An Arkansas high school student verified that he and two other students received corporal punishment for participating in the National School Walkout on Wednesday.
The incident first came to light when his mother, Jerusalem Greer, tweeted that her child and two others walked out of their “rural, very conservative” public school. As a result of walking out, the three students were given the options of receiving corporal punishment, in the form of swats, or getting in school suspension. All three students chose corporal punishment, Greer wrote.
“This generation is not playing around. #walkout,” she ended the tweet.
My kid and two other students walked out of their rural, very conservative, public school for 17 minutes today. They were given two punishment options. They chose corporal punishment. This generation is not playing around. #walkout
— Jerusalem Greer (@JerusalemGreer) March 14, 2018
The National School Walkout, in which middle and high school students walked out of their classrooms in 17 minutes of protest—one minute for every victim of last month’s Parkland shooting—was held in thousands of schools across the U.S. in an effort to engage students and lawmakers in conversations regarding gun control, particularly in schools.
In the days since, Greer’s tweet has garnered praise for her son and the students involved, as well as shame for the school’s treatment of the protesters. According to an NPR analysis from 2016, 15 states still expressly permit corporal punishment, while seven states do not prohibit corporal punishment.
Oh lady. I can't believe this is still a thing, but I'm so, so proud of W and the two other students for standing up for what they believe in.
— Cara Meredith (@caramac54) March 14, 2018
Great great job with that one momma!! And sweet man!
— Dee Sanders (@donnalsanders) March 15, 2018
That is shocking. Your kids probably have a good court case and I hope sone "educators" get fired. Hitting kids 4 defending kids lives?
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) March 14, 2018
We could have, but it was his choice and we supported him. He wanted to take a stand.
— Jerusalem Greer (@JerusalemGreer) March 15, 2018
The student, Wylie Greer, told the Daily Dot on Friday that he walked out because he’s seen the gun control debate die out too many times. “People said it would be different after Sandy Hook, and it wasn’t. They said it would be different after Pulse, and it wasn’t. They say it is going to be different this time, after Parkland, and I want it to be. If walking out brings the debate back to peoples minds, if it keeps the victims of Parkland from dying a second death in our minds, then I am willing to accept any consequences.”
He also sent a statement to the Daily Dot on Thursday verifying his mother’s account. Wylie said that at 10am on Wednesday, despite the walkout being degraded by classmates, he walked out of his classroom and sat on a bench outside of his school, then was joined by two other students minutes later. During the 17 minutes of protest, the students were approached by both the principal and the dean-of-students and asked if they “could help” the students, as well as told them to go back inside.
Wylie wrote that in the following two hours, all students were called to talk with the dean-of-students and asked which form of punishment they’d prefer to receive, which had to be approved by their parents—two “swats” from a paddle or two days of in-school suspension. According to the Greenbrier Public Schools’ student policies for the 2017-2018 school year, the school board has authorized corporal punishment since 2005, and last revised its policy in 2012.
All three chose the swats, and their parents stood by their choices. While Wylie wrote that the punishment didn’t leave lasting pain and that it wasn’t doled out with “malice,” he wrote that he disagreed with corporal punishment in schools.
“…I have the utmost respect for all the adults involved. They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated,” Wylie wrote. “The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling. I hope that this is changed, in Greenbrier, and across the country.”
Greenbrier Public Schools Superintendent Scott Spainhour and high school principal Steve Landers did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Read Wylie’s full statement below:
Walking out of class at ten on Monday morning was not an easy thing. Many students were vocally insulting and degrading to the idea of the walk-out and anyone who would participate. At 10:00, I walked out of my classroom to a few gaped mouths and more than a few scowls. I exited the building, sat on the bench, and was alone for a few seconds. I was more than a little concerned that I would be the only one to walk out. I was joined by two others eventually, two of the smartest students at the school. We sat outside the front of the building and were approached first by the principal, who asked us “if he could help us” and “if we understood that there would be consequences.” After we answered affirmatively, he went back inside. A few minutes passed and the dean-of-students approached us. He asked “what we were doing,” we told him that we were protesting gun violence. He told us to go inside. We refused.
After the 17 minutes had passed, we re-entered the building and went to our classes. Over the next two hours, all three of us were called individually to talk with the dean-of-students. He offered us two choices of punishment, both of which had to be approved by our parents. We would either suffer two ‘swats’ from a paddle or two days of in-school suspension. All three of us chose the paddling, with the support of our parents.
I received my punishment during 6th period. The dean-of-students carried it out while the assistant principal witnessed. The punishment was not dealt with malice or cruelty, in fact, I have the utmost respect for all the adults involved. They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated. The ‘swats’ were not painful or injuring. It was nothing more than a temporary sting on my thighs. The dean-of-students did stress however that not all punishments like this ended this way.
I believe that corporal punishment has no place in schools, even if it wasn’t painful to me. The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling. I hope that this is changed, in Greenbrier, and across the country.
Wylie A. Greer
Class of 2018
Greenbrier High School, Arkansas
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include additional comment from Wylie Greer.