Springtown ISD wrapped up an unexpectedly contentious week of back-and-forth Monday when its school board voted to adopt some brand new policies regarding corporal punishment, including allowing opposite-gender paddling to now be administered.
Yes, you read that right. What prompted this review of policy? The issue cropped up last week when the parents of two female students took issue with how their daughters’ punishments had been administered, including the severity of their wounds.
At Springtown, as at most schools, a paddling has to be requested by the student, and the parent has to give consent.
That’s what happened in the case of Taylor Santos, as Teresa Woodard of WFAA reported. The fifteen-year-old Springtown High School student had served one day of a two-day in-school suspension (after another student was caught copying her work) when she asked to take her lumps instead of serving out the second day.
But according to Santos’ mother, Anna Jorgensen, those lumps turned out to be both too severe and contrary to school policy, as they had been delivered by a male vice principal, even though a female staff member was also in the room (district policy also requires there be two adults present).
As Woodard wrote:
Springtown ISD policy states “corporal punishment shall be administered only by an employee who is the same sex as the student.”
“It looked almost like it had been burned and blistered, it was so bad,” Jorgensen said.
“It was bright red,” Taylor said. “I still have welts on me today,” she added, 48 hours after the paddling.
Jorgensen has photos which prove how red her daughter’s bottom was.
The day after the paddling, she called the vice principal.
“He told me this was normal for her bottom to look like this after receiving swats, and that he was not aware of the school policy that females swat females,” Jorgensen said. “But he used too much force…”
“I don’t believe a man intentionally meant to do that to her, but it still happens, because men are too big and strong to be hitting 96-pound girls.”
Another Springtown mother, Cathi Watt, came forward with a similar story about her daughter Jada.
But the intent of Monday’s school board meeting was not to make sure that the policy did not get violated in the future. Instead, Springtown ISD superintendent Michael Kelley wished to do away with the same-gender rule.
And that’s what happened, by a unanimous vote. However, the policy did get tightened up and clarified. As Bill Miller of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote:
The school board changed district policy Monday night to allow opposite-sex employees to administer corporal punishment to students, but only with written permission from parents.
Also during the meeting, which included emotional addresses from some parents, the board made it policy that a same-gender school official must witness the punishment and that parents can request only one paddling per semester…
Superintendent Michael Kelley asked the board to consider changing the policy because not all schools have enough female administrators to perform the task. He acknowledged, however, that the two recent paddlings were contrary to the policy in place at that time, and for that he apologized to the girls and their families.
While Jim Douglas of WFAA noted that “a tearful Anna Jorgensen” apologized “for putting Springtown in that spot,” Miller reported that the other parent, Cathi Watt, was less forgiving:
“I gave consent for my daughter to get a swat, but I didn’t give consent for him to bruise my daughter,” Watt said. “I don’t think a female will raise a bruise because she doesn’t have the strength of a male. I think this sends a message to boys that it’s OK to hit a girl and it’s OK to bruise a girl. That’s not right.”
Miller’s story also noted that most major school districts in the Fort Worth area, including Arlington, Keller, Mansfield and Fort Worth, do not allow corporal punishment.
In a 2011 article on the practice, Melody McDonald of the Star-Telegram reported that only forty of the state’s 1,033 school districts had banned it. Today, Jimmy Dunne of the Houston-based organization People Opposed to Paddling Students estimated that 75 percent of schools in Texas still do.
“Hitting schoolchildren with boards would be a felony assault charge if done anywhere except at the school,” Dunne told Miller in an email.