What the Hell? Witholding a High-School Diploma for “Cursing”?

Maybe my stint in the Marine Corps has warped my perspective on what constitutes bad language. But I found the story of an Oklahoma high-school valedictorian whose diploma was withheld by the school principal because the girl “cursed” absolutely outrageous.

Kaitlin Nootbaar, 18, was giving a speech to the Prague, OK, high school class of 2012 and talked about the difficulty she was having setting on a career choice. “How the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many time,” she said.

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Hit me, school principal, one more time…

When I was in elementary school, I was not the easiest of kids. I had (and still do have) some serious authority problems, interrupted my teachers, was rude and disrespectful. And that was on my good days. On my less-than-good days I was throwing paper airplanes (that I’d specially modified with a pin sticking out of the nose). All of that made me a regular fixture in Mr. Tague’s office. And it always seemed to me that when he saw me coming, Mr. Tague, the principal, got a gleam in his eye. And why not? He was about to paddle my butt with a large wooden racquet of some kind. (Where did anyone come up with the “the principal is your pal” as a way to remember how to spell principal?)

I used to tell my kids about my butt paddling experiences—partly to impress them with how difficult my childhood had been, partly to emphasize how lucky they were not to be living in more barbaric times. So you can imagine how shocked I was when I read that spanking by school administrators is still allowed by law in 19 states. In Georgia alone, more than 28,000 students were spanked (usually with a Tague-like paddle)

It’s against the law for prison guards to hit prisoners unless it’s in self-defense. And it’s against regulations for a drill instructor to hit a recruit in boot camp. So why on earth is it okay for some school principal or teacher to smack our kids around?

Personally, I’m against spanking (no sense rehashing the whole spanking debate here—another example of a topic where it’s nearly impossible to change anyone’s mind). But I can imagine that even if I thought it was okay, I wouldn’t want someone else deciding how, when, what for, and how long to hit my child.

According to the Center for Effective Discipline, here are the states that allow corporal punishment in schools: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. If you’re in one of those states, please write your congressperson or senator and ask them to help drag your state out of the dark ages.