A spanking paddle is an implement used to strike a person on the buttocks. The act of spanking a person with a paddle is known as "paddling". A paddling may be for punishment (normally of a student at school in the United States), or as an initiation or hazing ritual.
A paddle has two parts: a handle and a blade. Most paddles are designed to be held with one hand, but a giant paddle may be designed to be held with two hands. The blade is typically 3 to 4 inches (100 mm) wide, 1/4-inch thick, and 1 to 3 feet (0.91 m) in length.
In the great majority of cases, the paddle is aimed at the recipient's buttocks; rarely, the back of the thighs might also be targeted.
Paddles for use in schools are made of wood, or occasionally plastic. Paddles used for school punishments may be roughly hewn from commonly available wood. Occasionally, paddles may have holes drilled into them, so there is less air drag when the paddle approaches the buttocks, and produces more sting. The paddles used for fraternity and sorority initiation ceremonies are often professionally made and engraved with organizational symbols and slogans.
The paddle may have been originally invented for the punishment of slaves as a way of causing intense pain without doing any permanent damage to the recipient. It is not only in former slave states that the paddle has been used in schools. It is not known why or exactly when it became the normal implement for corporal punishment in US schools. There are however instances of paddling using similar implements with individuals who were not slaves.
Paddling was mainly used in many parts of the United States (and still is, in a few areas) as a means to discipline misbehaving school students. Paddling has also been used in some homes to punish children. The results of a national household survey indicate that paddling is a discipline technique that 10% of parents are "very likely to use". The percentage of parents who say that they are very likely to paddle increases to 12% when involving teenagers.
The paddle is the almost invariable implement in US schools that still allow corporal punishment for student misconduct. Some paddles have traditionally had holes bored in them for aerodynamic effect, but many schools nowadays prohibit the use of such paddles.
Paddling typically causes a slight reddening of the skin but in some cases can cause bruises that are "visible for approximately two weeks". Whether or not particular bruises constitute evidence of "serious injury" or "abuse" or "child maltreatment" depends on individual circumstances and can ultimately be settled only by a court of law.
There have been cases in the past when paddling was administered incorrectly or excessively. Partly in order to avoid this danger, in the majority of U.S. schools, paddling is more strictly regulated than in the past, many schools publishing detailed rules in their student handbooks. It is usually a requirement that a professional witness be present. Currently, there is often a maximum of three swats (or "licks" or "pops"). In the past, paddlings of up to 30 licks were not unknown, especially in rural schools. Practice has gradually moved from paddlings in the classroom or hallway to paddlings administered out of the sight of other students, typically in the principal's office. "Hallway" paddlings could typically be seen by other students, administrators or even outsiders visiting the school.
In 1981, a 17-year-old student claimed bleeding wounds as a result of a school paddling. It was alleged that the assistant principal who had administered the punishment had held and swung the paddle with two hands. In order to prevent such claims, a school district currently may choose to require the handle of a spanking paddle to be "just large enough for a normal one-hand grip". Or a rule might provide that the handle shall not be more than 4 inches (100 mm) long (just large enough to be held with one hand).
In 1982, a nine-year-old student was hit with a wooden paddle that was cracked. This caused a bleeding wound that became a permanent scar. To avoid this, nowadays some school districts have adopted rules which prohibit using paddles that have cracks in them. For example, the policies of Bloomfield School District provide that, "Corporal punishment will be administered by spanking the buttocks of a student with a flat-surfaced paddle which is smoothly sanded and has no cracks or holes and that will cause no more than temporary pain and not inflict permanent damage to the body."
A paddling is typically administered with two or more school employees present. The student may be ordered to bend over a chair or desk and, in that position, receive the prescribed number of strokes of the paddle. Paddling usually occurs in an office but may sometimes occur in a hallway. The punishment is delivered across the seat of the student's trousers or skirt.
In order to avoid allegations of sexual abuse, many school districts require that a female teacher be present during the paddling of a female student. A school might also recommend "that female staff members administer corporal punishment to female students (middle and high school)". Or a school board might prescribe that a "female principal(s) or designee shall spank or paddle female students" and that a "male principal(s) or designee shall spank or paddle male students."
As of April 2011, 19 states allow corporal punishment in public schools. See School corporal punishment in the United States for further information.
The paddle is also a favorite implement for non-disciplinary "fun" spankings such as "birthday spankings," as also for paddle games (such as trading blows) or a spanking pyramid or paddle machine. A paddle machine can be used in conjunction with a spanking bench. Numerous celebrities, including Jessica Jaymes, Jennifer Krum, Haydn Porter, Tabitha Stevens and Victoria Zdrok, have mounted Howard Stern's spanking bench to be paddled by his paddle machine, the "Robospanker".