Readers — Here’s a really wacky story from Iowa. An elementary school principal, Terry Eisenbarth, was investigated for “whapping” kids as part of their birthday celebrations at school — that is, hitting the kids lightly with a super-padded paddle.
In a ruling dated June 14, administrative law Judge Robert Wheeler dismissed the charges of physical abuse against a student, failure to protect students’ health and safety and exposing students to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.
Whether those “whaps” were harmless fun or psychologically damaging formed the bulk of the complaint, with several parents alleging the birthday ritual was an attempt by Eisenbarth to “establish his dominance and cause the children to act submissively.”
But more parents came out to support the former principal, testifying that the experience was harmless and optional, enjoyed by those who opted in and witnessed by other students and staff.
Principals Steve Brand of Mount Vernon High and Noreen Colbeck-Bush of Mount Vernon Middle School testified on Eisenbarth’s behalf, saying their own children had participated in the birthday ritual and neither of them considered the practice abusive.
Colbeck-Bush said parents who objected did so because the birthday “whaps” appeared to resemble disciplinary “spankings,” but that she easily distinguished between the two behaviors. Brand said he’d observed Eisenbarth at work as part of professional rounds of Washington Elementary and found him to be a good administrator.
… After conducting a criminal investigation, Sergeant Harvey Hall of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office determined no children were traumatized by the “whappings,” and no crime had taken place.