When Alabama mom Wendy Chandler opened her daughter's "Back to School" packet, she was shocked to discover that among the many papers sent to her, was a "Corporal Punishment Parental Consent Form."
The permission slip, which has been making the Internet rounds since The New York Times reported the story this week, reads in part:
"According to Leeds City Schools Public Policy, parents or legal guardians who do not want corporal punishment to be administered to their child/children must inform the principal of the school on an annual basis."
The document also states that if parents fail to fill it out and hand it back to administrators, the elementary school will regard that as implicit consent to administer physical discipline. But as for what that entails exactly, and what infractions would warrant that discipline, the paper doesn't specify.
Chandler explained to The Huffington Post that she originally thought the form had to have been some sort of mistake. But realizing that her daughter's new school was serious about hitting students, she ticked off the "No" box and wrote this response at the bottom of the form:
"I can not imagine how it would ever be okay to show violence towards anyone. Hitting a child is beyond disgraceful. Anyone who could hit a child should be thrown in jail."
Now Chandler has started a Change.org petition asking President Obama and other government officials to ban the use of physical force in public schools nationwide.
It sounds like an argument straight out of the 1950s, but surprisingly in 2013, 19 states still allow public schools to administer corporal punishment to children. And since the story broke, Internet commenters have brought up the old "spare the rod, spoil the child" arguments in favor of what many others consider to be a barbaric practice.
According to a 2008 report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, students in states that allow corporal punishment are often hit with objects like paddles, and for minor infractions like chewing gum or dress code violations. As a result, "many children are left injured, degraded, and disengaged from school."
Chandler told HuffPo her new mission to eradicate corporal punishment from schools goes well above and beyond the short-term safety of her daughter. "My immediate concern is for all those other kids [whose parents checked yes on the form] because those children are my child's future colleagues and neighbors."