Three students in a rural part of Arkansas have allegedly been smacked for participating in Wednesday’s national walkout protesting against gun violence.
Despite that drastic punishment, one student’s mother, Jerusalem J. Greer, applauded her son and the other students at Greenbrier Public School for their defiant protest following the deadly shooting that killed 15 students and two adults at Stoneman Douglas High School last month in Parkland, Florida.
“My kid and two other students walked out of their rural, very conservative, public school for 17 minutes today,” Greer wrote on Twitter. “They were given two punishment options. They chose corporal punishment. This generation is not playing around.”
Greer later said that the students faced what the school calls “swats.”
According to Greenbrier Public School’s official policy, the school board “authorizes the use of corporal punishment to be administered in accordance with this policy by the Superintendent or his/her designated staff members who are required to have a state-issued license as a condition of their employment.”
The handbook says that before students are smacked they are to be “given an explanation of the reasons for the punishment and be given an opportunity to refute the charges. administered privately, i.e. out of the sight and hearing of other students.”
While 31 states across the U.S. have banned corporal punishment, four years ago The Washington Post reported that 19 states still allow administrators to hit students.
Greenbrier Public School, which is located in a town of roughly 5,000 people, only first adopted the seemingly outdated disciplinary policy in 2005 and last updated it in 2012.
The rural Arkansas school’s policy does caution administrations that the physical punishment should not be “excessive, or administered with malice” and should be administered in the presence of another school official or licensed staff member of the district.
The school’s assistant principal, Brett Meek, hung up the phone when The Daily Beast reached out for comment on the school’s regulations. The school’s superintendent, Scott Spainhour, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wylie Greer, one of the students punished, spoke out in a statement to The Daily Beast late Thursday night:
Walking out of class at ten on Monday morning was not an easy thing. Many students were vocally insulting and degrading to the idea of the walk-out and anyone who would participate. At 10:00, I walked out of my classroom to a few gaped mouths and more than a few scowls. I exited the building, sat on the bench, and was alone for a few seconds. I was more than a little concerned that I would be the only one to walk out. I was joined by two others eventually, two of the smartest students at the school. We sat outside the front of the building and were approached first by the principal, who asked us “if he could help us” and “if we understood that there would be consequences.” After we answered affirmatively, he went back inside. A few minutes passed and the dean-of-students approached us. He asked “what we were doing,” we told him that we were protesting gun violence. He told us to go inside. We refused.
After the 17 minutes had passed, we re-entered the building and went to our classes. Over the next two hours, all three of us were called individually to talk with the dean-of-students. He offered us two choices of punishment, both of which had to be approved by our parents. We would either suffer two ‘swats’ from a paddle or two days of in-school suspension. All three of us chose the paddling, with the support of our parents.
I received my punishment during 6th period. The dean-of-students carried it out while the assistant principal witnessed. The punishment was not dealt with malice or cruelty, in fact, I have the utmost respect for all the adults involved. They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated. The ‘swats’ were not painful or injuring. It was nothing more than a temporary sting on my thighs. The dean-of-students did stress however that not all punishments like this ended this way.
I believe that corporal punishment has no place in schools, even if it wasn’t painful to me. The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling. I hope that this is changed, in Greenbrier, and across the country.
Wylie A. Greer
Class of 2018
Greenbrier High School, Arkansas