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School CP - March 1993

Corpun file 5713 at

Orlando Sentinel Tribune, Florida, 14 March 1993

Schools Should Wield the Paddling Option

By Sam Fenton

I've had my share of differences with Lake County School Board Chairwoman Pat Hart, but I'm 100 percent behind her stand that individual school districts should make the call on whether paddling is proper punishment for unruly students.

The state Legislature has established a tried -- but hardly trusted -- record of pushing rules and regulations down the throats of local governments, then merrily adjourning without providing any funding mechanism to pay for the programs.

In this case, legislators speak out of both sides of their collective mouths when they say local school districts should have more control over policy decisions, then push for paddling to be abolished statewide. . . .

Perhaps it's nostalgia that has crept into my thinking during the nearly three decades since I attended public schools, but paddling was certainly an effective deterrent to misdeeds when I attended grammar school and junior high.

After-school detention was no picnic, but you didn't get in any real trouble at home for it. You could always say you stopped by the drugstore after school for a cherry Coke or were enticed into a pickup basketball or baseball game. Most of the time no one would be the wiser, unless Teach got to talking with Mom and Dad after Sunday services.

But paddling, that was something else.

My first -- and last -- paddling occurred in the seventh grade and taught me the real meaning of "double jeopardy."

You see, if you rode your bike home from school every day like my brother and I did, teachers wouldn't call your parents over a simple after-class detention.

But paddling was for more serious infractions. In my case, it was a schoolyard fight. That meant an automatic phone call to your parents. And in the small Ohio town I lived in, every schoolteacher and administrator knew my parents personally and exactly where to contact them - day or night.

I'll never forget assistant principal Andy Orass' smooth, varnished paddle. It even had holes drilled in it to cut down wind resistance. When that paddle made contact with your butt, the crack reverberated into every corner and cranny of the school.

He hit hard and fast. You didn't cry out -- being a tough guy was very big in the seventh grade -- but that didn't stop the tears from welling up.

But even as the last swat struck, you knew the worst was yet to come.

The bike ride home was pure hell: mentally because you knew what was to come; physically because it flat-out hurt to sit down on the seat. Thoughts of grabbing a sleeping bag from the attic and catching the 4:50 freight train south were seriously considered.

Sure enough, Dad was coming home from work early this day -- for one purpose, and one purpose only.

The only salvation left was to rush to my room and stuff socks in the rear of my jeans, hoping against hope he wouldn't notice the protective padding.

It didn't make any difference. "Out to the garage," he ordered. Then came the lecture and the always trusty last line: "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you."

Sure, Dad. How come they always have to say that? Is it written somewhere in the code of fatherhood?

His weapon of choice was a razor strop. He hit harder. And faster. And longer than Mr. Orass. And the padding didn't help one damn bit.

But I made sure it never happened again.

Sure, school districts should have the option on paddling, especially since parents have the final say anyway. They can ban the practice on their children by simply signing a form.

We've had our differences, Mrs. Hart. But on this one we see eye to eye. The paddling decision should be made at the local level.

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