Why are Tennessee schools so paddle-prone? According to the most recent survey by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, 44,860 students were paddled in Tennessee schools during the 1999-2000 school year.
That's 4.2 percent of the student population, up from 4 percent in 1997-98, the first increase in more than a decade.
In fact, Tennessee is ranked fourth in the percentage of students receiving corporal punishment among the 50 states.
Tennessee's overall fourth-place ranking may well mask an even greater prevalence of paddling because the state's students are reported as receiving corporal punishment only one time though they may have been paddled numerous times that year.
While 28 U.S. states have outlawed paddling during the past three decades, the practice remains a classroom constant across much of the Bible Belt.
The suspicion lingers that paddling survives in Tennessee and some surrounding states not because it produces more disciplined students, but merely because it was done so in the past.
If that is true, parents, educators and lawmakers need to take a fresh look at whether the reasons for continuing this practice outweigh the physical and emotional harm it does to children.
The discipline of children may be achieved in a variety of ways. Most of the world and much of the United States decided long ago that beating children was not the best way to achieve that desired goal. That doesn't necessarily make Tennessee wrong, but it should make Tennesseans question if it's the right approach.
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