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Texas city revives paddling as it takes a swat at misbehavior
In Alvin, a formerly agricultural city of 23,000 that has been swallowed by Houston's suburbs in the past decade, the policy is on the books but not used in many schools.
"I don't think it's that simple anymore," said Terry Constantine, who added that she hasn't swung a paddle in her 16 years as an elementary school principal there. "We look for our parents to work with us now."
At Alvin High School, where the technique is used, Principal Kevon Wells said he had paddled students about six times this school year. If a student continued to misbehave, he said, he wouldn't do it again. "I'm not into beating kids," he said.
But in Temple, a city just outside Fort Hood that shakes with the air horns of the trains that pass through its rail yards, many residents say they hope that the old-fashioned solution can address what they see as rising disrespect among youth. They say their discipline problems aren't different from those in any other school system in the country: students showing up late for class, or violating the dress code, or talking during lessons. Those habits were unheard of in the days when schoolteachers routinely swung a paddle, they say.
"Back then, you wouldn't throw spitballs, because you were afraid of the consequences," said Darr Kuykendall, a worker for a plumbing supply company.
"A lot of kids have tempers," said Abby Jones, a junior at Temple High School. "Those kids that would be paddled would think of it as a threat . . . and maybe would be better."
Parents also pushed for the change because many paddle their children at home and wanted consistent discipline in the classroom, said John Hancock, assistant superintendent of administration for the Temple schools, who has been an educator for more than 40 years.
"We're rural central Texas. We're very well educated, but still there are those core values. Churches are full on Sundays," Hancock said. "This is a tool we'd like in the toolbox for responding to discipline issues."
Hancock, an urbane, sturdily built Colorado native who wears horn-rimmed glasses, said the school system had banned corporal punishment about six years ago because a state law change made what was permissible uncertain. Follow-up made clear that schools could paddle, he said.
Since the policy was changed in May, the school system has paddled only one student, and that was at the request of his parent, Hancock said.
Many districts, including Temple, which is nearly evenly divided among white, black and Hispanic students, require parental consent before the punishment is given. Temple also requires the student's consent, Hancock said, and the punishment is considered equivalent to an out-of-school suspension.
Residents said restoring paddling is less about the punishment and more about the threat.
"It's like speeding," said Bill Woodward, a graphic designer. "Are they going to give you a speeding ticket, or . . . a warning? I'd speed all day if I knew it was going to be a warning."