What lesson did this teach students?

Last week saw students in schools around the nation stage a walkout to protest the lack of action by the government to the easy availability of high-powered guns that have been used in so many mass killings. In general, school authorities and local communities have been supportive of these actions, or at least tolerated it and did not punish students for the walkouts. Some universities have even said that a suspension for such an action would not adversely affect a student’s application for college admission.

But not at Greenbrier High School located in a rural, very conservative region in Arkansas. Three students walked out of school for 17 minutes, in the face of hostility from their fellow students. A parent reported that the school authorities gave her child and the two others two options: suspension or corporal punishment. They chose the latter. One student Wylie A. Greer described his experience and I was struck by the maturity of his words.

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.

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 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.

I have written before about my feeling that corporal punishment has no place in schools so I will not repeat that here. But I wonder what lesson the authorities expected the students to learn from this. Did they think that it would make them regret their actions, which is often the presumed goal of punishment? If so, they are wrong. I am pretty sure that in their later years, these three students will look back on this experience proudly as the time when they stood up for what was right in the face of negative peer pressure. It will be a formative one in their lives and their fellow students who criticized them will be somewhat ashamed at their own behavior. Authority figures who try to discourage principled action by force should realize that for people that age, such actions just breed greater determination and defiance.


  1. says

    We would either suffer two ‘swats’ from a paddle

    That’s a school commissioner who has a serious closet kink. Get them the fuck away from kids.

  2. mnb0 says

    “What lesson did this teach students?”
    That authorities don’t deserve respect automatically.

  3. Jackson says

    two options: suspension or corporate punishment.

    Like a “below expectations” on an employee evaluation?

  4. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Jackson beat me to the typo in the 2nd. paragraph.
    I thought that corporate punishment would mean having to work in the Trump family business.

  5. Mano Singham says

    #4, #5, #6,

    Thanks for the corrections to the typo expressed so humorously! I have corrected it, though I was tempted to leave it as is.

  6. Callinectes says

    I’m pretty sure these students could take far more punishment than their teachers could bear to administer.

  7. blf says

    Different case, but both the students & their supporters handled the school’s foolishness brilliantly, #Pizza4Protesters: community backs students over gun control walkout:

    Crowdfunding drive launched after Pennsylvania school gave 225 students detention
    Students at Pennridge high school took part in a national school walkout on 14 March against the wishes of the school board. The board warned pupils in advance that anybody taking part in the protest would receive the standard punishment for skipping class — a Saturday morning in detention.

    Anna Sophie Tinneny, one of the students who helped to organise the protests and get the message out on social media, told the Guardian: “Two hundred and twenty-five students walked out of the front doors for 17 minutes of silence and a few speeches afterwards. As we walked into the school, we were put in single-file lines and had to sign up for detention before returning to class.”

    The students then turned the detention into another opportunity to protest. They attended the session on Saturday wearing signs bearing the names of those killed at the Parkland school shooting in Florida, and turned the detention into a sit-in.

    The students’ fate caught the eye of social media users and the local community rallied round. Some went to the school before the detention started, bringing doughnuts, coffee, snacks and signs in support of the protest.

    California-based Minette Nelson, who helps run the youth politics outreach campaign EighteenX18, arranged to have 20 pizzas brought to the school when the two-hour detention finished at 10am. People have also been using the #Pizza4Protesters hashtag to support a crowdfunding appeal to have pizza delivered to the school for the next round of detentions.

    The students had tried to secure permission for the protest before walking out. Tinneny said: “We were crushed when we learned that our school board felt like the walkout was inappropriate for us to take part in. Several students went to a school board meeting and tried to negotiate for a way to do the walkout, but they were very inflexible.”


    Because so many pupils are being punished, the detentions are scheduled to continue over the next two weekends. Another student, Sean Jenkins, interviewed by Dazed, said: “By this point, they’re a badge of honour for us; they represent how passionate we are about the issue. We’ll stand up for what is right, regardless of consequences. Seeing fellow students around the country be killed by gun violence is heartbreaking.”


    There is also a video of the silent protest during detention at the link.

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