A disturbing video is going viral on Facebook of two Monticello, GA elementary school employees about to use a paddle to spank a distressed boy. What makes the harrowing scene even more disturbing is that his mother is the one behind the camera, while her son cries out for help.
On Facebook the mother, Shana Marie Perez, explains:
they told me if he could not get a paddling he would have to be suspended and if he got suspended for even one day I WILL go to jail for truancy… Jasper county made me do this… I could not go to jail or my kids would have nothing … I can’t take care of my kids in jail… And I was not texting I was recording this… I couldn’t do anything to stop them.
Later on in the comments she explains: “They’re the ones that had me arrested for truancy already.”
It’s not clear whether or not she would indeed have gone to jail if she resisted her son’s punishment. But what is obvious is that, in the moment, she felt mostly powerless—her only tool of resistance was to record the scene and use it to inspire outrage in others.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this boy being paddled is that such punishments aren’t at all uncommon. This is despite the fact that research tells us they do far more harm than good.
As the Washington Post reports, 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. Many of these places require parental permission before they lay a hand on the students. It’s often given. More chillingly, in one Florida high school, the students in woodshop are in charge of making the paddles—“6 ounces, 16 inches long, 5 inches wide, and half an inch thick and made of ash wood”—used for corporal punishment.
Just last month, another video of corporal punishment at school went viral. This time it was at a San Antonio, Texas middle school, where a school police officer body-slammed a 12-year-old girl. The local NBC affiliate reported that the officer was put on paid leave after the incident.
Unfortunately, being in a state where corporal punishment is illegal doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen. Earlier this month, New York City parents and students filed a 96-page class-action lawsuit against the New York Department of Education, claiming that it has failed to protect their children from violence and bullying. While many of the allegations had to do with how schools were failing to prevent bullying and student-on-student violence, there were also some claims of teacher-student abuse. One plaintiff said a teacher dragged her 7-year-old son down a flight of stairs. Afterward, the teacher was permitted to stay on in the classroom, but was eventually arrested on assault charges in an attack on a different child. Another parent said that a teacher attacked her 8-year-old son, and that the school did nothing about it.
“Today my son is still suffering from what the teacher had attacked him from [sic],” said the mother of a boy who had been abused at school. “He’s afraid of men. He’s afraid of someone touching his ear. He panics in fear.”