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Alabama Principal Accused Of ‘Excessive Paddling’ After Striking Student ‘Over 10 Times’ Instead Of Approved 3 Hits

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Alabama principal

Corporal punishment for children used to be a pretty divisive issue among parents.

There were those who believed that physical violence against children was necessary to teach them everything from manners to mathematics. Others claimed that corporal punishment was ineffective for reinforcing lessons/learning for children and instead hurt their development.

Generally speaking, public opinion has shifted away from supporting violence as a teaching aid for children over the years, but it still happens in some households and apparently, at least one school in Alabama.

Dr. Datie Priest, an Alabama school principal, has been accused of paddling a student too much.

Apparently here is an acceptable amount of paddling that a student can receive at the school, and the principal, not only paddled a child but exceeded the “standard.” Corporal punishment is legal in the state of Alabama.

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In this case, “paddling” is exactly what it sounds like, to be crystal clear this elementary school principal has been accused of excessively taking a wooden paddle to a child.

According to authorities, the principal was accused of paddling the student ten times in a row on one occasion and five times in a row on another occasion.

Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith wrote in the letter that Priest's actions went too far.

Smith reportedly explained that no more than three strikes at a time are permitted.

The child was allegedly given a choice in their punishment.

Strangely, according to Smith, Priest actually offered the child a choice in their punishment, “two licks by his teacher or ten by me and it’s my personal belief that he would not take a paddling from a white teacher.”

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Priest apparently proceeded with the punishment and told the school board of the incident on March 11th, 2022. The elementary school principal has since been placed on detached duty.

Smith was clear about his stance on the issue, saying that a line had been crossed by Priest.

The Alabama NAACP is standing by the principal.

Despite the accusations and reassignment to detach duty, the Alabama NAACP seems to be backing Priest after having previously recommended Priest for the position.

According to Babby Diggs, the vice president of the Alabama NAACP, “The NAACP remains perplexed that the accusations against Priest were in her personnel file but accusations against Ron Rikard (principal at East Lawrence High School) were not in his file at the central office.”

Diggs maintains that the school district is being discriminatory and biased towards Priest, pointing out that similar allegations made against a different principal in the school district have not been treated the same as those against Priest.

As of 2021, rates of corporal punishment in Alabama are declining but the state is still ranked third for use of this form of punishment, landing behind Mississippi and Texas. 

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.