Paddling a child is a corporal punishment strongly associated with the United States. In other parts of the world, other forms of corporal punishment have been much more common, such as striking with a birch rod or tawsing.
According to an unproven theory, paddling became popular in the United States since it made it possible to inflict a painful punishment upon a slave without causing short-term or long-lasting damage that would noticeably decrease his or her ability to perform manual labour.
To paddle, children is still legal in many U.S. states, both in the home and in school. Studies show that in U.S. families where children are subjected to corporal punishment, paddling is a very common way to administer the punishment.
The paddling of pupils in the United States
School staff is still allowed to paddle pupils in many U.S. states and it is also widely practised. In U.S. schools where corporal punishment still exists, paddling is often the only form of corporal punishment.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, many individual school districts enacted stricter rules detailing exactly how paddling is to be carried out in their schools. This was brought on partly by an eagerness to reduce the risk of physical injury and sexual abuse, and partly to lower the risk of school staff, schools and school districts being taken to court (both criminal or civil cases).
Examples of common school district requirements:
- The paddling session can not consist of more than three strikes. (In the past, it was not unheard of for paddling sessions to consist of up to 30 strikes.)
- The paddling can not be administered to the bare buttocks or bare thighs.
- The pupil and the punisher can not be alone during the paddling session; they must be accompanied by another member of the school staff who will witness the session.
- A male pupil can only be paddled by a male member of the school staff.
- A female pupil can only be paddled by a female member of the school staff. Alternatively, a female member of the school staff must be present when a female pupil is paddled.
- A pupil can not be paddled in front of other students. (In the past, pupils were often paddled in the classroom or in the hallway, to serve as a warning to other pupils.)