When we were cleaning through my grandfather’s meticulously kept workshop after his death in 2011, there was the expected: Rows of tools in perfect condition, hung on the pegboard above his workbench; original manufacturer’s manuals for some of his tools, filed neatly away; the blue “heavy-duty” paper towels that sat on a rack near the door.

The smell of old cars and oil permeated the air, an odor that to this day reminds me of my grandfather. What was unexpected, however, was a wooden paddle that hung on a nail off the garage rafters. It was something I had never seen before. But my two uncles had.

A quiet man, my grandfather rarely raised his voice. My mother can only remember him getting really angry once; when on a road trip out West in the early 1970s, and youngest brother jokingly attempted to throw his older brother off the edge of a cliff at the Grand Canyon. From recounts of the incident, my grandfather was angry enough and the repercussions were severe that everyone remembers it, nearly five decades later.

But the thought that the paddle hung there, partly as a threat, perhaps sometimes used, during my mother’s childhood, was a little surprising to me, knowing my soft-spoken, gentle grandfather.

Corporal punishment can be a controversial topic when it comes to parenting. There are parents who recite “spare the rod, spoil the child” and spank, sometimes, because they were spanked as children, too. Then, there are other parents who recoil at the thought of corporal punishment and cite research that shows physical punishment can result in children becoming more aggressive.

Whether or not parents spank their children is a decision that should be made with thorough research and discussion. While my husband grew up with parents who spanked or used a belt — I did not. When it came to parenting our kids, spanking was a hotly debated topic. But our overall policy is that we use other forms of more effective discipline and positive reinforcement instead.

Still, I would be appalled if I had received a letter like the one sent to parents last week from the Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics, requesting parental permission to paddle the students as a method of discipline. The Christian charter school in Hephzibah, Georgia, stated in the letter sent to parents that paddling would be used as a method of discipline, and that the punishment “will not exceed three swats from a paddle, which is 24 inches in length, ¾ inches thick and six inches wide. If parents do not want their children to be paddled, the children will instead be suspended for five days.”

The form also stated that “a student will be taken into an office behind closed doors. The student will place their hands on their knees or piece of furniture and will be struck on the buttocks with a paddle.”

“In this school, we take discipline very seriously,” Superintendent Jody Boulineau told Augusta, Georgia’s WRDW.

Boulineau told the news station that 100 parents had already returned the form, and about 1/3 of them gave permission.

However, it could be viewed that the school is putting parents in an unfair position, because the only other alternative to paddling is a week of suspension — also resulting, possibly, in time off work for the parent.

Nineteen states in the U.S. allow corporal punishment in schools, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and many other Southern states. However, research has shown that it is becomingly increasingly rare.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also does not support paddling or corporal punishment of any kind, stating that it can negatively affect a student’s school achievement, self-image and lead to violent behavior.

Whether or not a parent uses corporal punishment in their home is a decision that is legally theirs to make.

But school should be a place that fosters a love of learning, a place where children learn appropriate decision making, a place that fosters trust. It seems that the paddling of students by teachers or school administrators would do nothing but undermine all of that.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.