--Interview June, 2004
My name is Eli and I have talked a little with a mutual friend, Matt, regarding school paddling. Both of us live in North Carolina, but we are a couple hours apart.
We started talking about cars, and somehow the conversation kept drifting from the topic. We got on the subject of school, and he kept hinting how much he hated parts of it. To make a long story short, we eventually arrived at the subject of abuse in schools, i.e. paddling.
He showed me your website, and I must say I am absolutely in shock at some of the atrocities that I read. I can't believe school paddling, especially in the forms you mention, still goes on in some schools. I also can't believe that someone as young as Matt had to experience it!
I got a pretty bad paddling in 1989 when I was in seventh grade. It was during the second week of school, and was for the most mundane of reasons. I was surprised by the announcement that I was to be paddled, and it seemed very unjust on many levels. I think my reaction to my teacher made the punishment a little worse for me. As my luck would have it, I found out that paddling in that county was outlawed sometime the next year.
The paddling itself was very painful. Each swat produced a whole range of sensations that were just about all you could take. For a split second it was as though all your other senses momentarily stopped -- sight, hearing, taste, etc, and all you felt was the paddle. It felt like the skin on my ass was literally being pinched or bitten in multiple places at once. Now mix in the embarrassment and the raging anger...
I internalized this for a long time. I recently told my girlfriend about it, and she started crying! I was a little shocked that it was THAT emotional of a story for her. I was just mad about the whole thing, but she got rather upset hearing it.
About two years ago I ran into my seventh grade social studies teacher at a car service center, of all places. I wanted to act like I didn't know her, but it occurred to me that I was a grown man with years of pent-up aggression, so I wanted to say something too.
I approached her and said her name and sarcastically asked, "you remember me?" She did not, of course, so I refreshed her memory by citing the events on the second week of school that year. I asked her if it made her feel good to bully 12-year-old kids around and asked how that was working out for her. I actually lit into her for a moment, with profanity and all. She was stuttering, completely shocked, and she actually started to cry.
I felt bad at this point because I hate to see people cry. I didn't want her to cry. I wanted her to get mad and mouthy at me. I ended the conversation, saying some things I probably shouldn't have... but oh well, I suppose it is her fault in the end for setting such a bad example to me years ago.
So needless to say, I support the efforts to end this practice for all school systems. I am quite surprised it is even allowed anymore. I'm also surprised there aren't more court cases.
Jeff: Thanks for writing.
One reason there are not more lawsuits is that many paddling states, and to some level all of them, have passed laws that make suing schools over paddling injuries nearly impossible. Paddling state laws are essentially a “free-for-all” for school child abusers, and also for school child pornographers who want to secretly videotape paddling. This is at least in part because supporting all levels of abuse is essentially the only logical conclusion that a state can ultimately reach when they sanction “official violence” against children. Violence is inherently unscientific, unmeasurable, and unpredictable, so paddling states ultimately have to allow everything and anything once they start down the road of allowing "controlled paddlings." The truth is there is no such thing as a “controlled paddling.”