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From the land of Rick Perry, the proud paddlers

Latest Texas outrage: beating children in school

Susan Reimer

6:00 AM EDT, October 8, 2012

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You've got to love Texas.

Texas, the state that likes to remind the rest of the nation that it is bigger than England and France combined and was an independent republic before it deigned to be a state.

Texas, the state that gave us both the money to fund the tea party and Gov. Rick Perry, the one-time presidential hopeful who said recently, "Let me go on the record as saying I believe in Satan," and that the evil one was working through the "secularists and the left."

Yep. You've got to love Texas, back in the headlines again because two high school girls in Springtown were paddled by a male vice principal hard enough to raise welts.

The paddling wasn't the problem. The problem was the sex of the person who delivered it. School district policy required that paddling be administered only by an administrator of the same sex.

After the mothers complained about the bruising, the school board approved a rule change allowing opposite-sex paddling.

Presumably, that was to protect itself against litigation, but the superintendent of the school district said it was actually because there weren't enough female administrators to do the job, which is another kind of affirmative action story altogether.

The school board had a policy that allowed parents to opt out of paddling, but they changed that to require parents to opt in, and we can talk about the parenting implications of that, too, if you wish. Only one swat per paddling, and parents can only request one paddling per semester in lieu of another form of punishment.

Texas state law doesn't address any age limits on the child to be paddled, so you can probably have your kindergartner paddled, too, if he isn't sitting quietly during story time or if he is grabbing his neighbor's snack or if the Ritalin isn't kicking in.

I bet you think I am just being mean to Texas parents, but one of the mothers in this case tearfully apologized for putting Springtown in the news, and the other said paddling in school was OK "because they need it once in a while, and I got them when I was a kid."

We can talk about the sexual implications of a male administrator paddling a nubile high school girl, too, but we probably should wait until a video shows up on YouTube, which shouldn't take very long.

This is Texas, after all, a state that now requires a sonogram performed with a vaginal probe before an abortion, so it is pretty clear they don't think about the sanctity of a person's body the same way some of us do.

Paddling, or corporal punishment, in school is permitted in 18 states besides Texas, and NBC News reports that, as an example, 220,000 students were paddled during the 2005-2006 school year.

One online commenter pointed out that you never heard of any school shootings back in the day, when just about every school permitted paddling — which may have more to do with the number of guns loose in our society than in the number of paddles in high schools, but you can't be sure.

As a personal matter, my husband resolved this in our household when he made the astute observation that there would be no point in spanking our son because he would never give us reason to stop.

I am not opposed to a whack on the bottom to get a child's attention, but signing a document giving some unknown (and probably male because, you know, you can never find a woman administrator when you need one) official permission to wallop my child for some unforeseen transgression seems a bit much.

You can't beat your wife in this country. You can't walk up to a stranger and punch him (although you can shoot him if you live in Florida). You can't whip your dog without somebody calling the SPCA. And you can't even beat your own child without risking a visit from social services.

But in Texas, you can fill out a form and get a school administrator to do it.

And they complain about big government down there.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at susan.reimer@baltsun.com and @Susan Reimer on Twitter.com.

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