Paddle (spanking)

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A spanking paddle

A spanking paddle is an implement used to strike a person on the buttocks. The act of spanking a person with a paddle is known as "paddling". A paddling may be for punishment (normally of a student at school in the United States), or as an initiation or hazing ritual.


A paddle has two parts: a handle and a blade. Most paddles are designed to be held with one hand, but a giant paddle may be designed to be held with two hands.[1] The blade is typically 3 to 4 inches (100 mm) wide, 1/4-inch thick, and 1 to 3 feet (0.91 m) in length.

In the great majority of cases, the paddle is aimed at the recipient's buttocks. Less commonly, the back of the thighs might also be targeted.[2]

Paddles for use in schools are made of wood, or occasionally plastic.[3] Paddles used for school punishments may be roughly hewn from commonly available wood.[4] Occasionally, paddles may have holes drilled into them, so there is less air drag when the paddle approaches the buttocks, and produces more pain. The paddles used for fraternity and sorority initiation ceremonies are often professionally made and engraved with organizational symbols and slogans.[5]

History of the paddle[edit]

Illustration of a paddle being used for the punishment of slaves.

The paddle may have been originally invented for the punishment of enslaved people as a way of causing intense pain without doing any permanent damage to the recipient.[6] However it is not only in former slave states that the paddle has been used in schools. It is not known why or exactly when it became the normal implement for corporal punishment in US schools. There are, however, instances of paddling using similar implements with individuals who were not slaves.[citation needed]

Scope of use[edit]

1912 illustration of an inmate being punished in an American prison

Paddling was mainly used in many parts of the United States (and still is, in a few areas) as a means to discipline misbehaving school students. Paddling has also been used in some homes to punish children and teenagers.[7][8] The results of a national household survey indicate that paddling is a discipline technique that 10% of parents are "very likely to use". The percentage of parents who say that they are very likely to paddle increases to 12% when involving teenagers.[9]

Paddling as punishment in U.S. schools[edit]

The paddle is the almost invariable implement in US schools that still allow corporal punishment for student misconduct. Some paddles have traditionally had holes bored in them for aerodynamic effect,[10] but many schools nowadays prohibit the use of such paddles.[11][12]

Paddling typically causes a slight reddening of the skin but in some cases can cause bruises that are "visible for approximately two weeks".[13] Whether or not particular bruises constitute evidence of "serious injury" or "abuse"[14] or "child maltreatment"[15] depends on individual circumstances and can ultimately be settled only by a court of law.

There have been cases in the past when paddling was administered incorrectly or excessively. Partly in order to avoid this danger, in the majority of U.S. schools, paddling is more strictly regulated than in the past, many schools publishing detailed rules in their student handbooks.[16] It is usually a requirement that a professional witness be present. Currently, there is often a maximum of three swats (or "licks" or "pops"). In the past, paddlings of up to 30[17] licks were not unknown, especially in rural schools.[citation needed] Practice has gradually moved from paddlings in the classroom or hallway to paddlings administered out of the sight of other students, typically in the principal's office. "Hallway" paddlings could typically be seen by other students, administrators or even outsiders visiting the school.

In 1981, a 17-year-old student claimed bleeding wounds as a result of a school paddling.[18] It was alleged that the assistant principal who had administered the punishment had held and swung the paddle with two hands.[19] In order to prevent such claims, a school district currently may choose to require the handle of a spanking paddle to be "just large enough for a normal one-hand grip".[20] Or a rule might provide that the handle shall not be more than 4 inches (100 mm) long (just large enough to be held with one hand).[21]

In 1982, a nine-year-old student was hit with a wooden paddle that was cracked.[22] This caused a bleeding wound that became a permanent scar. To avoid this, nowadays some school districts have adopted rules which prohibit using paddles that have cracks in them. For example, the policies of Bloomfield School District provide that, "Corporal punishment will be administered by spanking the buttocks of a student with a flat-surfaced paddle which is smoothly sanded and has no cracks or holes and that will cause no more than temporary pain and not inflict permanent damage to the body."[23]

A paddling is typically administered with two or more school employees present. The student may be ordered to bend over a chair[24] or desk[25] and, in that position, receive the prescribed number of strokes of the paddle. Paddling usually occurs in an office but may sometimes occur in a hallway. The punishment is delivered across the seat of the student's trousers or skirt.

In order to avoid allegations of sexual abuse, many school districts require that a female teacher be present during the paddling of a female student.[26] A school might also recommend "that female staff members administer corporal punishment to female students (middle and high school)".[27] Or a school board might prescribe that a "female principal(s) or designee shall spank or paddle female students" and that a "male principal(s) or designee shall spank or paddle male students."[28]

As of April 2023, 17 states allow corporal punishment in public schools. See School corporal punishment in the United States for further information.

Social discipline[edit]

  • Some university or college traditions enforce(d) rules by paddling offenders. In the University of Missouri until World War II,[29] any freshman found on the 'quad', the most prestigious square on campus, had to offer his 'insolent' posterior for punishment along a "paddle line" formed by swatting seniors.
  • Fraternities and sororities are commonly associated with paddling of members, especially new members or pledges, as part of their hazing rituals.[30] Due to modern anti-hazing laws[31] and regulations, this has declined. This subculture is peculiar to North America. [citation needed]

Other play and traditions[edit]

Practitioners of erotic spanking using a paddle

The paddle is also a favorite implement for non-disciplinary "fun" spankings such as "birthday spankings," as also for paddle games (such as trading blows) or a spanking pyramid or paddle machine. A paddle machine can be used in conjunction with a spanking bench. Numerous celebrities, including Jessica Jaymes, Jennifer Krum, Haydn Porter, Tabitha Stevens and Victoria Zdrok, have mounted Howard Stern's spanking bench to be paddled by his paddle machine, the "Robospanker".[32] Paddles are also used by practitioners of erotic spanking.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Image of a very large spanking paddle that was designed to be held with two hands.
  2. ^ "The act of punishment is to be conducted in such a manner that the area of contact will lie between and include the buttocks and the back of the thigh". Student Handbook[permanent dead link] (2009), p. 19. Tipton County Schools, Tennessee.
  3. ^ "Corporal punishment shall be administered using an instrument (paddle) made of wood or plastic of reasonable width, length, and thickness. (The paddle shall not be more than 1/4" x 3" x 18".)" Policy On Line: Student Discipline[permanent dead link], p. 2. Tyler independent school District, Texas.
  4. ^ Image of a roughly hewn schoolhouse paddle.
  5. ^ Image of a decorated sorority paddle from a fictional spanking film.
  6. ^ Scott, George Ryley (1938). The history of corporal punishment: a survey of flagellation in its historical, anthropological, and sociological aspects, 2nd Edition, T. W. Laurie, London.
  7. ^ Dad Found Not Guilty In Paddling Case. Archived 25 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine WLWT, News 5, Cincinnati, Ohio. 17 February 2010.
  8. ^ In 2005, a father in Minnesota used a paddle to strike his son 36 times. Minnesota Supreme Court[permanent dead link], 30 May 2008.
  9. ^ C.S. Mott Children's Hospital (2010). "Speak or Spank? More Parents Choose Reasoning Than Physical Discipline". Archived 7 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine National Poll on Children's Health, Vol. 9, Issue 4, 16 April 2010.
  10. ^ Human Rights Watch (2008). A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in US Public Schools, p. 17.
  11. ^ "A paddle made of wood with no holes or splinters shall be used in administering corporal punishment..." Rapides Parish School Board (2005). Parish Policy Handbook and Student Code of Conduct.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "The punishment shall consist of no more than three swats on the buttocks with a smooth surface paddle free of holes and/or cracks." Calhoun County Schools. 2006–2007 Student Handbook and Code of Student Conduct. Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Harrison, Mark. "Lawsuit filed over paddling incident". Times-Journal, DeKalb County, Alabama, 20 July 2011.
  14. ^ In re: C.B., J.B., Th.B., & Ti.B. Archived 10 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, North Carolina Court of Appeals, 15 August 2006.
  15. ^ Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Shelly Holman Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Arkansas Court of Appeals, 4 October 2006.
  16. ^ Corporal punishment regulations of individual schools or school districts (external links to present-day school handbooks) at World Corporal Punishment Research.
  17. ^ "Paddling Charge Dropped; School Bell Rings Again". Evening Independent, 19 April 1960, p. 3-A.
  18. ^ Testimony of Shelly S. Gaspersohn at a meeting of the United States Senate's Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, 17 October 1984.
  19. ^ Gaspersohn v. Harnett County Board of Education and Glenn Varney; North Carolina Court of Appeals, Volume 75, page 34 (1985).
  20. ^ Santa Rosa County School District (2009). Code of Student Conduct, Archived 2 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine p. 59.
  21. ^ Alexander City Schools (2010). Student/Parent Information Guide and Code of Conduct, 2009–2010 School Year, Archived 24 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine p. 47.
  22. ^ Garcia v. Miera. United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, 28 April 1987.
  23. ^ See the fifth paragraph of section J-4661 of the Policy Manual and Administrative Regulations Archived 4 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine of the Bloomfield School District, New Mexico.
  24. ^ "He [a school principal] told her [an 18-year-old student] to bend over a chair with her buttocks raised." Sacks, Deana Pollard (2009). "State Actors Beating Children: A Call For Judicial Relief". Archived 12 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine University of California Davis Law Review, 42, p. 1167.
  25. ^ "The force of the blow caused Bria to lose her grip on the desk and fall against it". Hyman, Irwin A, and Snook, Pamela A (1999). Dangerous Schools: What We Can Do About the Physical and Emotional Abuse of Our Children, p. 20. Jossey-Bass Publishers, New York, NY; ISBN 0-7879-4363-0, ISBN 978-0-7879-4363-9.
  26. ^ The Burke County Public Schools paddling policy Archived 14 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine provides that, "In the event of corporal punishment being administered to a female student, a female teacher shall at all times be present".
  27. ^ St. Johns County School District (2010). Student Code of Conduct 2010–2011 Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, p. 34.
  28. ^ Chapel Hill ISD Board Amends Corporal Punishment Policy. Archived 29 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine Television station KYTX, 22 April 2009.
  29. ^ 'Paddle Lines' at David R. Francis Quadrangle, "Mizzou Traditions" web page.
  30. ^ Sorority pledges are paddled during the movie Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988).
  31. ^ "State Anti-Hazing Laws". Educating to Eliminate Hazing. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  32. ^ Image Archived 11 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine of Haydn Porter Archived 13 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine kneeling on a spanking bench and being paddled by a paddle machine during A Spanking New Year, the 4 January 2007 episode of The Howard Stern Show.

External links[edit]