3,485 Students Were Paddled in Florida Public Schools in a Year

Old-school punishment is still used in certain parts of Florida.
Old-school punishment is still used in certain parts of Florida.
Photo by Wesley Fryer | Flickr CC2.0

Paddling as a disciplinary measure in school may seem archaic, but it's still practiced widely in certain Florida counties.

Though the practice is outlawed in 31 states, Florida leaves it up to each individual school district to make the call. Turns out 28 of Florida's 67 school districts are still down with paddling, and two particular counties, Holmes and Madison, both located along the Georgia border, paddle about 10 percent of their students a year.

The information comes from a University of Florida College of Education study that tallied the instances of paddling in schools in Florida during the 2010 and 2011 school year. The study found 3,485 instances of corporal punishment during that time.

The Suwannee County District was the most paddle-happy by pure numbers. The district doled out 359 paddle-assisted spankings in the nearly-6,000-student district.

Holmes County came in second place with 300 spankings, but the district has a student population of only 3,300, which means almost 10 percent of students were paddled in the district. Madison County also had a paddling rate of 10 percent, while Washington County's rate was about 9 percent. Most of those paddlings were handed down to elementary school students. The study also found that corporal punishment was disproportionally used on African-American male students.

Interestingly, Madison Couny decided to ban corporal punishment the year after the data was collected but decided to reinstate the punishment for particularly egregious misbehavior in 2013.

Of course, here in the 21st Century, corporal punishment is widely viewed as more harmful than helpful. Research shows that paddling has little long-term positive effects on students' behavior and can increase feelings of hostility and rage while decreasing self-esteem.

The researchers behind the study -- Brianna Kennedy-Lewis and Joseph Gagnon -- have now presented their research to the Florida Legislature in the hopes of having a statewide ban on corporal punishment instituted.

"Paddling is archaic," Gagnon said in a release. "We need to spread awareness that scientific evidence increasingly justifies abolishing corporal punishment in favor of more effective, positive ways to manage classroom behavior."

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