By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — They’re calling it the swat heard ’round the world — and its echo is still reverberating.
On Monday night, the school board in Springtown, Texas, voted to allow students to be paddled by employees of the opposite gender if their parents give written permission. The board’s previous policy permitted only same-gender paddling.
No one really argued with the idea of corporal punishment; at issue was the question of who gets to administer it, specifically can an adult male swat young girls?
The entire issue went on the school board agenda after two parents recently complained that a male vice principal had paddled their daughters, in apparent violation of the district’s policy that calls for the staffer and the student to be of the same gender.
“I have tried to be very professional and not personal about it,” a tearful Anna Jorgensen, whose daughter was one of those who was paddled, told the board, according to WFFA, a television station that has been following the dispute. “I didn’t know the media would turn it into all of this, and I feel very sorry for putting Springtown in that spot.”
Last week, Jorgensen told the station that her daughter’s bottom had been bruised by the punishment. Another mother, Cathi Watt, then came forward and complained that her daughter’s bottom had also been bruised.
“These men that swat these girls, they are telling the boys in the school, ‘It’s OK to hit a girl and it’s OK to bruise a girl,’ and that’s not right,” Watt told board members Monday night.
Superintendent Michael Kelley asked the board to change the policy to allow males to paddle female students because not all of the schools have enough females to perform the task.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the superintendent said the recent paddlings were contrary to the policy in place at that time, and for that, he apologized to the girls and their families.
“I take it very seriously every time we use corporal punishment,” Kelley said.
About three-quarters of the school districts in Texas allow corporal punishment, which is legal in 18 other states as well.