A school district in Missouri is giving parents the option of administering corporal punishment to their children.
The Cassville R-IV School District in southwest Missouri near the Arkansas border has advised parents that they can opt in to physical discipline, per district policy. and parents who spoke to NBC News.
Missouri is one of 19 states where corporal punishment is legal.
The policy, adopted on June 16, defines corporal punishment as “the use of physical force as a method of correcting student behavior”.
“Corporal punishment, as a measure of correction or to maintain discipline and order in schools, is permitted,” the policy states.
“However, it should only be used when all other alternative means of discipline have failed, and only in reasonable form and on the recommendation of the principal. It should never be inflicted in the presence of other students.”
The policy also states that corporal punishment should only be administered by certified personnel in the presence of a witness who is an employee of the district. Corporal punishment, according to the policy, must be administered in a manner “that there is no risk of injury or bodily harm. Hitting a student in the head or face is prohibited.
The policy does not explicitly state how corporal punishment will be administered.
No one in the district, including Superintendent Dr. Merlyn Johnson, was reached for comment Thursday.
Johnson told NBC Today via email that the administration’s policies “can be found online” and that they have “given interviews to multiple outlets.” He added: “For now, we will focus on educating our students.”
Springfield’s Chief Information Officer in missouri reported that the district dropped corporal punishment in 2001. But Johnson told the outlet that some parents have asked if the district can “paddle” their children.
“Parents said ‘why can’t you paddle my student?’ and we’re like, ‘We can’t paddle your student, our policy doesn’t support that,'” Johnson told the newspaper. “There had been a conversation with parents and there had been requests from parents that we were looking into the matter.”
Johnson told NBC affiliate KYTV in Springfield that a survey sent to parents, students and staff in May ultimately led to the new policy.
“One of the suggestions that came up was about student discipline,” Johnson told KYTV. “So we reacted by implementing several different strategies, corporal punishment being one of them.”
Parents in the district had differing opinions on the return to corporal punishment.
Kimberly Richardson has three children in the Cassville school system, ranging in grades two through five.
Richardson said classes started on Tuesday and she “withdrew.”
“I’m just not going to allow it. I will not let other people spank my children,” she said.
Richardson said it appears the district is regressing with politics. She also fears that a child could be harmed if corporal punishment goes “too far”. But Richardson acknowledged that it is up to each parent to determine what is best for their family.
Dylan Burns, who has a preschooler and a fifth grader in the school district, “opted in” and doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He said his children told him they would never be in enough trouble to be spanked.
Burns also said other nearby school districts had suffered corporal punishment for decades.
“They’re the only school in this area that hasn’t done it before,” he said. “The great thing about it is that we all have a choice. If you want to do it, that’s fine. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine too.”
Helen Kwong and Chantal Da Silva contributed.