20. HOW JENNY HANDLED A PARENT’S PADDLING COMPLAINT

Dear Readers: All of our prior posts at TWP have ranged from technique to legal issues as well as stories from Michelle, Wendy, Renee and guests Courtney (A TEACHER’S PADDLING: THE OTHER END) and Angela. (A TEACHER/PRINCIPAL’S PAST AND PRESENT TROUBLE) But one person who we have not covered is our fourth contributor: Jenny. For some background on Jenny, check our post ABOUT US for info on Jenny. To restate what was on that blog: Jenny is an Auburn graduate with a background in environmental sciences in addition to her B.S. in Elementary Education. If you were to meet her, she would resemble Sara Palin a bit (Wendy, Michelle and I have teased Jenny about that for months!) but is younger (27) and has long shoulder length hair. Like all of us, she is easy going, mild tempered, and is a brainiac on most anything involving science and technology. Some of her background came in handy as the story below demonstrates.

HOW JENNY HANDLED A PARENT’S PADDLING COMPLAINT

WRITTEN BY JENNY

EDITED BY RENEE

Greetings to all TWP readers! As the more intellectual member (O.K., Renee- You can stop laughing now!) I have waited to tell my story because, in my opinion, the other stories have set the stage for what I am going to present: The aftermath and repercussions of a school paddling.

Our feedback from readers has ranged from accusations of abuse to dismissive words such as “light” or “phony” with regards to TWP’s descriptions and recommendations on paddling in school. But one point by a reader was very clear: How can you tell if a paddling was too severe? We at TWP all understand that question because teachers paddle students on the seat of their pants and do not know 100% if bruising did or did not occur. This is a potential downside to paddling and is why TWP advocates school nurses as paddling witnesses. The reason for that is- No school will EVER allow teachers to physically check students for bruises and if they did- No teacher should EVER do so. On the other hand, a licensed nurse is a health care professional and could be trusted in a private ‘check” for bruising.

That uncertainty is why teachers in most legal paddling states have civil and criminal immunity as to the carrying out of a paddling according to the guidelines in school board policy. Any educator that does a paddling without that immunity is a fool- and deserves legal trouble just for being stupid. In our state, the former prevails and I do not worry about jail or losing my family’s home just because I swatted a 9 year old’s butt for cause.

Please do understand-Like Michelle, Wendy, and Renee- I also hate this part of my job. But as a teacher, I would rather use a paddle in a light-moderate application than have a student miss 3 to 5 days on suspension.

Even with the careful use of the paddle by all of us at TWP, we have never been completely sure about our techniques until a year ago. (FYI: Our being careful not to paddle too severely PREDATES the TWP blog- going back to Renee’s first year!) This story happened around the time when I had a parent complain to me about a paddling I gave her son.

I remember that day so well it could have been yesterday. The actual paddling occurred that morning and was three moderate swats on the blue jeaned bottom of Mike, a typical, rough playing 9 year old in my 4th grade class. The “crime” was for intentionally tripping a student in class who Mike had an ongoing dispute with for several days. Mike had already been warned about serious consequences for repeatedly scuffling with the other kid and had to sit out of recess before the tripping and the paddling. Michelle was my witness and, as all TWP readers know, would never ignore an abusive paddling. As to Mike- his reaction to the paddle was typical with pleading, a couple of owww’s, and a flushed face but no tears. As to the last, that’s fine with me since I feel awful already without a teary child to console. Before going back to the room, I did explain that paddling was something I always hated doing but that Mike gave me no other recourse. A sober Mike seemed to understand and I tried to put the issue behind us and to make a fresh start going forward.

Unfortunately, Mike’s mother- who picked him up after school that day- thought otherwise and decided to confront me about it when her son mentioned the paddling. I was still in my classroom grading a few papers when Mary trooped in with a sullen Mike following her. I knew right away what was next, thinking to myself,” Just when the 2:00 p.m. Tylenol was starting to kick in…”

” Mrs. Jenny ….., I have a real problem with you…and your paddling my dear Mike!” blurted Mary.

I may be easy going but unlike Michelle, I will push back if pushed. I explained that all school policies were followed and that if Mary did not want Mike paddled, all she had to do was opt Mike out of paddling.

“I’m not absolutely opposed to paddling but…For trivial reasons?…And bruising?…Unacceptable!” declared Mary.

Poor Michelle would have probably wilted right then and there but my name is JENNY, not Michelle. So I decided to probe a little by asking,”What reason did Mike give for being paddled?”

“For turning sideways at his desk…You paddled him without merit!” Mary answered.

Knowing the truth, I had to stifle a smile as I responded,”Mike, tell your mom and me the REST OF THE STORY!”

Mike was quiet and did not utter a peep.

With Michelle standing in the doorway (We were riding together to our aerobics class that evening) I then stated,”Since Mike isn’t up to telling you the whole story, I will!…Mike intentionally tripped another student in class today and I had to separate the two to keep them from a full blown fight…The other kid has the only bruise- on his right elbow from the fall…I gave him an ice pack and the elbow is just sore but that’s the worst…”

“All right…I was wrong about accusing you of paddling for ‘trivial’ reasons but my darling was still bruised by you and your paddle!” countered Mary.

“And how do you know this?…Let me guess…Mike TOLD you…Right?” I asked knowing that an accusation does not equal truth.

“I have evidence right here!…On my phone-cam…I took the picture using the empty ‘boy’s room’ just a few minutes ago…” chirped Mary.

When I heard this, I was a little concerned because the situation was moving in a uncertain direction- but I did truly believe that my paddling could not have resulted in bruising.

“Let me see that…” I asked, taking the phone-cam from Mary.

The picture was hard to desconcern but the image did show a bare bottom that I could tell was Mike’s because the back of his shirt was slightly showing. I wanted a better picture so, like a flash of lightening, I had a brainstorm idea.

“I want to print this out so we will have a much better image to look at…Right, Michelle?” I winked as a nervous Michelle nodded.

Mary started to object but I was firm since I had already been accused and only wanted the whole truth- not half baked lies or half truths. Since I also use a phone-cam and had a computer set up in the back of the room with my own color printer, it was easy to down load the image and print it.

The end result (No pun intended) was an image of Mike’s bare and UNBRUISED bottom. It did, however, show a faint horizontal pink stripe across the lower bottom and I certainly felt bad about that…But still felt worse for the boy with a bruised elbow.

“Doesn’t look like bruising to me, Mary…What say you, Michelle?” I asked- looking away from Mary and towards Michelle who seemed relieved after inspecting the printout.

Michelle shook her head affirmatively.

“This is your copy, Mary- and I’ll keep this other copy…And you mind putting your ‘John Hancock’ on my copy?” I politely requested of Mary.(I did this so it could be clearly established where the picture came from.)

“Now that I have clear evidence that no bruising took place TODAY-Thanks to the date and time on the bottom of the photo here- I am sure that this matter is settled because NOTHING will come of a formal complaint to authorities or the school board based on THIS picture…And let me assure you, Mary- If ANY other photos of bruising ‘show up’ later, I Will go straight to the Sheriff’s Department and Michelle will as well!” I spoke- clear as daylight.

“Are you threatening me?” responded a surprised Mary.

“I don’t make threats, Mary…But I always keep my promises…Especially concerning children since I’m a mother myself!” I replied.

“Hmmpf!” Mary snorted in disappointment as she stormed out with Mike while muttering, “Paddlers…”

Nothing else came up about the matter and I requested that Mike be placed on the “Do Not Paddle” list because of my concern for Mike’s well-being and what his mother had already attempted to do. This concern stemmed from my fear that a future school paddling might result in parental abuse of Mike for the purpose of litigation against the school. Mary was informed of the change in disciplinary status the next morning and all of us teachers watched Mike for any signs of abuse. As far as we know, no abuse ever occurred. Today, Mike is a rough-and-tumble 5th grader in Wendy’s class- but has not been in serious trouble.

This story should demonstrate what kind of people we really are: Caring professional educators who truly care about ALL of our students. I feel fortunate that Mary made the “mistake” of seeing me first and showing her “evidence” because- who knows?- Mary might have been tempted later to “add” to what little was shown in the picture. The lesson in what happened a year ago is that witnesses AND DOCUMENTATION is critically needed when paddling is used in school- Because we live in an imperfect world!

 

MEMO TO JAMES R. : We were pleased to receive your email. Due to the volume of comments sent to us, TWP cannot directly post them on our blog. However, your email does raise some issues that we will address after our Thanksgiving break. One Question: Did your “Diversionary Discipline” occur before or after the Ingraham v. Wright (1977) U.S. Supreme Court decision?

 

COMING NEXT: I AM THANKFUL FOR…

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: