A. J. Wolfe, photographer for The Commercial Appeal, clicked this one of a coach swinging his paddle at a player's buttocks in front of an attentive audience of teammates. When the coaches became aware the activity was being photographed, they huddled, then told the photographer to leave the locker room. Later, when reporter Aimee Edmondson, asked them about the paddling, they told her that they were in compliance with the law and with school guidelines.
"We are doing just about all we can do," [Assistant coach Williams] said. "At some point, the responsibility has to go to the students, just like a coach can't go out and make a tackle for you."
In an attempt to motivate the players, coaches require Melrose [Memphis area High School] players to take weekly progress forms to their teachers. Teachers fill in grades, conduct scores and unexcused absences.
Just as a father would do, coaches review each player's report cards every six weeks. Those with bad grades line up for the punishment: licks with a wooden paddle wrapped in athletic tape.
Five for an F. Three for a D. Three for bad marks in conduct.
The coaches don't apologize.
"We are not making jocks to run up and down the football field," said Logan, who works as a security guard nights and weekends, volunteering at Melrose during the day. "We are making young men."
The above material was excerpted from "Short of the Goal" by Aimee Edmondson, writer for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, January 14, 2001. The complete article can be read at
and letters to the editor can be sent through that site.
A Letter from LaVaughn Bridges, Principal, Melrose High School, Memphis to A. M. Ansari, President/Founder, STOP/The African American Association To Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools, P.O. Box 111302, Nashville, Tn 37222
January 29, 2001
Let me begin by saying that if a comprehensive and factual depiction of our academic support services was the goal of the article in the Sunday, January 14, 2001, Commercial Appeal, an interview and statements from the chief building administrator were essential. As you noticed in the article, this did not occur.
Secondly, the administration does not condone "paddling" student athletes if failing grades or poor conduct is reported. The coaching staff did not seek, or consult with, or receive approval from any administration regarding such activity. The administration knows that "paddling" does not and will not produce academic success. We do understand, however, that parents and the community at-large hold us responsible and accountable for the success of students. This accountability holds true not only in their sport, but also more importantly, in the classroom.
Thirdly, we have an Athletic Manual detailing the monitoring process in the areas of attendance, behavior, and academic performance of each student athlete. Timely information from faculty and staff, identifies progress, and or needed areas of support.
Finally, the administration has taken action against the staff involved in this incident; they are no longer a part of the coaching staff of Melrose High School.
LaVaughn Bridges, Principal
See Memphis City policy on school corporal punishment.
ABOUT THE PHOTO
A viewer complains: I can't make heads nor tails of this photo! Help?!
J. Riak replies: Agreed, it isn't the best, but it's probably the only extant photo of a paddling in progress in a public school. Dominating the central portion of the photo is the back of the paddler-- a very large man wearing a straw-colored print shirt, probably a former athlete. His head is tilted forward, like that of a golfer about to strike the ball. The paddle is the bright oblong object in the lower right of the photo. The student being struck is in total shadow at the left side of the photo. He is standing against the blackboard. His body is arched forward, apparently in reaction to just having been hit. The gold colored globe-shaped objects that can be seen between the paddler and the student are football helmets lined up along the wall. At least 15 students, all intently watching the event, are clearly visible. Two appear to be laughing.
RISK OF INJURY
Readers interested in the physical dangers of "paddling" can view photographs of injured students on this Web site. Before activating the following link, please be advised that these images are deeply disturbing to some viewers, and children absolutely should not see them. nospank.net/whacked3.htm