When I was growing up in the midwest in the 1980s, corporal punishment in schools was still very much an option. At our school, it was the principal who wielded the paddle. Paddling was generally reserved for boys, but if a girl did something particularly egregious, she could also find herself on the receiving end of the ‘board of education\. This happened to me once.
When I was in 5th grade, aged 10, I and another girl got into a fight during a basketball game in gym class. Nasty words were exchanged, followed by blows, and eventually we were pulling each other’s hair and rolling around on the floor. The gym teacher broke us up, then escorted us to the principal to await our fate.
The principal quickly informed us that fighting would not be tolerated and that we would each be getting three licks of the paddle. When the other girl heard this she became hysterical, weeping and carrying on, apologising and begging to be spared. For myself, I just wanted to get it over with.
The principal called in her secretary to be the witness and to help the other girl get into position. The secretary held the other girl’s hands in place but she was still struggling. The principal told her to settle down or she would get more licks. The girl finally stuck her bottom out, with her hands secured on the table by the secretary.
The principal reared back and gave her a solid whack. The girl screamed and jerked her hands away to rub her bottom. She was sobbing and big tears were running down her cheeks and on to the floor. The secretary grabbed her hands again and put her back in place, holding on tighter now. The girl got two more whacks in rapid succession, upon which she melted into a screaming, blubbering mess. The principal told her that she’d better stop blubbering or she would get spanked some more.
Now it was my turn. Determined not to make such a spectacle as the weeping drama queen, I put my hands on the desk and stuck my bottom out.
Whack! I bit my lip and managed not to cry out. It had hurt, but it was not nearly as bad as my mom’s strap on my bare butt.
Whack! I could feel the heat spreading across my bottom. It really hurt, but I comforted myself with the thought that there was only one more to go.
Whack! I let out a little yip, but managed to keep it together. I was proud of myself for being tough – especially after the shameful display from the other girl. The principal lectured us some more, and gave us a discipline slip that had to be signed by our parents.
At recess, my twin brother rushed up to me, wanting to know what happened. I told him, being sure to emphasise how brave I was and what a coward the other girl had been. When the coast was clear, I let him take a peek at my butt so I could do a damage assessment.
“It’s not too bad,” he said finally. “Definitely better than after one of Mom’s. But she’s going to hit the ceiling when she finds out.” I replied: “No she won’t. Because she is not going to find out – I’m going to sign the note.”
My brother gasped. “I don’t think you should do that,” he said. As you’ll hear in the second part of this story, he was right!