat disagreed, or disagreed with a number of statements. For example, 140 of the 228 teachers (61%) agreed or somewhat agreed that "using corporal punishment in our schools is a good idea"; 30 were neutral; and 58 disagreed, at least somewhat. An even larger number, 154 (68%), agreed or somewhat agreed that they "would feel comfortable sending students to the office knowing that corporal punishment could be an option". And 165 teachers (almost three-fourths) at least somewhat agreed that students "would behave differently in my classroom knowing that corporal punishment could be a consequence for bad behavior".

 While some teachers made comments opposed to corporal punishment, the majority offered their support.

Teacher comments include:

"I STRONGLY believe that corporal punishment would be beneficial for our school system".
"I really and truly believe that corporal punishment would help with student behavior in and out of the classroom".
"I believe the possibility of corporal punishment would make a difference in the behavior and respect of our students".
"I believe that 99% of disrespectful behavior could be corrected if students knew there were consequences for their actions".
"I firmly believe that we need consequences for misbehavior, especially when it is willful defiance…. We NEED consequences".
"Children do not respect adults because they do not have consequences for their actions…. I honestly think corporal punishment needs to be brought back …".
"We need corporal punishment. Students' behavior is out of control. It makes it hard for me to teach and harder for my students to learn. I support corporal punishment 100%".
"For an extremely small percentage of students, 1% to 2%, corporal punishment is ineffective. For the other 98% corporal punishment is a very good tool to correct misguided decisions".
"Spanking is very much needed in schools. Some students know that there are no consequences for their behaviors so they continue in them. I believe that more than half of the behavioral issues would go away if spanking were implemented".
"I taught several years at a school that used corporal punishment with great success".
"Coming from a school that used corporal punishment I believe it is very helpful when coming to children's behaviors".
"I do believe this would help change student behavior by a lot. It works in Miami [Texas] and other school districts close to us".
"I have personal experience in an ISD that used corporal punishment. It helped with behaviors tremendously".
"If you do whoop a kid, do it early in the day (before 10:15), otherwise carry it over to the next school day. On the day of the whooping; after it is administered, that child should have to be walked or exercised in order to help clear up any markings that may occur from the paddle. This can be embedded in the physical education delivery process".
"If there is a form to sign off that my kids can get spankings … I will sign for sure".

Student Survey

Fellowship of Christian Athletes, PHS

Also in October 2019, the district's high-school and junior-high-school students were directed to complete a survey themselves, the "Survey for Pampa ISD Students (6th-12th grades) Regarding Corporal Punishment". The adolescents were all asked to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 5, what they believe about certain statements, including:

- I would act better in class if I knew I might be spanked for misbehavior,
- I would respect my teachers and principals more if spanking was a consequence for misbehavior,
- Using consequences such as spanking is a good idea at our school, and
- I would still trust an adult who spanked me at school for misbehavior.

 The survey's assumption was that adolescents, through the 12th grade, are old enough to know how to behave right, and still young enough to be spanked when they misbehave. (Per a Texas federal court ruling, 18- and 19-year-old school students are not exempt from corporal punishment merely by being legally adults.)

 All of the 1,244 sixth- through twelfth-graders were required to answer the survey, which they did on 17/18 October 2019.

 Not surprisingly, many students opposed the introduction of corporal punishment. Punishment that is not painful, embarrassing and/or unpleasant is unlikely to be a deterrent or result in any change in a student's attitudes or behavior. But only a slight majority of the students opposed paddling. A significant number were neutral about the proposed change. This implies they may be willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt and see how the new policy is implemented. A substantial number of the teenagers supported using a paddle at their school, with a surprising number expressing strong support for spanking. This may reflect their conservative upbringing and still being spanked at home (as implied by several of the student comments).

 On 18 November 2019, Associate Superintendent Dr. Nathan Maxwell reported the results of the student survey to the Board of Trustees. On the question whether using consequences such as spanking at their school is "a good idea," 60% said "no," 14% were neutral, and 26% said "yes". But only 36% of the students said their "behavior in class would not change if I knew I might be spanked for misbehavior". And on the parallel question whether students "would act better in class" if they knew they could be spanked, 48% said "yes," 18% were neutral, and only 34% said "no".

 While many adolescents said they were against the possibility of being spanked, the survey results showed half of them admitted that they would act better in class, and only one-third indicated that they would not act better in class, if they knew they might be spanked. On the question whether students would respect adults differently who gave them a spanking, Dr. Maxwell told the Board that 46% would have the same level of respect, 18% were neutral, and 36% would respect adults more.

Comments from teenagers opposed to spanking include:

"no thank you"
"It's too Mean"
"plz don't spank"
"Dumbest idea ever"
"aahhh please don't"
"Spanking is not a good idea at all"
"Do not make spanking a thing at school"
"Getting spanked for misbehaving is the worst idea ever"
"This has me DEADDDDDDD"
"You are not going to get a yes because nobody wants to get spanked"

Comments from teenagers who disagree with the proposed policy because they believe they should be spanked only by their parents:

"I think only my parents should be able to spank me"
"The only spanking I want is from my parents. I don't need the school's help"
"I believe spanking is meant for those who are related to you and have authority over you"
"My parents shall be THE ONLY ONES WHO SPANK ME because the BIBLE says that parents shall spank their children!!!!!"
"You can call my parents for they can spank … I don't like other people spanking me"
"SPANKING IS THE STUPIDEST THING FOR SCHOOL!!!! No spanking anyone except your parents at HOME"
"I don't think spanking should be a consequence for misbehaved kids cause I trust my dad to spank me"
"Y'all better not start spanking. Y'all ain't my momma"
"I dare someone to try and spank me. That's my momma's job, stay in your lane!"

Comments from students neutral or uncertain about spanking include:

"I don't know how I feel about this"
"I would agree but then I also disagree"
"I agree and disagree at the same time"
"I'm just neutral with this type of situation"

Comments from high-school and junior-high-school students supportive of introducing spanking in their school include:

"I think it's good"
"I love the idea!!!!!"
"Bring back spanking"
"Bring back spankings!!!!!!!!! I bet half of kids would stop acting the way they do if we had spankings here at Pampa High School and teachers would get the respect they deserve"
"That is a cool idea"
"I think it's a good idea"
"I think we should do it!"
"We need this to happen"
"I think it would be a great idea"
"I feel like it should be brought back"
"Let's get spanked, it would be better for the community"
"It should be strike 3 and you get spanked"
"Start using the paddle we need it too badly"
"It's a pretty good idea if classmates misbehaved, they'd get 'spanked.'"
"It would be a great idea, having the spanking law in school for misbehavior"
"I would really appreciate if a teacher would spank me if I had a behavioral mistake"
"I really don't mind if this was a new rule, because I had the same one at my old school"
"I personally feel that it is an efficient, character building influence to more controlled behavior"
"I do think this is necessary for people who are bad"
"I do agree that if you are bad you should get a spanking"
"I think kids would act a lot better if we allowed spanking in our school"
"I would agree to the spanking by a trusted adult or my principal or teacher 100 percent"
"I hope you guys will start putting this as a punishment, maybe it will teach the misbehaving kids (mostly boys) to start behaving. I am tired of kids ruining the class for all the rest"
"A lot of kids do not change their behavior after d hall [detention], ISS [in-school suspension] or DAEP [Disciplinary Alternative Education Program] because they either do not go or they have gone so much that it is no longer a punishment. … I do think it will decrease a lot of back talking and attitude to teachers because it will show them not to do it and what would happen if they did do it because it will happen once or twice and for most students they won't want to do it anymore because they don't want 'Spankings'. Once again, it will depend on the student for what punishment works for them. Like for me, I don't usually get in trouble and I fear getting into ISS so ISS would work for me. This is a long paragraph but it should be known that as a student I do believe that corporal punishment would be effective. -- A current student at PHS"

Other student comments:

"This is an interesting topic"
"I appreciate everyone asking for our opinion"

Parent Survey

Also in October 2019, the district informed parents that the board asked the administration to study the "processes involved in utilizing corporal punishment as part of the student discipline plan at all Pampa ISD campuses". As part of the study, parents were asked to complete the "Survey for Pampa ISD Parents Regarding Corporal Punishment". Parents were informed that corporal punishment is defined as the use of physical force with the "intention of causing a [student] to experience pain, but not injury … for the purpose of controlling or correcting" the student's behavior.

Graph1 -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window

Stephanie Phillips, The Demographics of Corporal Punishment in Texas (2012 dissertation) -- Click to enlarge

 Unlike the teacher survey, which had nearly a 100% response rate, only 50 parents filled out the parent survey. Accordingly, the benefit of the parent survey is limited. A majority of the parents who did respond supported corporal punishment. Specifically, a majority agreed with each of these statements:

- "I would agree for my child to receive corporal punishment at school by a school employee,"
- "Corporal punishment would result in positive outcomes with my child at school,"
- "If corporal punishment were added to the schools' discipline plan, it would deter bad behavior for my student," and
- "Using corporal punishment in our schools is a good idea".

Parent comments include:

"Please bring discipline back into our school".
"My child is one who would not need corporal punishment. However, I believe even the threat of that being on the table would definitely make an impact with her and other students".
"I believe that certain children respond better to spanking as corrective discipline, and as long as it is being administered by a principal or teacher, this would be acceptable".
"Before a swat is given, a phone call needs to be made to the parent to advise that a swat is being given, the reason, and the choice to the parent to be present".

Administrator Survey

Of all the groups surveyed, it was the administrators who were most hesitant about introducing corporal punishment. Ten administrators were surveyed. None "agreed" that corporal punishment "is an effective means of correcting students' behavior," four "somewhat" agreed with the statement, one was neutral, and five disagreed. They were equally split as to whether, if the policy was changed, "I would use corporal punishment as a discipline option".

Administrator comments include:

"When I interact with parents of a struggling student, most often they come to me in desperation and seeking support because they've done everything they can think of, including spanking them, and it hasn't changed their behavior. If spanking their own child isn't changing their behavior, it's unlikely that an administrator spanking them will change their behavior".
"The legal ramifications are what would hold me back from being supportive of this change".
"The implementation of corporal punishment in our district would most assuredly cause me to reconsider an administrative role".

 Note that administrator concerns regarding potential liability appear misplaced. Texas school attorney Cheryl Mehl explained in "Corporal Punishment -- Using the OTHER School Board" external link: opens in new window (January 2012) that "school district officials are immune from liability for administering corporal punishment, as long as the discipline was not excessive". The present author is unaware of any Texas court that has held a three-swat paddling to be excessive.

SHAC and Board Discussions and Decision

The Student Health Advisory Council considered corporal punishment at its meetings on 18 September 2019, 6 November 2019, and 12 December 2019. The Board of Trustees did so at its meetings throughout the fall of 2019 and into early 2020.

 At the 23 January 2020 Board meeting, Dr. Maxwell reviewed the Pampa ISD discipline data for the junior high, high school, and elementary students. He also summarized the campus-level focus group opinions, legal stance and legislative updates, and surrounding districts' policies.

 After that meeting, Superintendent Larkin told The Pampa News that "the Board was presented with the last set of data from several different reports and surveys from the area, student focus groups and debates on pros/cons". "It's one of those issues that people definitely have strong opinions about, and what we're seeing is our community and parents are pretty split 50-50 on whether they agree with the concept of corporal punishment," Ms. Larkin said. "The Board is just trying to make the best decision. But it's one of those policies where no matter what it will never [be] instituted without parent permission on an individual basis".

Graph2 -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window

Stephanie Phillips, The Demographics of Corporal Punishment in Texas (2012 dissertation) -- Click to enlarge

 Then, at the 24 February 2020 meeting, the proposed new policy was brought to a vote, and it passed 4-to-3. The Pampa News reported on 27 February 2020 that Superintendent Larkin said, "They've been talking about the policy since August and we have done surveys, focus groups, research, testimonies, etc.". "The Board has taken an exhaustive look at whether or not to reinstate the corporal punishment policy the District once held. It's been a very difficult decision for the Board because they see both perspectives". The article continued, "Larkin added the 4-3 split is reflective of where people stand on the issue and stressed no corporal punishment will be practiced without the approval of the parents and each case will be treated on a case-by-case basis".

 "I'm really proud of our District's approach to having the conversation and investigating everything," Ms. Larkin told the newspaper. "No matter where you land [it's important for you to] respect the process, and I think we did a really good job of making sure all voices were heard. The Board had to make a decision and they made a decision based on what they think is the best thing. Even though it was a 4-3, we will move forward with it".

Media Reports and Public Response

A number of newspapers and television stations covered Pampa ISD's decision. For example, NewsChannel 10/KFDA television in Amarillo reported on 10 March 2020, "Pampa ISD votes to bring back corporal punishment next school year".

In recent years, many Texas school districts have reintroduced corporal punishment, especially for high-school students, with strong parental support and little or no opposition:

news story, Dec 2017 -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window

news story, Aug 2017 -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window

news story, Oct 2016 -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window

News items about the restoration of spanking in some Texas schools in 2016 and 2017 -- Click each thumbnail to enlarge

 The TV report began by noting that River Road ISD (based in Amarillo) had reintroduced corporal punishment three years previously after a lapse of over a decade, following a survey of high-school parents, 75% of whom favored bringing back spanking. It quoted Rachel Freeman, Assistant Principal at River Road High School, saying "I will say it's effective," depending on what the student did.

 Several media outlets invited their audience to comment on Pampa's decision. For example, KXTS television in Abilene shared a Facebook post, "Texas panhandle school district incorporating corporal punishment". The story was "liked" by 493 viewers, while 60 said they "loved" it and only 5 clicked the "angry" emoji.

 KXTS asked its Facebook followers: "Do you think more districts should do this more?" Those who commented were overwhelmingly supportive of the Board's decision. Typical comments were:

"Way to go!!!"
"Yes yes yes"
"Way to go Pampa!!"
"Good job pampa isd!"
"I'm so glad they are bringing that back"
"Excellent idea should have never been stopped!!!"
"Here in Panhandle they use corporal punishment. And I'm all for it"
"I'm moving to Pampa!"
"we're fixing to move to Pampa!!!"
"Our school needs this too".
"I feel all schools should go back to this".
"Heck yeah I would sign my kid up if they went to pampa isd"
"You're correct that it doesn't work for all kids, but if it's never been tried, then how do you know it won't help. I know if CISD brings it back, I'll sign the paper".
"My kiddos were informed that if swats were given at school, then they get them at home. Our policy states that parents are notified and have the option to be present, including doling out the punishment".
"Parents should be allowed to be present when it's utilized".
"I watched my daughter take 5 hits with a paddle in Jr High (her choice) to get out of D[etention] Hall because of fighting. She didn't try it again, she didn't start using drugs, she didn't join a gang and she still in her forties says yes ma'am and no ma'am. I see no problem with a paddling".
"Absolutely agree with this. I will do my part at home trying to raise good humans -- that is what is truly lacking this day in time. But if my kids want to go to school and act like jerks, I would gladly sign for them to get a bustin. It might give the teenage attitude a little adjustment!"


Pampa ISD expects the reintroduction of spanking to lead to a decrease in student disciplinary referrals. The experiences of districts elsewhere in Texas seem to support this belief.

 For example, Cuero High School used corporal punishment in 2000/01, but later abandoned it, with no such discipline being recorded during the 2011/12 or 2013/14 school years. The school then reinstated paddling. During 2015/16, on nine occasions, four boys and two girls were spanked. The reintroduction of spanking went hand in hand with a significant drop in in-school and out-of-school suspensions. According to the 2018/19 Cuero High School Campus Improvement Plan, in 2017/18 there were more than 1,000 fewer discipline referrals than in the previous year.

 During 2009/10 and 2011/12, corporal punishment was not used at Floydada High School. When it was reintroduced, spankings were provided to 60 boys and 29 girls in grades 9 through 12 during 2013/14, and ISS assignments fell from 47 to 29.

Memphis ISD, another district in the Texas Panhandle, reported no use of corporal punishment at its high school from 2000/01 through 2011/12. During 2013/14, however, 17 boys in grades 9 through 12 were spanked at Memphis High School. The introduction of paddling was followed by a substantial decline in ISS assignments, from 28 in 2011/12 to 13 in 2013/14.

 During 2000/01, 35 students were paddled at Spurger High School. No corporal punishment was recorded in 2006/07 or 2011/12. The high school then reintroduced paddling. Although only two students were spanked during 2013/14, disciplinary incidents plummeted.

Implementation: Overview of Open Questions

At its 30 March 2020 meeting, the Pampa Board of Trustees adopted revisions to Local Policy FO (LOCAL).

 The new policy provides, "The disciplinary record reflecting the use of corporal punishment shall include any related disciplinary actions, the corporal punishment administered, the name of the person administering the punishment, the name of the witness present, and the date and time of punishment". In keeping with the recent trend in Texas schools, the policy does not restrict administrators from spanking students of the opposite sex. The administration advised the Board that it would now "begin researching, training, and preparing for these changes in policy".

 As of May 2020, a number of details of implementation of the new policy had not been decided. For example, at Pampa High School, open questions include:

- Will parental permission be required each separate time a student is to receive a paddling, or will it be given as blanket permission to apply until further notice?
- Will students be allowed to choose a spanking to replace a day of ISS?
- Will parents be provided with a consent form at the beginning of the year that gives their son or daughter permission to choose a spanking if it is offered as a substitute for ISS or another form of discipline?
- When it is decided that a student should receive corporal punishment, will the parents be informed beforehand and given the right to witness or even to administer the spanking?
- Will parents be able to opt for their student to be spanked even if the student disagrees?
- To avoid an adult being too upset with the student at the time, and to let parents attend if they wish to do so, will spankings be given the next school morning rather than on the day of the misbehavior?
- Should students who skip detention or ISS be spanked if their parents agree, and then still have to attend the next scheduled detention or ISS?
- If students choose a spanking instead of ISS or another form of discipline, can they avoid being disqualified from exemption from semester exams?
- Will parents of athletes be given a consent form that gives their son or daughter permission to choose a spanking instead of extra running?

 The remainder of this article discusses some of these questions.

Implementation Question: Opt-In or Opt-Out?

The approach used by many Texas school districts is either to provide a Parent Statement Prohibiting Corporal Punishment or similar form that follows the provisions of Texas education law section 37.0011, or to advise parents that each year they must deliver a handwritten statement to the principal in order to opt out.

 Other districts provide an opt-in form. For example, Winona ISD's 2020/21 Parental Preference Regarding Corporal Punishment form includes the option, "I do not object to the use of corporal punishment (spanking) as a discipline management technique for my child(ren)."

 While Pampa ISD Superintendent Larkin told The Pampa News that parental "approval" will be needed before spanking is used, the policy the Board of Trustees adopted was the standard TASB "opt-out" policy that allows for corporal punishment unless, each year, a parent submits a written statement of disapproval. The policy states, "Corporal punishment shall not be administered to a student whose parent has submitted to the principal a signed statement for the current school year prohibiting the use of corporal punishment with his or her child".

 The first implementation question, then, is whether parents will need to sign a form allowing corporal punishment, either at registration or on a per-use basis, or instead be required to deliver a form to the school if they want to prohibit corporal punishment.

Bushland ISD, another Texas Panhandle district, emphasizes that the student as well as the parent takes part in the paddling decision: "Corporal punishment, in BISD schools, may be given as a disciplinary option as decided in collaboration with the parent/guardian, the student, and an administrator. It will never be administered without prior contact with and consent from a parent/guardian".

Dalhart ISD, also in the Panhandle, uses a "Corporal Punishment (Swats) Approval Form".

Miami ISD, another Panhandle district, uses a Corporal Punishment Permission Form. It provides: "Corporal Punishment will be administered by spanking the buttocks, no more than three (3) times, of a student with a flat-surfaced paddle that will cause no more than temporary pain and not inflict permanent damage to the body". It "may not be administered for academic deficiency or conduct not related to the school"; and also, "One adult employee of the school will be present to witness the spanking".

 By contrast, at Dumas ISD, likewise a Panhandle district, parents who want their high-school student to be exempt from corporal punishment cannot just send the school a form in the mail, or have their son or daughter deliver it. Instead, the 2019/20 High School Handbook advises: "If you wish to request that your student does not receive corporal punishment for discipline reasons at Dumas High School you must visit the school and fill out the proper documents with the assistant principals in person".

Highland Park ISD in Amarillo is one of two ISDs of that name in Texas. In 2011/12, this district in the Panhandle had an "opt-in" system whereby corporal punishment would not be given unless parents had signed a form allowing it. In 2012/13, this was changed to an opt-out system: all students may now be paddled unless their parents take the initiative to submit a form.

Tom Bean High School previously provided that the principal will administer corporal punishment only on request of the parent or the student. Now, per the standard TASB provisions, the high school can administer a spanking whenever the administration deems it necessary, unless the parent has previously delivered an opt-out notice.

 Perhaps Pampa ISD will use an "opt-in" procedure for the 2020/21 school year and later change to the more common "opt-out" system.

Implementation Question: Will Students Be Allowed To Choose Swats?

Many Texas high schools have found that students will often choose swats over ISS or Saturday School if given the chance. Giving older students who need discipline a choice as to what their punishment will be appears to help them accept their school's use of a paddle.

 For example, the 2018/19 Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Secondary Campuses Student Handbook provides that for a first offense of insubordination or profanity the consequence is "Choice of Corporal Punishment or 1 Day In School Suspension (ISS)". For a first offense of skipping classes or possessing tobacco, the consequence is "Choice of Corporal Punishment or 3 days ISS".

 The Jim Ned CISD Student Code of Conduct provides, for a transportation discipline offense, "High school students may exchange 3 swats for each day of assigned ISS".

 New for the 2019/20 school year, the Garrison High School Student Handbook provides that, if a student is given an assignment that is due at the end of the class period and chooses not to do it, he or she will receive "an office referral for disrespect and defiance". In the office, the student "will be given a choice between corporal punishment or after school detention for the inappropriate behavior and a second opportunity to complete the assignment before the end of the day".

 The Discipline Ladder in the Mason High School Student Handbook provides, for Level I offenses, "Choice of 2 swats, 1 day ISS, or 1 day Saturday School".

 The 2019/20 Normangee High School Parent and Student Handbook provides, "Before corporal punishment is used, the district may give, but is not required to give, the student a choice between other disciplinary measures and corporal punishment".

Implementation Question: Will Parents Be Allowed To Require a Spanking?

Some Texas high schools allow students to opt to be paddled, but additionally allow parents the right to choose swats for their son or daughter.

 For example, "Appendix X: Corporal Punishment" to the 2019/20 Fayetteville ISD Student Handbook provides, "When corporal punishment is administered as a substitute for ISS, three (3) swats are given for one day of ISS. No more than one (1) day can be substituted". The Appendix goes on to state, "While school policy allows corporal punishment, the high-school administration never assigns corporal punishment as a penalty for any offense committed on the campus; in fact, the principal will administer it only upon special request of the parent or the student and at the administrator or designee's discretion".

 Similarly, the 2019/20 Rivercrest High School Tardy Policy concludes, "at the request of the student/parent swats may be taken instead of ISS, Principal's discretion".

Implementation Question: When Will The Paddle Be Administered?

Another question for Pampa administrators to decide is the timing of the administration of the corporal punishment process. While elementary schools typically do not want a younger child to experience the emotional stress of having a paddling "hanging over their head," some secondary schools elect to use "next morning" swats.

 For example, the 2020/21 Corporal Punishment Waiver in use at Mildred High School and Mildred Junior High School provides, "Your child has asked to receive Corporal Punishment (swats) in lieu of In School Suspension (ISS). With your permission, administration will administer corporal punishment in the morning at 8 a.m. If your child chooses not to receive corporal punishment, he or she will receive 3 days or more of ISS (depending on the offense and your child's disciplinary history)".

 Delaying the spanking overnight is thought to give the teenager time to think about what is coming (e.g., will the swats sting enough to bring tears?) and thus decide to improve his or her attitude and behavior; ensure that all corporal punishments are carried out in a detached and calm manner; and not cause the student to miss any classroom instruction time. Except perhaps in athletics, where an immediate paddling over thin gym shorts may be thought more effective, anecdotal evidence indicates that administering paddlings before school starts the next school day has become a standard procedure at numerous Texas secondary schools.

Implementation Question: At What Grade Levels Should Students Be Paddled?

While the Pampa Board of Trustees' new decision allows corporal punishment to be used if needed at any district campus, in recent years many Texas ISDs, including a number in the Panhandle, have de-emphasized corporal punishment at the elementary level while increasingly relying on paddling at the secondary level.

 In other words, there has been a quiet repurposing of paddling as a disciplinary consequence mainly for teenagers. There is evidence (see chart at right) that this has wide parental support in the Texas school districts concerned.

Graph3 -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window

When Nacogdoches ISD permitted corporal punishment, far more parents of younger students submitted opt-out forms than did parents of high-school students. -- Click to enlarge

 For example, during 2015/16 in Bushland ISD in the Texas Panhandle, two boys received corporal punishment at Bushland Elementary School, but 49 boys and 11 girls were spanked on at least one occasion at Bushland High School, an increase on the 33 boys and 7 girls spanked in 2013/14. These 60 students chose the paddling option on 86 occasions.

 Similarly, in Farwell ISD, another Panhandle district, 13 boys were paddled at Farwell Elementary School during 2013/14, while the paddle was not in use at all at Farwell High School. In 2015/16 the recipients of corporal punishment declined at the elementary school to only four boys. By contrast, Farwell High School introduced paddling. That year, seven boys and four girls were spanked there on one or more occasions.

 As its name implies, Panhandle ISD is also in the Texas Panhandle. During 2000/01, paddling was in use in all of the district's schools. No corporal punishment was recorded in 2004/05. In 2011/12, the elementary school and the junior high continued their non-use of corporal punishment, but the paddle had returned to the high school: 15 boys in grades 9 through 12 received spankings.

Stratford ISD is also in the Panhandle. During 2004/05, no paddlings were recorded at Stratford High School. In 2011/12, the next year the district was surveyed, the paddle had been introduced and 8 of the 104 boys enrolled in grades 9 through 12 received spankings. During 2015/16 also, eight high-school boys took a paddling, while no students were spanked at either Mary Allen Elementary School or Stratford Junior High School.

Paddled girl - Click to enlarge
Springtown High School sophomore spanked -- Click to enlarge

A hullabaloo arose in 2012 when a male administrator at Springtown High School spanked a student of the opposite sex without knowing that the Board of Trustees had recently amended its policy to prohibit this. Apparently, the Springtown ISD board itself did not realize the policy change had been included by TASB staff merely as a recommendation in a general policy update for Texas ISDs. The Board promptly revised its policy so as to no longer require students be spanked by an adult of the same sex. Many similarly situated districts likewise reverted their FO (LOCAL) language to that which applied before the policy change.

Henderson ISD BoardBook amending policy FO (LOCAL) - Click to enlarge
Henderson ISD BoardBook amending policy FO (LOCAL) -- Click to enlarge

 If it was ever the case that Texas elementary school students were more likely to be spanked than older students, in many districts across the state that no longer is true. For instance:

 - During 2015/16, 99 boys and 45 girls received spankings on 318 separate occasions at Alvarado High School, while no students were paddled at any of the district's three elementary schools.

 - During 2015/16 in Calhoun County ISD, 47 boys and 17 girls were spanked at Calhoun High School, but only two boys were paddled at Port O'Connor Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 32 boys and 4 girls received spankings at Cross Roads High School, while no students were paddled at Cross Roads Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 38 boys and 16 girls were spanked at Dawson High School, while no students were paddled at Dawson Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 61 boys and 26 girls received a total of 186 spankings at Electra Junior High School and Senior High School, but only two boys (no girls) were paddled at Electra Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 21 boys and 2 girls received corporal punishment at Italy High School, while no students were paddled at Strafford Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 23 boys and 6 girls received paddlings at Kemp High School, while no students were paddled at either Kemp Primary School or Kemp Intermediate School.

 - During 2015/16, 19 boys were spanked at Kountze High School, while no students were paddled at Kountze Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 28 boys and 2 girls received corporal punishment at Liberty High School, while no students were paddled at Liberty Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 37 boys and 17 girls were disciplined with the paddle at McCamey High School, but no students were spanked at McCamey Middle School and only two boys at McCamey Primary School.

 - During 2015/16, 17 boys and 6 girls were spanked at Merkel High School, but no student was paddled at any of the other four schools in the district.

 - During 2015/16, Nederland High School provided spankings to 159 boys and 34 girls in grades 9 through 12, but only five students were paddled at Highland Park Elementary School, and none at all at the district's three other elementary schools. Some 30 middle-school pupils were also punished corporally.

 - During 2015/16, 23 boys and 14 girls were spanked at Ozona High School (in the Crockett County CISD) but no students were paddled at Ozona Middle School and only two boys at Ozona Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 14 boys and 4 girls received corporal punishment at Pettus Secondary School, while no students were paddled at Pettus Elementary School.

 - During 2015/16, 43 boys and 11 girls received spankings at Reagan County High School but only four boys were paddled at Reagan County Elementary School.

 - "Corporal punishment may be used as a discipline management technique in grades 7-12" states Salado ISD's policy FO (LOCAL), disallowing paddling for younger students.

 - During 2015/16, Seminole High School administered 379 spankings to 91 boys and 35 girls, but Seminole Elementary School paddled just 14 boys and 4 girls.

 - "Corporal punishment will not be administered to students in grades PK-5" stipulates the current Spring Hill ISD Student Code of Conduct.

 - During 2015/16, 53 boys and 9 girls were spanked at West Rusk High School, while no students were paddled at West Rusk Elementary School.

 Here are additional examples:

 - During 2004/05, 10 boys were paddled at Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School. Then corporal punishment was eliminated. No paddling was reported again during any year surveyed from 2006 through 2014. But in 2015/16, the paddle was back: 23 boys received swats. Spanking was reintroduced only for high-school students: it was not used at the middle school or the elementary school.

 - During 2011/12, no corporal punishment was recorded at Evadale High School. Later, it was brought back. During 2015/16, 27 boys and 2 girls were spanked a total of 33 times, and ISS assignments dropped from 28 students during 2011/12 to only two students during 2015/16. That year virtually all of the district's spankings were at the high school; only two elementary students were paddled.

 - In Floydada ISD during 2015/16, the paddle was not used at Duncan Elementary School or Floydada Junior High School. At Floydada High School, however, 77 boys and 34 girls received a total of 491 spankings.

 - No corporal punishment was recorded at Ingram Tom Moore High School during 2000/01, 2004/05, 2011/12, or 2013/14. It then introduced the paddle for both boys and girls: during 2015/16, 51 boys and 11 girls came to the high school principal's office for a spanking on 87 separate occasions. There was no corporal punishment at the elementary school.

 - During 2013/14, 15 boys and 2 girls received paddlings at Petrolia Elementary School, but no students at Petrolia Junior High/High School. Two years later the situation was reversed: spanking was eliminated for the elementary students and introduced for the teenagers, as 13 boys received swats on at least one occasion at the secondary school.

 - No corporal punishment was recorded at Runge High School in 2011/12 or 2013/14. Local statistics in the Performance Report, however, show a dramatic change in disciplinary practices between 2013/14 and 2014/15. Corporal punishment was eliminated at Runge Elementary School (12 students spanked during 2013/14, none in 2014/15), but introduced at Runge High School, where 27 students (24 boys, 3 girls) received spankings. Of these, 16 were in grades 6-8 and 8 in grades 9-12.

 - No corporal punishment was recorded during 2011/12 or 2013/14 at any of Warren ISD's four schools. Then the district introduced the paddle, but only at the high-school level. In 2015/16, 23 boys were disciplined at Warren High School (grades 9-12) in a total of 35 spankings.

 - In Winnsboro ISD, no corporal punishment was recorded at the elementary school in 2011/12 or 2013/14. But the high school introduced paddling: during 2011/12, 49 boys and 16 girls received a spanking on at least one occasion. This dropped slightly two years later, perhaps because the students had started complying better with the rules; in 2013/14, 41 boys and 9 girls in grades 9 through 12 were spanked. During 2015/16, no corporal punishment was recorded at either the elementary school or the middle school. The paddle continued in use at the high school, where 16 boys and 2 girls experienced its effects.

 During the 2017/18 school year, many Texas school districts used corporal punishment at the secondary level while giving few or no paddlings to any of their elementary students.

 For example, there are numerous districts where corporal punishment was used in 2017/18 at a secondary school that had not paddled in 2015/16, and where no elementary student was paddled during 2017/18. In this list, the number of secondary students in the district who were given swats on at least one occasion during 2017/18 is shown in parentheses. The districts are: Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD (4), Bowie ISD (6), Buna ISD (24), Bushland ISD (50), Canton ISD (7), Cayuga ISD (5), Celeste ISD (2), Chico ISD (21), Christoval ISD (5), Coahoma ISD (6), Connolly ISD (4), Crockett County Consolidated CSD (30), Dawson ISD (56), Friona ISD (5), Holiday ISD (61), Ingram ISD (57), Kenedy ISD (2), Knox City-O’Brien ISD (8), Merkel ISD (6), Monahans-Wickett-Pyote ISD (55), Mullin ISD (1), Panhandle ISD (5), Pearsall ISD (5), Ranger ISD (3), Smithville ISD (1), Spearman ISD (22), Tom Bean ISD (3), and Winnsboro ISD (41).

 Other districts that during the 2017/18 school year used paddling more for secondary students than elementary students include Alvarado ISD, Brazos ISD, Calhoun County ISD, Centerville ISD, Crane ISD, Detroit ISD, Hughes Springs ISD, Hull-Daisetta ISD, Jacksonville ISD, May ISD, Olton ISD, Perryton ISD, Port Arthur ISD, Robert Lee ISD, Seminole ISD, Stanton ISD, Tatum ISD, Tidehaven ISD, and Yantis ISD.

 During 2017/18, these 48 Texas districts gave 2,638 paddlings to 1,604 secondary students -- many times more than the 164 paddlings they gave to 130 of their elementary students.

 We can speculate as to why so many Texas school administrators have decided spanking is more appropriate for older adolescents than younger students. It may have to do with the fact that most anti-spanking arguments have been concerned with the possibility of harm to the emotional and mental development of a young child. Those arguments carry less or no weight with teenagers, who should be mature enough to decide for themselves whether to submit to a paddling in lieu of some more time-consuming form of discipline.

Implementation Question: Will Student Athletes Be Allowed To Choose a Spanking?

Another question is whether the Pampa Harvester/Lady Harvester athletic program will give student athletes (i.e. members of sports teams) the option of taking a spanking to avoid extra running or other hard physical conditioning.

Many Texas high schools' athletic programs allow athletes requiring discipline to opt for a paddling in lieu of extra conditioning.

Sweeny ISD Athletic Handbook -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window
Sweeny ISD 2019/20 Athletic Handbook - Click to enlarge

Pittsburg ISD 2019/20 Football Player Handbook -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window
Pittsburg ISD 2019/20 Football Player Handbook - Click to enlarge

Harleton ISD 2019/20 Code of Conduct for Athletes -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window
Harleton ISD 2019/20 Code of Conduct for Athletes - Click to enlarge

 For example, the Giddings Athletics Discipline Procedures provide for Giddings Buffaloes and Lady Buffaloes that punishment "will range from swats with a paddle to extra conditioning. The choice of punishment will be yours to make". This is for both boys and girls, but only with permission from parents, who are given the opportunity to initial, "I agree that my child may receive swats as a form of punishment if they so choose".

 The Jacksonville ISD Athletic Code of Conduct provides for the Indians/Maidens, "Athletes will have a choice of a paddling or physical conditioning".

 The Plainview ISD Athletic Policy and Code of Conduct provides for Bulldogs/Lady Bulldogs athletes that they may choose a spanking to substitute for their first ISS assignment, but only if all of the interested adults consent to the athlete's request. "This is only available for the initial placement in ISS and only if all parties involved agree to this choice (athletic department, principal, and parent/guardian)".

Sweeny ISD's 2019/20 Student Athletic Handbook advises parents of Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs, "We would like to have the option to use corporal punishment as a behavioral modification technique. Due to the nature of this discipline, we would use corporal punishment in place of physical punishment. We would always allow your child the option to choose. Due to the amount of time it takes to notify parents, we will not be calling you prior to administering the punishment. As the child's legal guardian, you need to check your option and sign the letter of acceptance page.... Corporal punishment shall be administered only by Executive Director of Athletics, principal, or assistant principal". A parent or guardian checks either "I will allow" or "I will NOT allow" "my son/daughter to receive corporal punishment in athletics".

 In recent years there appears to have been significant growth in the use of corporal punishment in Texas secondary school athletic programs. In a 2017 article in the Abilene Reporter-News, Albany High School football coach Denney Faith said he has noticed "a trend going back to corporal punishment. A lot of schools have gotten away from it, and now the pendulum is swinging back toward corporal punishment".

 Athletic handbooks appear to confirm Coach Faith's observation. At least the following programs now specify corporal punishment as one available disciplinary technique, at the minimum for boys, but most often for both boys and girls. The majority of them require both the student and his or her parent to sign an acknowledgment that the athlete and parents understand and accept the athletic rules and consequences: Anahuac Panthers,Aransas County Pirates/Lady Pirates, Banquete Bulldogs/Lady Dogs, Big Spring Bulldogs/Lady Bulldogs, Bremond Tigers/Lady Tigers, Bridge City Cardinals/Lady Cardinals, Callisburg Wildcats/Ladycats, Calvert Trojans/Lady Trojans, Cumby Trojans/Lady Trojans, Cushing Bearkats/Lady Bearkats, Diboll Lumberjacks/Lady Jacks, Elkhart Elks/Lady Elks, Ferris Yellowjackets/Lady Jackets, Gladewater Bears/Lady Bears, Hardin Hornets/Lady Hornets, Hardin-Jefferson Hawks, Hillsboro Eagles/Lady Eagles, Kerens Bobcats/Ladycats, Leon Cougars/Lady Cougars, Livingston Lions/Lady Lions, Lorenzo Hornets/Lady Hornets, Mineola Yellow Jackets/Lady Yellow Jackets, Newton Eagles/Lady Eagles, Normangee Panthers/Lady Panthers, Nueces Canyon Panthers, Olney Cubs/Lady Cubs, Olton Mustangs/Fillies, Overton Mustangs/Lady Mustangs, Rains Wildcats/Lady Cats, Reagan County Owls/Lady Owls, Rice Bulldogs, Roby Lions/Lady Lions, Rockport-Fulton Pirates/Lady Pirates, Shamrock Fighting Irish/Lady Irish, Troy Trojans/Trojanettes, West Sabine Tigers, Whitney Wildcats, Woden Eagles, Woodville Eagles/Lady Eagles, and Wortham Bulldogs/Lady Bulldogs.

West Orange-Stark High School (WOSHS) is an example of a school that makes athletic participation conditional on parental approval of corporal punishment. In February 2019 a recent WOSHS graduate was asked on the CuriousCat site, "At WOSHS did parents have to allow swats for boys to play sports?" She replied, "This is a dumb question." There was a follow-up question: "Is it a dumb question to ask whether at WOSHS parents had to allow swats for boys to play sports because (a) That's dumb, of course they did or (b) That's dumb, of course they didn't or (c) That's dumb, it wasn't just the boys whose parents had to allow swats if you wanted to play sports?" She replied: "A & C, I ain't mean to be rude earlier, I just thought every school gave swats."

 The Pittsburg ISD 2019/20 Football Handbook includes a form for both the player and his parent to sign stating that they do or do not "agree to the use of corporal punishment (spanking)".

Carthage ISD's 2019-2020 Disciplinary Guidelines for Athletics, Auxiliary, Drill Team, Cheerleaders provide that a participating student who leaves class without permission will receive his or her official school discipline of a full day of Saturday School, plus an Athletics Penalty of "Swats or 4 miles of running". For a first offense of kissing or other Public Display of Affection (PDA), the Carthage High School discipline is a referral to the assistant principal, parent contact, and three days of morning or afternoon detention. If the student is a cheerleader, she will also receive three demerits. If the student is an athlete, though, he or she will also receive an Athletics Penalty of "Swats or 4 miles of running". For a second PDA offense, the CHS Discipline is a referral to the assistant principal, parent contact, and five days of on-campus suspension. If he or she is an athlete, the additional Athletics Penalty is "Swats or 8 miles of running". While some serious offenses require suspension, for the majority of violations a first offense results in "Swats or 4 miles of running," while a second offense results in "Swats or 8 miles of running".

 So if a football player is caught kissing his girlfriend, they both will receive three days of morning or afternoon detention and their parents will be informed of their misconduct. She will also receive three demerits, while he will also have to either run four miles or "assume the position" in the school office for a paddling. On the Tim Fletcher Show, Carthage Bulldogs head football coach Scott Surratt, 2018 All East Texas Coach of the Year, said that it is "a blessing" to have the paddle available.

 More generally, the Mathis ISD 2019/20 Extracurricular Handbook provides, "Students who do not conform to the School District's Student Code of Conduct, Student Handbook, Extra-Curricular Handbook and team guidelines may be subject to consequences for their actions that may include but are not limited to … Corporal punishment …."

 In policy FNF (LOCAL), many Texas districts provide for the random drug-testing of any high-school student who chooses to participate in a school-sponsored extracurricular activity, or who wishes to park his or her vehicle on campus. Some districts set out detailed procedures in a separate document. For example, Paducah ISD's 2019/20 drug-use deterrence policy provides in part, "Participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities is a privilege. Extracurricular activities regarding this policy include band, athletic programs, cheerleading, literary activities, One Act Play, Academic Decathlon, UIL academic/theater contests, stock showing and other agriculture related activities, any other club or organization that participates in performances, contests, demonstrations or competitions, and parking on District property…. Before a student is eligible to participate in extracurricular activities or park on school property, the student shall be required to sign a consent form agreeing to be subject to the rules and procedures of the drug-testing program. If the student is under the age of 18, the student's parent or guardian shall also sign a consent form. If appropriate consent is not given, the student shall not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities or park a vehicle on school property".

 KFDA television in Amarillo reported on 2 April 2016: "If you ever thought you would never need a drug test to be in a school play, or even join the debate team -- that's all in the past for Pampa ISD. The district will be putting in place a new drug testing policy that will be for all students looking to participate in extracurricular activities. 'If they are going to be representing Pampa ISD in some type of competition or activity or event, we are going to have them engage in this process,' said Pampa ISD superintendent Tanya Larkin."

 Taking the same approach, for boys and girls to become eligible to participate in extracurricular activities, a growing number of ISDs now require both the students and their parents to voluntarily consent to the use of corporal punishment.

Pampa HS football players -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window
Pampa High School football players - Click to enlarge

Pampa HS football players -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window
Pampa High School volleyball players - Click to enlarge

Pampa HS athletes  and cheerleaders -- CLICK TO ENLARGE - opens in a new window
Pampa High School athletes and cheerleaders - Click to enlarge

Harleton ISD offers baseball and football for boys, softball for girls, and basketball, cross-country, golf, tennis, and track for both boys and girls. "Athletics is not a right, it is a privilege," the district states. The district's drug-testing policy, FNF (LOCAL), provides that a student cannot participate in extracurricular activities, such as athletics, unless he or she signs "a consent form agreeing to be subject to the rules and procedures of the drug-testing program…. If appropriate consent is not given, the student shall not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities". Likewise, the district now requires all students who want to be athletes to consent in writing to receiving spankings as required. As of the spring of 2019, to have the privilege of playing sports for the Harleton Wildcats or Lady Wildcats, the student must agree that he or she "may be administered corporal punishment". As with the drug-testing program, a parent or guardian must also provide written consent for their student-athlete to be spanked.

 In addition, the coaches believe that spanking is a better way to improve the campus behavior of a high-school student, and to train the athlete to respond quickly to a coach's direction during critical times of an athletic contest, than is an assignment to detention or in-school suspension. The athletic department states that "Behavior on campus is directly related to what you will do in the crucial times of a game". Accordingly, it insists that parents agree their athlete must also accept spankings outside of the athletic program. If during the regular school day, or at a school-sponsored activity, the student-athlete earns detention or ISS but the principal offers corporal punishment as an option, "the athlete must choose the swats". Both the athlete and his or her parent/guardian accept the district's new requirements by signing the Code of Conduct for Athletes immediately below this pronouncement. The Harleton approach mirrors the approach already in use in Mineola ISD.

 The district's new commitment to using a spanking paddle reflects a trend in Texas to insist on good behavior and respectful attitudes from high-school athletes. As noted, many Texas athletic programs have recently pioneered the introduction, or re-introduction, of swats. Perhaps based on their experiences, Harleton ISD's new policy reflects a growing consensus among trustees, superintendents, principals, athletic directors, and coaches. An occasional spanking with a paddle will be accepted by the athlete, supported by his or her parents, and exert a positive influence on the teenager's attitudes and behavior.

 During 2011/12, Harleton High School paddled 21 boys and no girls, but then the high school put the paddle aside. No paddlings were recorded during 2013/14 or 2015/16. The new policy implementing corporal punishment in athletics for both boys and girls, and requiring all high-school athletes to submit to swats instead of detention or ISS whenever the principal so decides, indicates the paddle is back. While corporal punishment in the US is sometimes criticized as applied disproportionately to minority students, this is not true in Texas: as it happens, 93% of the students at Harleton High are white.

 While Texas law allows parents to opt their sons and daughters out from corporal punishment, it does not prohibit districts from making a student's participation in voluntary extra-curricular activities, such as athletics, conditional on the approval by the parent of the district's use of paddling. No legal concerns seem to have been raised regarding athletic programs requiring student and parent approval of drug testing as a condition of athletic participation, so presumably an athletic department's requirement of consent to corporal punishment is also legally justifiable.

 Even without specifically requiring written consent for paddling by parents and athletes, though, sports programs have other ways to secure acquiescence in their disciplinary decisions. New for 2019/20, Whitewright ISD has introduced corporal punishment in athletics: "Whitewright coaches may use this option of discipline". However, coaches will not paddle if the parent files a written request with the Athletic Director not to use the paddle, or if the "athlete requests no corporal punishment". Since the coach determines the amount of playing time, it seems unlikely that many athletes will request not to be spanked if that is what the coach has decided is best.

 In short, Pampa ISD has various options to consider as it decides whether its return to paddling will apply to student-athletes.


Many Pampa teenagers, as their survey comments show, believe that an occasional spanking can benefit both them and their classmates. The majority of their teachers, parents and the general public agree.

 It will be interesting to see how Pampa administrators elect to implement the corporal punishment policy change, and how they answer the many open questions.

 It will also be of interest to learn whether the reinstatement of paddling leads to a decrease in disciplinary actions that remove students from the classroom, as it has in other Texas districts. If so, Pampa trustees, administrators, teachers, parents and students may be able to appreciate the wisdom of having re-integrated reasonable spankings into their school's disciplinary system.

Thanks are due to the Pampa ISD administrators for providing the teacher, student, parent and administrator survey results and other information that have facilitated this article.

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