In the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff department: A Texas school district changed its rules on which administrators can paddle students after parents complained that male assistant principals whacked two girls so hard that they reportedly had bruises.

As the Associated Press reported, the parents weren’t actually upset that their daughters were paddled at Springtown High School in Springtown, Texas. They were angry because the paddlings had violated a district rule that said students could only be paddled by administrators of the same sex.

So what did the school district do after the complaints? Administrators changed the rule. Now a male administrator can paddle a female — or a female can paddle a male — as long as an administrator who is the same sex as the student is there as a witness.

The AP quoted one parent, Cathi Watt, whose daughter was one of the two who had been disciplined by paddling, as saying that kids should be whacked at school sometimes, “because they need it once in a while, and I got them when I was a kid.”

So why was her daughter paddled in the first place?

She spoke sarcastically to a teacher.

This kind of punishment, incidentally, is not singular to Springtown High, the district it is in, or even Texas. Nineteen states allow administrators to whack students — 31 states have banned it — and there are very specific rules about how it is to be done.

For example, the policy at Clayton Municipal Schools in New Mexico says in part:

Corporal punishment is defined as punishment that inflicts pain. Use of a wooden paddle only will be used to administer corporal punishment. It may not have any holes in it. Swats are to be given on the buttocks area only. Running laps or stairs is appropriate corporal punishment only for P.E. or athletics. No other form of inflicting pain (slap with ruler, holding book over head) will be allowed.

There is significant research that shows that hitting students is an ineffective form of discipline — and can be harmful to young people not only physically but also socially and psychologically. Besides, the research shows it doesn’t actually change behavior or do anything to improve academic achievement.

But why let evidence get in the way?

Kids still get hit — sometimes by the request of parents who prefer that school administrators paddle their kids then give them a suspension. You can see which states allow it and which don’t on this map, at the website of the nonprofit Center for Effective Discipline, which is dedicated to ending corporal punishment.

If you think that incidents of kids getting smacked at school are rare, guess again. In the 2005-2006 school year, there were 223,190 school children across the country who were subjected to physical punishment, the center said. Children with disabilities, children from low-income families, minorities and boys are hit at up to five times more than other children.

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