Some small school districts in Texas still paddle poorly behaving students, and protesters at the Capitol today said they want the swatting to stop. They urged lawmakers to outlaw the use of corporal punishment like 30 other states have done.
Tyler Anastopoulos, a 17-year-old student in Wichita Falls said he has been consistently paddled by school officials. Even small offenses, like chewing gum, cursing and missing detention, he said, can trigger a paddling. Anastopoulos says he's been paddled 50 or 60 times, but he questions the lesson of corporal punishment.
"They say it's job preparation," Anastopoulos said. "It's kind of embarrassing being 17 and getting swatted by a grown man when I'm almost a grown man myself."
Jimmy Dunne, spokesman for People Opposed to Paddling Students, said the swatting needs to stop. Research shows that the use of paddling in schools increases dropout rates, he said.
State Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, filed HB 359, which would ban corporal punishment in public schools. She called the practice child abuse.
"Schools should be happy places for children," Allen said. Educators should practice mediation, she said, allowing students to explain themselves and understand why they misbehaved, rather than resorting to corporal punishment.
Supporters of banning corporal punishment, including Anastopoulos and entrepreneur Marc Ecko of the apparel company Ecko Unlimited, also testified before the House Public Education Committee.
"School is supposed to be a job preparation," Anastopoulos said "I don't see a boss telling their coworkers that it's time for them to get their swats."
Anastopoulos' mother, Angie Herring said that an administrator at the school walked around carrying, "a Bible and a paddle." A sign on campus read, "The beatings will continue, until morale is up."
Ecko said he's not a Texan, but he is concerned because his products — T-shirts, hoodies and watches among them — attract school-aged youths. Ecko recently started a campaign against corporal punishment, with billboards in states that still allow paddling in schools and an active social media component.
"I think that this is a bold, brave piece of legislation," Ecko said.
Ecko said he had tried to bring in paddles to the Capitol, but Department of Public Safety officers at the building considered them weapons.
The committee left the bills pending.