Lawsuit Aims to Put End to Paddling as Punishment in Mississippi Schools

Filed under: In The News

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Credit: Corbis


Abolished in a majority of states, paddling is still practiced in Mississippi schools, but a federal lawsuit is hoping to strike a blow against corporal punishment.

The lawsuit seeks a "preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order to prevent paddlings" while the court considers the request that Mississippi ban paddling as unconstitutional because it is "unfairly applied based on gender and race," the Hattiesburg American newspaper reports.

The suit is filed on behalf of 16-year-old student William Cody Childress, a student at Independence High School in Coldwater, Miss. Childress says that in September 2009, he was looking at a camera in a classroom when he was hit twice "with excessive force," the Mississippi newspaper reports. Apparently, the female student the camera belonged to was not punished, the newspaper continues.

After Childress arrived home, his stepmother brought him to the hospital and contacted the county sheriff's office, the American says. Childress claims that as a result of the paddling, he was unable to "sit or use the restroom for days," according to the American.

Pictures of the student's injuries were taken. However, Gary Walker, the school district's superintendent, reportedly told the family there was "no evidence of wrongdoing," the paper reports.

Named in the suit are the school district, its superintendent and the school's principal. Due to the pending litigation, the school administrators would not speak to the newspaper. The lawsuit, the American reports, "seeks damages and attorneys fees," as well as "a declaration that corporal punishment on students is unconstitutional."

According to the newspaper, "about 30 states have banned paddling," however, the lawsuit incorporates Department of Education statistics that more than 220,000 students were paddled in the 2006-2007 school year with most of the incidents occurring in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. The suit states that in that school year, Mississippi paddled 7.5 percent of its student population, or 30,000 students, whereas Texas paddled 49,197 students representing slightly more than 1 percent of its student population, the American reports.

Besides the gender bias mentioned in the suit, the paper says "black students are paddled at disproportionate rates" and the state does not "clearly state" why a student would deserve a paddling.

Related: Corporal Punishment

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