Pro-paddle: Students, families fight to keep corporal punishment

african kings

Students at St. Augustine’s High School in New Orleans are fighting to preserve a decades old tradition: using the paddle to discipline students.

St. Augustine’s, a private all male and predominately black Catholic school, is the only school in New Orleans that still practices corporal punishment. Supporters of the paddling say that the discipline has led black men to lead successful, productive lives. Many alumni of the school say the paddle kept them out of trouble in a city where drop out and crime rates run rampant in the black community.

Carol Lewis’ son went to St. Augustine and she says that the paddle was nothing but beneficial.

“He’s a grown man now, he’s doing well and no harm ever came to him. He’s never been to prison or picked up by the cops — none of that stuff. He did not suffer from a paddle once in his life.”

In a statement on the St. Augustine website, the school says that many of the people in attendance at the meeting were outraged that “persons from a different culture (including an activist from Ireland who had communicated with the archbishop) were engaging in a conversation about St. Aug and attempting to undermine our school without any significant input from the St. Augustine family.”

The statement goes on to further say that African-American parents in particular were outraged that they had to “haggle with non-African Americans” about how to raise their sons.

Gregory Aymond, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, says there’s no other Catholic school in the United States that has corporal punishment and it’s time for St. Augustine to let it go.

“This is something that has just gone away,” Aymond said. “The plea tonight, and I understand the plea that St. Aug is different, the culture and so forth. And I think all those things have to be looked at, but it weighs heavy on my heart.”

Students, parents and administration all support keeping the paddle in the schools, and the students even staged a rally demanding that the archbishop leave the policy as is.

Aymond said that since he has been the Archdiocese, he has received complaints about the paddling at St. Augustine’s and there have been reports of injuries from paddling. Currently the policy of paddling has been suspended while the Archdiocese, administration, and community continues to discuss the issue.

Daniel Daviller, a member of the schools Board of Directors, said that regardless of the outcome of the discussions about the schools position on corporal punishment, St. Augustine would still have a strong focus on discipline.

“While we expect to have some ongoing dialogue, the stakeholders of the school who are very important critical to the continued success of the school, spoke clearly tonight we heard their voices and we expect to have some continuing dialogue about that,” Daviller said. “But we want everyone to know that discipline has always been a hallmark of the St. Augustine’s educational experience and it will continue to be a high priority here regardless of what happens in the discussions going forward.”