As somebody who is generally dubious with regard to corporal punishment, I was intrigued by a story about students at a school in New Orleans who staged a demonstration in favor of their school’s pro-paddling policy.

The school is St. Augustine’s High School, which I know rather well. I wrote about St. Aug’s many years ago when I was a reporter in New Orleans. It’s a remarkable place: Established by the Josephite Fathers to educate African-American boys, St. Aug’s is famous for turning out young men bristling with self-confidence.  It has always been proud of its excellent track record of getting graduates into the best colleges and universities. If memory serves, St. Aug’s rate for sending its kids to the Ivy League was comparable to rates for the city’s more expensive private schools. 

The protest was triggered by Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who asked school officials to end their 60-year practice of paddling. But many St. Aug’s students, who tend to be ambitious and diligent, aren’t pleased:

The archbishop “is trying to fix something that’s not broken, and he’s going about it in the wrong way,” said Jacob Washington, the student body president at the 7th Ward institution.

The protesters, who posted three requests on the locked doors of the archdiocese’s Walmsley Avenue offices, called on the archbishop to issue a “public, unequivocal retraction … of all statements linking St. Augustine disciplinary policies with violence, particularly in the New Orleans community.”

The archbishop appears to have wandered into his anti-paddling position from some more general musings on racism and violence:

 In a video address to the Catholic community in February, Aymond unveiled a church initiative to counter street violence and murder in New Orleans, then shifted to the subject of St. Augustine, saying that the school’s use of corporal punishment “fits into the realm of the battle of New Orleans,” which he described as “murders, violence and racism.” …

The archbishop has said corporal punishment institutionalizes violence, runs counter to Catholic teaching and good educational practice, and violates local archdiocesan school policy.

Hey, I thought nuns were supposed to rap kids on their knuckles-just kidding.

Although I have reservations about corporal punishment, I have to hand it to the students at St. Aug’s, who seem to know that discipline is the key to their success. They can distinguish between a teacher who paddles a student and racism. Apparently, so can their parents:

Protesters on Saturday also demanded proof of the archbishop’s claims that parents have complained about the paddling policy, along with evidence for a study that Aymond has cited to bolster his position.

Let’s hope the archbishop’s fuzzy good intentions don’t have an ill-affect on one of the most successful high schools in the south.