Where Corporal Punishment Is Still Used In Schools, Its Roots Run Deep
Robbinsville High School sits in a small gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Green slopes dotted with cattle hug in around the school before they rise into a thick cover of pine trees.
David Matheson is the principal here. And he's the only high school principal in the state who still performs corporal punishment. At Robbinsville, corporal punishment takes the form of paddling - a few licks on the backside Matheson delivers with a long wooden paddle.
North Carolina state law describes corporal punishment, as "The intentional infliction of physical pain upon the body of a student as a disciplinary measure."
Robbinsville High School's policy allows students to request a paddling in place of in-school-suspension, or ISS. Last year, 22 students chose it.
"Most kids will tell you that they choose the paddling so they don't miss class," Matheson says.
One of those students is Allison Collins. She's a senior now and says she chose to be paddled her sophomore year after her phone went off in class. She describes it as, "My first time ever being in trouble."
Collins went to the assistant principal's office where she was told she had a day of in-school-suspension. Collins told Principal Matheson she'd rather take a paddling and so he called her father to get permission.
"And my dad was like, 'Just paddle her,'" she says. "Because down here in the mountains, we do it the old-school way."
That's the policy here. Principal Matheson paddles a student only if he gets permission from their parent. And, he says, very few parents opt out. Matheson grew up here and went to school with a lot of his students' parents. "It's something that the family decides," he adds.
Nationwide, it's not unusual for parents to support the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline. Recent surveys show about 75 percent of Americans believe it's sometimes necessary to spank a child.