Rather than spend two days in in-school suspension for allegedly letting another student copy her classwork, Taylor Santos, a well-regarded student and athlete at Springtown High School, near Fort Worth, Texas, chose to get paddled.
As her mother, Anna Jorgensen, told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas, Taylor didn’t want to miss any classes because “her grades are very important to her.”
So Santos went to the vice principal’s office to request a paddling. She called her mom, who said that as long as her daughter was OK with it, so was she. According to school policy, parents who don’t want their children to subject to corporal punishment must submit a written statement each year.
What neither Jorgenson nor Santos knew was that a man — the vice principal — would be doing the swatting, while a female watched. As far as Jorgensen knew, she said, school policy mandated that males spanked males and females spanked females.
Because of the force with with Santos was struck, her bottom was fire-engine red and looked as if it had been “burned and blistered,” said Jorgensen, who took photos as evidence.
Another student, Jada Watt, said she smarted off to the same male vice principal, and received the same punishment, which was observed by a male police officer. Her mother, Cathi, said she “wasn’t expecting a bruise.”
“A swat is a swat–yes it is and they do sting. But to bruise a child? If I had done that, they would have called CPS on me,” Cathi Watt said. “Two men giving her a swat behind closed doors, that is creepy,” she added.
While paddling in public schools has been outlawed by 31 states, as well as by Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that it was legal unless it has abolished by local authorities, according to the web site Corpun.com.
It is legal in 19 states; efforts to ban it in Wyoming, North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas failed. However, in 2011 laws were introduced in both Texas and North Carolina giving parents the right to exempt their students from paddling.
“A lot of people think it was abolished 20 years ago,” Jimmy Dunne, president of People Opposed to Paddling Students (POPS), told ABC News. A former math teacher in the Houston Middle Schools, Dunne founded POPS in 1981 and has been the spanker and spankee. But he refused to participate after noticing that some teachers were “getting sadistic pleasure out of hitting these kids.”
He has actively tried to get schools to curb the practice ever since, but he has met with resistance. In June, he appeared at an anti-corporal punishment in schools rally in Washington, D.C., and will be attending a school board meeting on Monday after a 13-year-old student at Barbers Hill Middle School in Houston was covered with welts and bruises after a paddling he received for getting three consecutive zero grades.
“Members of the Texas legislature say, ‘I was paddled, and I turned out OK,’” he said. “Or they say they want to leave it up to the local district to decide. They think it’s good discipline. But it’s legalized child abuse. I always say if this was done away from the school, the person would be arrested.”
The day after her daughter’s paddling, Jorgensen called the vice principal to complain, but was told it was “normal for her bottom to look like this after receiving swats.” The vice principal added that he had no idea about the same gender swatting, Jorgensen said.
Neither Jorgensen, nor the vice principal nor Springtown ISD Superintendent Mike Kelley, was available for comment by ABC News. But according to WFAA, Kelley is going to ask the school board to abolish the same gender policy, since adhering to it can be difficult on some campuses.
Jorgensen told WFAA that she will be at the school board meeting to encourage them not to abolish the same-gender policy. “I think Taylor is proof that we need to keep that policy,” she said. “I don’t believe a man intentionally meant to do that to her, but it still happens, because men are too big and strong to be hitting 96-pound girls.”