Video of Georgia educators about to paddle young child delivers terrible message

A parent video of two Jasper County educators attempting to hold down a crying 5-year-old to paddle him tugs at the heart.

It also raises questions about devoting so much time and effort to paddling when there are more effective and kinder ways to help young children control impulses than whacking them.

The video has been viewed nearly a million times. So, many people across the country have watched these wrenching scenes and wondered what on earth goes on in Georgia schools and why we still allow corporal punishment. (Only 19 states permit corporal punishment, almost all in the southern United States.)

There is plenty of research on the ineffectiveness of paddling and the liability in dispensing it. (See what the American Psychological Association and what the American Academy of Pediatrics say.) While some Georgians look back on their own childhood "whuppings" with nostalgia, there's no evidence children raised on corporal punishment are better behaved. One national review of 6,000 juvenile delinquency cases found that all the kids had been raised by the belt, cord or fist.

How can schools justify the admonition "Don't hit" when administrators are swatting away at kids?

The irony is the little boy's offense was physical aggression, and the school is correcting that behavior with being physical aggression. Yes, the educators in the video assure the crying child he's only going to be spanked once, but it doesn't matter because the lesson they are demonstrating is still that hitting is an appropriate response.

That suspension would have put Shana Marie Perez back in jail for truancy, she said Wednesday. Perez said she was arrested two weeks ago on truancy charges, booked into jail and then released. If her son missed any more school, she said she thought she’d go to jail.

Perez’s son, a 5-year-old Jasper County Primary School student, missed 18 days this school year in part because of doctors appointments that Perez said should have been excused.

Her son, Thomas, tried to hit another student on Monday, his mother said, and ended up spitting on someone else. “He ended up spitting on somebody so [Principal Pam Edge] wanted to paddle him,” Perez said.

Perez said she knew the school permitted paddling, but said she signed a form at the beginning of the year that said her son could not be paddled under any circumstances.

On Wednesday, Perez posted a video to Facebook showing Edge and Assistant Principal Lynn McElheney preparing to paddle the boy.

Perez said she was helpless to do anything but watch so she pretended to text on her phone and shot video. “I didn’t know I couldn’t get in trouble,” Perez said. “They told me either he gets a paddling or he gets suspended.”

School officials didn’t immediately respond to comment, but Perez forwarded an email from Superintendent Mike Newton that said Perez could keep Thomas home from school Thursday and the absence would be excused.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.