Greenbrier School District has recently been in the national spotlight after a tweet from a parent went viral gaining attention from users and media outlets all across the U.S.
“My kid and two other students walked out of their rural, very conservative, public school for 17 minutes today,” a tweet by parent, Jerusalem Greer, reads. “They were given two punishment options. They chose corporal punishment. This generation is not playing around. #walkout.”
Greer is referring to the national protest by high school students March 14 marking the one-month anniversary of the 17 students gunned down and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The story about the paddling has been picked up by Cosmopolitan, USA Today, CNN and more and also received recognition by actress and activist Patricia Arquette.
The attention spurred the Log Cabin Democrat to reach out to the surrounding districts, including Greenbrier, to talk about corporal punishment, defined as spanking or paddling a child as a means of discipline.
While many states prohibit the use of corporal punishment in schools, under Arkansas’ School Disciplines Act, it remains legal.
The LCD spoke with Greenbrier Superintendent Scott Spainhour on Friday, who said they use corporal punishment in accordance with the state law and the district’s policy.
“It’s not our first go to at all,” he said.
In addition, Spainhour said, it is also not used without permission by the parents either in written or verbal form.
In the case of the three students involved in the walkout — which violated school policy of walking out during school hours — Spainhour said they were all given a choice of a paddling or a two-day detention and they chose the paddling.
He said lots of things happen, including multiple warnings, before a kid gets a paddling.
“We don’t paddle [every] child that gets in trouble for something,” Spainhour said.
He said it’s not as barbaric as people have made it seem, but understands what people are saying and how it looks for those who aren’t from Greenbrier.
“People think it’s like the Wild Wild West and that’s not how it is,” Spainhour said.
He said, “[I] assure you, [our] intent is not to hurt kids,” and overall, the “discipline measure,” is “not intended for long-term harm,” and isn’t used in every case.
Spainhour said if the school and the parent don’t think corporal punishment will be effective on the specific child, other consequences including Saturday school, detention, suspension and more could be used.
Vilonia School District Superintendent David Stephens said they also still use corporal punishment, but like Greenbrier, it’s not the “first go-to” consequence they prefer to use like possible lunch detention, in school suspension, Saturday school or in the case of elementary students, lost time at recess.
“It really depends on the age and the grade level,” he said.
In addition, Stephens said, they also typically don’t administer corporal punishment without a parent’s permission.
He said in most cases where it’s used, it’s at the request of the student or parent.
Recently, Stephens said, a high school student was presented with Saturday school but said, “can I just take swats and get it over with.”
Different from the two previous, Conway School District Communication Specialist Heather Kendrick said they stopped using corporal punishment close to 15 years ago.
“We stopped because our elementary principals, along with the school board, decided that other options served as better deterrents,” she said.
The district’s handbook states, “The Conway School Board of Education has a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the District’s students and employees. To help maintain a safe environment conducive to high school achievement, the Board established policies necessary to regulate student behavior to promote an orderly school environment that is respectful of the rights of others and ensures the uniform enforcement of student discipline.”
CPS infractions and consequences included in the handbook includes warnings, parent contact, parent conferences, detention, denial of recess or privileges, in-school and out-of-school suspension, Saturday school and more.
The LCD reached out to Guy-Perkins School District and Mayflower School District but did not receive a reply before press time Saturday.