Alumni defend paddling at Catholic school

February 25, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) One by one, alumni of St. Augustine High School took
the microphone on Thursday (Feb. 24), recalling one paddling at the
hands of a St. Augustine teacher that turned them around and taught them
a lesson.


The 60-year-old tradition of corporal punishment at St. Augustine --
believed to be one of the few remaining Catholic schools in the country
that still paddles -- faces a potential end.


Alumni aimed their impassioned defense of corporal punishment at New
Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, whose concern about the policy
prompted the Josephite order that founded the school to suspend paddling
for the current school year.


The priests overruled objections from the local board of directors
that runs daily operations at St. Augustine, a historically black,
all-boys school that has furnished generations of New Orleans political
and business leaders.


Aymond told reporters he had listened carefully to the crowd, but
reiterated his concern about injuries reported by parents, and his own
unease. Yet plenty of people argue that the paddle had an undeniable
role in lending St. Augustine its high reputation.


"It worked on us," said 1961 graduate Lambert Boissiere Jr., a
former state senator and city councilman. "After one or two times with
the paddle, you wouldn't cut up anymore. Some of those priests could
swing."


At last count, 56 out of 70 school districts in Louisiana still
allow corporal punishment, according to the state Department of
Education.


Nationally, just 12 percent of U.S. schools allowed corporal
punishment, and only 9 percent actually used it during the 2007-08
school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.