A school district in Missouri has reinstated corporal punishment as an appropriate form of discipline for students.
According to USA Today, in June, the Cassville school board approved a policy permitting the use of corporal punishment once "all other alternative means of discipline have failed and then only in reasonable form and upon the recommendation of the principal."
Parents can opt their children in or out of this disciplinary model.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry defines corporal punishment as "a discipline method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a child in response to a child's unacceptable behavior and/or inappropriate language."
"In corporal punishment, the adult usually hits various parts of the child's body with a hand, or with canes, paddles, yardsticks, belts, or other objects expected to cause pain and fear," the AACAP adds.
According to Cassville School District superintendent Merlyn Johnson – who assumed the superintendent role last year – reinstating corporal punishment was not initially a part of his plan. Still, he said, "it is something that has happened on my watch, and I'm OK with it."
Johnson added that parents in Cassville – a town of just under 4,000 people and that Johnson described as a "very traditional community in southwest Missouri" – have indicated an interest in reinstating corporal punishment for some time.
The Barry County district abandoned the practice in 2001.
"Parents have said 'why can't you paddle my student?' and we're like 'We can't paddle your student, our policy does not support that,'" Johnson said. "There had been conversation with parents, and there had been requests from parents for us to look into it."
Johnson also noted that the reaction to the new policy has been vastly different online than it has within the county.
"We've had people actually thank us for it. Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I've run into have been supportive," Johnson shared.
"We respect the decision of every parent, whatever decision they make."
According to the policy, "When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm. Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted."
The policy also only permits the principal to inflict the punishment while in the presence of another staff or faculty member and never before another student. The policy further stipulates that "swatting the buttocks with a paddle" is the only acceptable form of corporal punishment.
Missouri is one of 19 states that still allow corporal punishment.
The other states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
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