The Principal of a US school deals with an end of term dilemma
By Jim Welch
My name is Steven Jefferies. I am the principal or rather the head of a very private school located in the northwest corner ofLouisiana.
We are probably closer toTexasthan to any town or community inLouisiana. The name of this institution isFairwaySchoolfor Girls and it is one of the most renowned schools in the world, not just theUnited States. We have place students in the most elite colleges and universities around the world and have prided ourselves with a one hundred percent graduation rate and an overall grade point average of 3.8 on a scale of 4.0. This has been the case ever since the school opened 100 years ago. We are totally privately owned and financed and run by a board of governors that includes some of the most prestigious men and women in the country. There are 15 board members that make policy. The reason for the odd number is there can never be a tie vote on any issue.
I was hired 30 years ago to be the principal and later the head of the school. I am in charge of all financial decisions made within the tolerance of a budget given to me by the board, as well as the hiring and firing of all staff members. I answer only to the head member of the board and any issue I bring to him, he decides if it needs to go farther to the whole board. That way I have more latitude to operate with within the very liberal boundaries that are set.
I have a tremendous staff as the latest hire I had was 6 years ago when my English department head retired and I chose a very astute young woman to take that position with a little grumbling from some of the English department folks but after showing her credentials and after working with her for a couple months that fodder died down and now I am a hero to all.
Fairway is located in an isolated 300 acre plot just inside the Louisiana line and this site was chosen to keep the girls from rummaging into the cities surrounding and preventing them for doing anything except concentrating on their studies.
We do have organized field trips to various faraway places likeDallas,TexasorHouston,Texasas well as a weekly Saturday venture intoShreveportLouisianawhich is the closest major city to the school. These excursions are highly chaperoned and the girls are watched constantly but given free time and a time to return to the group. If these times are not met, serious consequences result and the offense is not repeated the next time there is a trip.
I was told the day I was hired 30 years ago that discipline was to be hard but fair. For ages and ages I used a wooden paddle on the backsides of the wayward young ladies to the tune of 8-12 hard swats to her bare behind. I have subsequently changed to the old fashioned British cane after I did a summer vacation there a couple years ago and spoke with some old headmasters and headmistresses. I formed a fascination with the cane and brought several back and now use it exclusively. I have a junior one for the younger girls, a senior one for the junior and senior grade girls, and a penal one for severe or repeated offenses. In school suspensions and expulsion were also available options but were seldom chosen because of the ridicule the student would have to endure if she wimped out of a paddling. Expulsion has never been used as the young lady does not wish to face her parents in a case like that. The parents sign a consent form every new school year and are well aware that corporal punishment is used here and it is severe. Surprisingly to me is that most of the mothers of the girls experienced it in their school days and wholeheartedly endorse the use here.
Now on to the dilemma I just faced which is the first time it has ever happened. Our school year ends on the last Friday of May and graduation of the senior class is in the first Friday of June. Given that being the case the use of suspension or expulsion in not in the offering.
There were 3 senior girls involved in the situation; Angela Cartwright, Rebecca Lumas, and Stephanie Watson. The three of them were engaged in a physical altercation during the last hour of classes on the last day of school. Angela and Rebecca had a grudge against Stephanie for almost half of the year; I found out and decided to wait until the last day to act on it. They caught Stephanie coming down the hallway and one of the two tripped her causing her fall and lose her glasses in the process. Not knowing which one did it and not being of clear vision she lashed out and caught Angela instead of Rebecca and a fight ensued between the three.
They were separated by Mrs Hargrove (the English Dept Head) and were brought to my office and my attention. It seems as though Angie and Becca had planned to do this on the last day because they knew that suspension could not take place because of it being the last day and that the governors waived expulsion of a senior student during the last week of the school year. I told them that 6 strokes of the cane each would be their punishment and Angela and Rebecca refused which is also their option according to the governors. A senior can refuse corporal punishment in lieu of something else but since nothing else was available they figured they got away with it. Stephanie agreed to take the 6 strokes and I told her to report later that evening. The girls live on campus until after graduation. In the mean time I was in a quandary as to what to do with the other two.
I decided that the only option available to me was to withhold their diplomas during the graduation exercises. So I told them both that they could walk and participate in the ceremony but they would get a blank sheet of paper where the diploma is supposed to go. They immediately started ranting and raving and calling me some ugly names, acting quite unladylike to say the least. I had security take them to their dorms as I was not going to be a party to that.
Knowing there was nothing I could do about that behavior I felt like I had used up my only option. It was about an hour later just as I was about to go to dinner I received a call from Angela’s father, who was irate and wished to meet with me. I scheduled him for the next morning at 9am.
After my dinner I returned to my office and found that not only was Stephanie there, but also Rebecca, as she had cooled down and decided that the caning was her best option, as her parents would not be as easy to defend her in this situation as Angela’s parents are. She had also taken the opportunity to apologize and make up with Stephanie. I told the girls to come on into my office. They followed me in and closed the door. I invited them to sit in the two chairs in front of my desk. I asked Rebecca what she was doing here and she asked if she could still opt to take the punishment and receive her diploma on time. I told her that since she had made amends with Stephanie and told me that she was intimidated by Angela that she went along with the harassment of Stephanie, then instead of adding strokes that I would revert to the original 6 strokes.
I then asked if they were ready now to proceed or if they would like to wait until the next morning. They both said now as a good time so I then instructed them to decide among themselves who would be first. Stephanie volunteered and got up from the chair and stepped forward. I told her that since she was more a victim in this that I would be lenient and not have her take the strokes on the bare but that she could leave her jeans on.
She did breathe a sigh of relief and I also selected the junior cane instead of the senior cane. It is whippier and stings but leaves no lasting effect. She bent over my desk as instructed and I gave her a good hard first stroke across the middle of her very womanlike bottom. She remained silent but I could tell that she felt it. The next stroke I gave about an inch up from the base of her bottom and her thighs.
I proceeded to give her the next four between the first two. She remained still but did mumble oomph and take a deep breath on the last one. She said it stung but was not unbearable. I told her to return to her seat and she gingerly sat down but did not complain. I then instructed Rebecca to stand up and I told her that since she had made amends and was not the ringleader that she could also take her punishment over her jeans. She did breathe a deep sigh as she bent over the desk. I also decided to use the junior cane on her.
She took the first stroke across the middle of her also very womanlike bottom and remained still. The same procedure followed and upon receiving the last stroke I told her she could get up and be seated. She also sat gingerly as I explained to them that the sting would dissipate in about an hour or so and that if there were any lines they would only remain a couple days if that. I also explained that they were lucky that I did not give them the penal cane on the bare bottom, as they would still be having difficulty at graduation. They again thanked me and I dismissed them. But upon leaving they each gave me a big hug and thanked me for allowing them to come to this school.
Now I felt better but still had the Angela situation to deal with. But at least it would be the next day as I was tired and wished to retire to my suite for the evening and relax with a good book and some soft music.
The next morning I got up as usual to a cup of coffee and a bagel, went to my office at8amto await the arrival of Mr Cartwright. I had decided that having security near might not be a bad idea since he was irate over the phone. They waited in the closet of my office to hear whatever was being said. He arrived on time and to my surprise he had his wife and Angela with him. Angela and her mother walked in but he stormed in like a raging bull. He began cursing and calling me all kinds of names so it was easy for me to see where the influence for Angela’s behavior came from.
After he ranted for about 10 minutes I summoned security and told him to calm down or he would be removed, by force if necessary. He quieted down and sat. I reaffirmed my position and told him that before Angela would receive a diploma she would have to take the assigned strokes plus a penalty that would be decided upon when she submitted herself for punishment.
He restated his position that she would not submit to punishment and that he would file a lawsuit against me, the school, and anyone else he figured may be involved in such ludicrous actions. He said it would be in my best interest to forget about it and allow his daughter to graduate. I called an end to the meeting since we could not come to terms. He told me he would be waiting for me later that afternoon when I left the campus to go into town as I usually did on Saturday afternoon. I told him to be sure and wear a comfortable pair of shoes because if I encountered him and he was in a threatening mode I would not hesitate to have him arrested. It is my understanding that the booking process takes several hours and the prisoner is not allowed to sit so good shoes is a must for standing for a long period of time.
I did not see him but he did call the board members on Monday to state his position and thankfully they each backed me one hundred percent. He had a reputation of being a boor and hot tempered and has been removed from several establishments.
I understand that his wife has filed for divorce after this latest incident. As for Angela, after she was admonished and scolded by her mother she showed up at my office on Wednesday and asked if she could still receive her punishment. With a very tear filled apology to me, she even sought out Stephanie and apologized to her before coming to see me.
I had figured to give her 16 strokes with the penal cane but after her seemingly real remorse I decided to give her 6 but use the penal cane, and apply it on her bare bottom. She said her mother was outside and would like to witness the proceedings. I told her that would be fine and to show her in. I asked her mother if she thought using the penal cane on her bare bottom was too extreme and to my surprise she said I should give her at least 8 or maybe 10 for all she had put me through. I did allow that I like to be firm with punishment but not abusive.
I asked Angela if she was ready and she stated yes. I instructed her to remove her clothes from the waist down, bend over my desk, grab the other side and not to rise or let go as she would get extra. As she removed her jeans I noticed that she, like so many young women these days was wearing a thong, so I told her that she could leave that on as her bottom was bare.
She bent over. I got the penal cane and gave her the first stroke really hard across the center of her adequate bottom. She is a little plumper than the other two girls so her bottom gave in upon impact and she wailed at the sudden burning pain. She wiggled some but stayed down. I gave her the second stroke about midway from the first one and the top of her thighs. She really wailed on this one and wiggled a lot but stayed down. Tears were freely running down her face and she was really crying with the pain. I gave the third stroke just below the first one but not quite as hard. She cried and wailed and wiggled.
The fourth and fifth strokes were back to back with no wait time between. They landed in the open area between the third and second one. She really howled and put her hand to her bottom to rub. I warned her of the extra and she immediately grabbed the desk, though she wiggled trying to abate the pain. She also raised her left leg but put it back down.
The last stroke I put as close to the middle of her bottom as I could without overlapping and I really laid it on hard. She jumped and rubbed and hopped around and bawled quite a lot as I knew that this caning would remain with her for some time. She took 10 minutes of crying and hopping before she settled down enough to let her mother aid her in pulling up her jeans. She apologized again through the tears and then hugged me and thanked me for putting her on the right road and showing her that the system is there for a reason and it works.
She also apologized to her mother for being such a brat and, and even though she loves her father she understands why her mom filed for divorce and she would love to stay with her mother and try to help her father get help for his anger problems.
The girls did graduate on time and got their diplomas but Angela did not walk real fast to get hers and she sat very gingerly but smiled the whole time. She did ask me if she could address the group before the ceremony ended. It was an unusual request but I allowed it as I was curious what she would say.
She told the whole school about the incident down to her getting caned and apologized to me, Stephanie, and the entire student body for her actions. She admonished any student who in the future may have any ideas of repeating something similar, she also stated the fairness to which she was dealt and told the board of governors and the student body, and any parents in attendance just how lucky they were to have Mr J. running this establishment. I came away with a new perspective and a renewed vigor for my job.