For the most part, my job is fairly boring; I am a secretary at a small high school in the South. I answer the phones, deal with mounds of paperwork, get coffee, even tidy up around the main office at the school. I have two direct bosses, the principal of the school and the vice principal. On a fairly regular basis, at least 6-8 times a week, the boredom of my day is broken up by an event that I have come to enjoy over the years, and that is school corporal punishment. Please don’t misunderstand, I do not get to administer any paddlings, that job is taken care of by the male vice principal. While the principal’s duties are almost 100% administrative, the VP handles all discipline issues within the high school. Every student that finds themselves in trouble starts at my desk and ends up in the VP’s office. This is a Southern school, is a small rural town, and corporal punishment in the home and at school is not the exception, it is the norm. There are no lawsuits, no complaints of bruised bottoms; it is simply a way of life. Students not only expect that they will probably be paddled if they are sent to the office, but their parents also expect it.
School policy dictates that if a female student is to be paddled, there needs to be a same sex witness present. Policy also states that students cannot be paddled by teachers, so that leads all discipline problems to the main office. I will be honest, when I 1st took the job, I was not sure how I felt about being present for students being paddled. But, after many years of dealing with the attitude and sense of self-importance from the student body, I have grown to feel that they mostly deserve it and I have no issues with being present for it. If I am being totally honest, I have grown to like being present, especially for certain girls who clearly need it. I would guess the ratio of boys to girls being paddled is about two to one. I would estimate that around 20 boys are sent to the office each week for discipline issues, with around 15 of those on the average receiving a paddling. I am not part of that process as policy does not require a witness for the VP to paddle a male student. I simply take their pink slip that they arrive in the office with, read over the infraction, and advise the VP that he has a student waiting. I am also responsible for calling the parents if consent is required, as well as calling a parent to inform them that their child has been paddled. All instances of corporal punishment require the parents be notified, and depending on what the parents checked on the consent form at the beginning of the year, they may or may not need to be called for permission.
I honestly tend to have a little fun, and add quite a bit of discomfort for the students, with my role in the whole process. I am the 1st in line when it comes to discipline referrals in the main office. The office staff is small, the principal, the VP, one other secretary (typically a senior girl doing a sort of internship) and during any given period, 3-4 student aids that help out, run notes to class, and do various odd jobs. The principal and the VP have private offices, the rest of us share an open area. This makes my work area a fairly open and common area. With the staff, student workers, and various students that are always in and out of the office at any given moment, there are typically 6-10 people present in the common area of the office at a time. The public aspect of this makes the whole process more uncomfortable for the student sent up for disciplinary issues.
The standard process typically goes as this. A female student enters the office, walks up to me, and
waits with her pink slip in hand. The girls these days seem to be always the same. Skin tight jeans, or too short of a skirt, too much makeup, with the hair looking like they spent 2 hours on it that morning. Their biggest concerns seem to be boys and not so much their education. They are typically rude, lack manners, and are so far from what I remember being in high school. I like to make them stand there for a minute or two with the pink slip in hand before I address their needs. When I take the pink slip, I always read it aloud, there is no reason to make it a secret and it is basically like announcing their offense to the entire office. There are a couple of chairs outside the VP’s office that are strictly used for those waiting to see him for disciplinary referrals; I then invite them to have a seat. I pull the student’s info on the computer, which I am able to transfer to the VP’s screen, so he can see her history with him.
The corporal punishment consent form is part of that file and I am able to view it, but I always like to ask the student, it seems to help bring the point home and is one of those things that I enjoy adding to their experience. The chairs they sit in are about 10 ft from my desk, so I ask loudly, enough so that everyone can hear, “Miss Jones, have your parents preauthorized for you to be paddled at school or do I need to give them a call real quick”? Regardless of the coats of makeup the young lady is wearing, I can always see the color change on her face as she turns bright red. It really depends on the girl, her attitude, her offense, and how often we see her in the office, but I may not let it go there. If it is a girl I want to make a real point with, I will continue the public embarrassment. She answers, “Yes”. My response is “Yes, they have signed the form and you can be paddled today without a phone call, or Yes I need to give them a call to see if you can be paddled”? She replies quietly, “Yes, I can be paddled”. “OK, I will let the VP know that paddling is an option today”. Any attitude she entered the office with that day is now completely gone.
The VP is never one to stop what he is doing to handle discipline. He is pretty overworked with all of his areas of responsibility, so if a student needs to wait, then they just have to wait. Generally within 20 minutes, he opens his door, invites them in, and closes the door. I have rarely been on the other side of the door for this process, but it seems as though he is thorough. I think he takes them time to really talk to them and find out the root of the problem and discuss it at length with them. Rarely does this process take less than 20 minutes. The problem could be as simple as a 3rd tardy, but he really tries to understand each and every infraction and focus on how to eliminate it. He seems kind and compassionate, and for the most part, it seems the students like him. But for the dozen or so female students he see a week, the majority are going to end up being paddled when it is all said and done.
This is where my next step in the process takes place. His door opens and I am invited in. He always holds the door for me and closes it behind me. As I enter, I see that look on the young lady’s face, as she now knows that a paddling is a reality and that there is not a single thing she can do about it. He waits until I am present to complete the required forms. He states aloud what she is being paddle for and how many swats she will receive. District policy allows for no more than 8 swats for a single offense and in a single day. I have never witnessed him giving less than three, 5-6 is most common with the girls, although I have watched 8 swats administered on multiple occasion. It not only based the offense, but if it is a reoccurring issue, as well as how many times she has been in his office before. After he has filled out the paperwork, he has me initial two spots and sign the bottom. During the couple of minutes this takes, I have seen the tears start as the girl considers what is about to happen.
He is the second VP for this school in the ten years I have been doing this and he is very effective in his discipline style. He is never angry, he seems to have their best interests in mind, and there is a very parental feeling in his approach. He speaks to them gently, yet it is clear he means business. I like that when he discusses any aspect of the discipline that is about to take place, he gives them full ownership of their behavior. It is never just “a paddling”, it is “your paddling” it is not a paddling “they deserve” it is always one “they have earned”. He is never going to take care of the problem, “we are going to take care of the problem”. He then always gives a slight variation on the same speech. He basically informs them that this is a school district that has chosen to utilize corporal punishment with the full support from the community. While he was not part of this decision making process, it has been placed in his hands to conduct his job professional, yet effectively. He explains that his goal in applying a paddling today to her bottom is to create a stimulus, applied in an effective enough manner, that he will never see her again for a disciplinary issue. He sees no point in paddling a student in a manner that she will be in his office again and again, he prefers to only have to ever do it once. As a result, today is going to be a painful experience for her. But he also sees the process as a partnership and a long term agreement. Her actions and behavior have led her to this punishment, he is not all that happy about having to do it, but he takes his job very seriously. His job is to paddle her in a manner that she will never be back into his office. Her job is to understand that her actions created this moment and that this paddling is for her learning and growth. She is to take ownership and assist in her punishment by doing exactly what she is told and to maintain her position throughout, regardless of the amount of discomfort she experiences. He views lack of cooperation and assistance as direct disobedience and will adjust the paddling accordingly. He asks her if she understands, and then it begins.
His office is quite small so there is a bit of shuffling around for it all to happen. He pulls the paddle
out of his drawer and regardless of the girl, or if she has been here before, her eyes go right to it. I do have to admit, it is a big old paddle. It is a least two feet long and wide enough to cover most of the typical teen girl’s bottom with a single swat, and ¾” in thickness. I am pretty sure that I once heard him say it is made from maple, but I do not know my woods very well. The handle is wrapped in some sort of cloth tape for a better grip. Once the paddle is out he steps around the desk and I kind of squeeze by to stand where his chair is. The young lady is asked to stand up and he pulls her chair away from the front of his desk and tucks it by the door. He has her remove anything from her back pockets and place them on his desk. She is then told to place her hands on the edge of the desk and he has her take a few steps back until she can barely reach the desk. At this point she is told to bend over fully at the waist. This leaves her
stretched out, bent 90 degrees at the waist, with her bottom nicely presented. This position seems to help them stay in position as he has modified it over the years. Early on, girls had a habit of trying to put their hands back, but this position seems to help with that problem as they cannot stay bent very well like this and release a hand. From my position all I can see if the young ladies face. He is very clear with the instructions from this point forward. He makes it clear that they will not move from this position until they are instructed. Their hands are to stay exactly where they are and they are not to move their feet of bend their legs. He tells them that it is for their own safety as “we” would not want this big wooden paddle landing anywhere except the place “God designed for such things”. She is asked if she has any questions…often with a tearful voice, she answers “no Sir”.
He then makes a formal announcement and begins, “Miss Jones, you are to receive 6 hard swats to your bottom for ___________”. Unlike the previous VP, he does not start with a tap to their bottom for aim. He simply raises the paddle high in the air and swings full force bringing it down onto their bottom. The reaction, regardless of how tough the girl thinks she is, is pretty much the same. First, there is a moment of being startled by how loud it is. It is a small office, with tile floor, and cinderblock walls, so the noise from the swat seems to echo…and it really is loud, like a firecracker. I am always focused on their face during their paddling, and it starts with the scared look from the sound, to a half a second of almost confusion as the body processes and the signal travels from their teen butt to their brain. There is a tight squinting of the eyes and mouth and then it sinks in. Their eyes become wide, their mouths open all the way, sometimes there is a shout, sometimes just silence, but the look is clear…they are being punished. He does not space them out too far apart, but he certainly lets the pain from each swat
sink in nicely. After 6-8 seconds, the paddle is raised high in the air again. She sees it out of the corner of her eye and the look is always the same…fear. It is easy to see that she wonders how she will ever take another one, and then it lands. If her eyes were not filled with tears before, they certainly are by the second swat. The lip begins to quiver, her legs and body begin to tremble, and the 1st tears roles down her cheek. In any school office in the country, this would be already be considered an effective punishment, but he meant every word he said, he never wants her to be in any trouble at school again…ever.
I have to give him credit, after a couple swats I really start to feel a little sorry for the young lady. Her butt is already bruised, there is no doubt, her body is shaking and tears are streaming, but he stays strong to the cause. The paddle is lifted high again and brought down just as hard as the
others. This is three swats and about 30 seconds into the paddling, and this is where the real learning starts to take place. Quivering and tears or replaced by shaking and full out sobbing. She tried to be strong, but there is no getting around it, she is reduced to full on tears like that of a 5 year old. She starts to give in a little to her punishment, she starts to accept her fate, she starts to learn a real lesson. She realizes that she has no control over this punishment, she also starts to make those promises to herself that she will never be in this position again. I can tell her bottom is on fire, most girls are just not prepared for how much a large wooden board being applied full-force to their bottom will hurt. As she contemplates the severity of the pain, he raises the paddle and swats her bottom yet again. I can see her world being turned upside down. Girls this age are just learning that as they approach 18 years of age that walking around in their tight jeans, showing off their little bottoms, that they have some control over men, but that does not apply here. The only thing her bottom is good for at the moment is a vessel for intense pain. The typical girl gets six, so she is not done yet. She is trying to hold her position but it is getting harder,
her legs start to fold a little, her hand is close to coming off the desk to grab her poor bottom. He brings her back to reality with a sharp “BACK IN POSITION”, and I am always amazed at the results. No matter how much she is hurting and how hard she is crying, she snaps back into position instantly. The paddling is working, she is now doing what she is told without question, she is listening to directions, and clearly in less than 60 seconds, she is learning.
But unfortunately for her, there are two more to go. The last two are not any harder, but not any softer, honestly I think he swings with just about everything he has with each swat. By now her perfect makeup is a mess all over her face and she continues to cry hard. She feels the last two like they were the 1st two and she is pretty much broken at this point. He sets the paddle down on the desk and leaves her in position for a moment to just get it all out.
After several seconds he pulls her chair back in place and tells her to have a seat. She sits as gingerly as you have ever seen anyone try to sit, as the chair is a hard wooden chair with no cushion. One thing I have always wondered about was that cushion. When this VP started, I know the chair on that side of the desk had a cushion. I am curious if it was just old, or he purposely got rid of it for that 1st reaction when they have to sit. Either way, sitting is barely an option, but he makes them do it. I am then excused and the door closes behind me. I think he probably offers them some kind words of encouragement and lets them get themselves back together a little. After 5 or so minutes, his door opens and he walks her to the private bathroom in the office that we all use. Every set of eyes in the room is on this tear stained face, and at this point her bottom is so sore and she is so upset, she seems beyond being embarrassed. He lets her take as long as she needs to compose herself, and tells her to check back in with me before she goes back to class.
Eventually the bathroom door opens, and once again every set of eyes in the room goes right to this young lady. Now, she begins to realize that there was a public aspect to her punishment. In the office, with the door closed, it seemed to be just me, her, and the VP. Through the pain and the tears, the totality of the circumstances did not sink in. She now sees the student aids, the secretary, the half a dozen students that were in the office all staring at her. It hits her that they heard every swat hit her bottom, heard every shout from her mouth, and heard her sobbing like a little child. Her face goes red again as she approaches my desk. My question is simple, “which parent should I call and what is the best number to reach them at”? Her head drops as she realizes that her parents have to be notified as a matter of policy. She gives me her mom’s cells number and I make the call. “Mrs. Jones, I have called to inform you that your daughter was paddled at school today…Yes, yes she was…six swats total….I see, I will indeed. Thank you”. “Your mom wanted me to tell you that you can expect the same when you get home from school, you are free to head back to class”.
All of the pictures used to illustrate this article come from actual school paddling videos in the member’s area of realspankings.com