Published September 24, 2012
A Texas mother says a local school district is covering its own rear end by considering a policy change regarding corporal punishment after a male vice principal paddled her daughter so hard it left a nasty mark.
The district in Springtown, just outside of Fort Worth, allows corporal punishment, but only when doled out by a teacher or administrator of the same sex as the student. But when Taylor Santos, 15, allegedly let a classmate copy her homework, Vice Principal Kirt Shaw disciplined the girl with a large wooden paddle, which he swung with a violent, upward motion, according to the girl's mom, Anna Jorgensen.
“She was telling me it was numb and that it burned,” Jorgensen said. “And it looked like a burn. She slept on her side that night. She was more humiliated and embarrassed than anything, but the more she and I thought about it, it wasn’t fair and I thought I needed to do something about it.”
But instead of reprimanding Shaw for the cross-gender blow, the district is considering doing away with the requirement of same-sex spanking. Springtown ISD Superintendent Mike Kelley told FoxNews.com that the district’s seven-member board will consider revising the policy at a meeting Monday evening.
“We’ll give the board the option to discuss it,” said Kelley, who declined to provide specifics of the Sept. 19 incident at Springtown High School.
Anna Jorgensen told FoxNews.com her daughter initially received two days of in-school suspension for allowing another student to copy her work. When she was offered the chance to take a paddling in lieu of the second day of suspension, she submitted.
Shaw first had the girl call her mother to approve the punishment, which is required. Jorgensen said she agreed, but had no idea the whack would come from a man — or be so severe. Jorgensen said her daughter, a cross-country athlete who weighs just 95 pounds, was left with large, blistered wounds on her buttocks.
“I really don’t think he had to hit her that hard,” she said. “I’m not saying he went in to intentionally hurt my daughter, but intentional or not, it did happen.”
Kelley defended the use of corporal punishment in the school system.
“We only use corporal punishment if the parent or guardian requests it,” he said. “We have not deviated from that practice.”
Asked why a male official administered the punishment to a female student, in violation of district policy, Kelley replied: “If we’ve deviated from district policy, that will be corrected.”
Jorgensen said that if correcting the mistake means changing the policy, the district is just trying to “cover themselves.”
“If you’re going to have corporal punishment, the [same gender] policy should stand,” she said. “But it’s about the force and the fact that I knew the school policy before it happened.”
Jorgensen, who has two younger children, ages 14 and 6, said she no longer supports the use of corporal punishment in schools.
“There should be other ways for punishment,” she said. “Personally, I will never again allow any of my kids to receive corporal punishment. I will never allow it again.”
The punishment, Jorgensen said, was “not at all age appropriate” for a young teenage girl.
“It was completely wrong and I admit I was in poor judgment allowing her to do it,” she said. “I feel like my child has been abused. If I did it to my own kid, they [child protective services] would be at my house.”
Thirty-one states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have abolished corporal punishment in public schools. States like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Wyoming and several others still allow it. In 2005-06 — the latest year for which data is available — less than 1 percent of students in districts that allow corporal punishment were spanked, according to Civil Rights Data Collection.
In 1976, more than 1.5 million public students were paddled according to reports submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, compared to 223,190 students in 2005-06. A year later, in 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that spanking or paddling by school is lawful where it had not been explicitly outlawed by local authorities.
Deb Sendek, program director for the Ohio-based Center for Effective Discipline (CED), said the district’s decision to reconsider how corporal punishment is administered rather than banning it altogether was “very, very disappointing,” especially since many districts in Texas have privately stopped its use.
“It’s not how we respond in work situations and we don’t say go over and hit your neighbor, so why do we in an institution where we are trying to teach children about the rights and wrongs about life?" Sendek told FoxNews.com.
Jorgensen will attend Monday’s meeting and hopes to get a chance to address the board members.
“I’m not after money,” she said when asked if she was considering legal action. “I’m after doing what’s right by the students.”