ARKANSAS — Students across the United States are serving detention or in-school suspension as discipline for walking out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence.
But a student at Greenbrier High in Arkansas says he was punished a different way.
Wylie Greer told CNN that only he and two other students walked out, and while they were sitting outside the school building, the principal approached and asked if they knew “there would be consequences” for their action.
They said yes, Greer said, and returned to class. The 17-year-old senior discovered he had a choice of discipline: two days of in-school suspension or two swats with a wooden paddle.
Those choices surprised him, Greer said, but he picked the paddle with the support of his parents. Greer said taking the paddling “was the noble and right thing to do in this scenario.”
“In my mind, the in-school suspension was essentially conceding to sitting down and shutting up, which is what the admin and school wanted to happen, to keep it quiet almost,” Greer said. “I felt if I stood up and took the punishment in an honorable way, that it was better than doing what they wanted me to do which is shut up and go on with our lives. I don’t think that they expected me to take the corporal punishment.”
The dean of students emphasized that Greer was being disciplined for cutting class, not because of his opinion, Greer said. The school district did not return CNN’s calls for comment.
Greenbrier Schools Superintendent Scott Spainhour did not identify affected students, but told CNN affiliate KARK they were disciplined for walking out of class, which violates policy.
Students who broke the rules chose between in school suspension or a swat with a paddle, he said, according to the affiliate. It said paddling in public schools is legal in Arkansas.
“He lightly gave me two swats and told me to go about my day,” Greer said. “He also explained that not all corporal punishment sessions ended like that. It was implied that he didn’t hit me as hard as he could have.”
Greenbrier is a town of about 5,000 people about 45 miles north of Little Rock.
“Greenbrier prides itself on being a clean, straight-laced place,” he said. “Nobody kneels during the National Anthem here.”
Greer’s mother, Jerusalem Greer, praised her son for taking a stand. His father signed papers to allow the punishment to be administered, the student said.
“Wylie’s father and I are so proud of his courage, his conviction, and his honesty,” she said to CNN. “He could have sensationalized his experience, but he didn’t. We believe that it is important to empower our kids, in mature and developmentally appropriate ways, to be their own persons. Corporal Punishment of students should not be legal in any form.”
Wylie Greer said he’s not angry at the administrators.
“They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated,” he said. “The ‘swats’ were not painful or injuring. It was nothing more than a temporary sting on my thighs.”
Still, he hopes paddling will be done away with.
“I believe that corporal punishment has no place in schools, even if it wasn’t painful to me,” he said in the statement. “The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling.”
He also hopes the school system is not criticized.
“I would encourage people not to harass anybody about what happened, especially not the administration,” Greer said. “Protest, vote, but don’t attack people verbally or physically over this. I was walking out against violence or hatred and I don’t want to see that brought upon anybody.”