Spankers face low pay, few jobs, and hurdles to advancement.
By M Dolon Hickmon
May 27, 2014 – Florida’s public school system is currently the fourth largest in the USA; and with population projected to increase by nearly two-million people by the year 2020, opportunities for educators are sure to abound. But before accepting a position in one of Florida’s fast-growing rural counties, career minded educators may want to inquire about the district’s corporal punishment policy.
Florida is one of 19 US states that still allow students to be paddled by school employees, according to figures published by the Center for Effective Discipline. But while school paddling is permitted by state law with very few restrictions, among professional educators support for the practice has seen a steep and continuing decades-long decline.
George Tomyn is the Superintendent of Marion County Public Schools, a mid-sized district whose demographics have shifted with its growing population. Driven by the fickle whims of local election politics, Tomyn has seen his school board flip-flop from banning paddling, to allowing it and then back again over the course of just a couple of years. “I was supportive of the code not permitting corporal punishment,” Tomyn told Education Today back in 2013. “My personal preference was to not paddle here in Marion County.”
An analysis of all 67 Florida school district policies found that prohibitions against school paddling are the norm on Florida’s public school campuses. Currently, paddling is permitted in around half of Florida counties; but while districts that do spank occupy ample space on the map, they tend to be located in sparsely populated areas, with fewer schools and mostly lower paying teaching jobs.
Data reveal that on 85% of Florida public school campuses, educators who say they can’t manage students without paddling need not apply. Factor in counties that allow spanking but never actually use it, and the percentage of Florida schools that would not employ a committed spanker climbs to 90%. In addition to facing a job shortage, educators who rely on the paddle are likely to earn significantly less: Districts that paddle supply all of Florida’s worst paying high school principal positions, and 82% of paddling districts pay below the $92,000 average salary of a non-paddling high school administrator. The yearly shortfall for paddlers is around $10,000 on average, but 58% of paddling high-school principals earn even less. In comparison, half of non-paddling districts paid their high school principals above $92,000 per year. And, because these figures take into account cost of living differences between affluent suburbs, which mostly don’t spank, and small rural counties, which typically do, the pay gap in absolute dollars is even greater.
Of equal concern for education professionals: national research has shown that school systems that paddled their students performed the worst and improved the least on a key standardized test–of new significance in an era when student test scores are increasingly linked to educators’ performance evaluations.
Finally, as evolving public sentiment converges with evidence in favor of non-physical discipline measures, it is worth wondering whether participation in school paddling might someday be viewed as a black mark on a job candidate’s application. Kevin Christian, an official with Marian County Public Schools, said: “To my knowledge, questions about paddling have never been asked as part of this district’s hiring process; however, knowing how to paddle students is not a skill that our district is looking for in a school administrator.”
[Districts marked in pink allow paddling but had no reported paddling incidents in the most recently reported period. District policies were determined based on board policy, code of conduct, and where necessary other information including news reports and FOIA requests to district personnel. Relevant policy number is cited when one was available. CoC stands for Code of Conduct. Some districts ban corporal punishment by removing all references to it from student handbooks and board policy manuals; these are listed as ‘by omission’. Average pay is for a high school principal in 2011 including adjustments for living costs between districts; figures courtesy of http://www.ledgerdata.com/education-staff-salary/. District school counts from http://florida.educationbug.org/public-schools/ Adult education campuses were not counted. Paddling incidents as reported by http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/maps/corporal-punishment-in-florida-schools/]