Oklahoma principal leaves two students badly bruised after spanking them with wooden paddle to discipline them
Gary Gunckel, an Oklahoma principal, is accused of using a wooden paddle to spank two elementary school students and has been charged with child abuse
The principal of an Oklahoma school has landed himself in trouble after he allegedly went too far in trying to discipline two elementary students.
Speaking to People, District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan reported that 50-year-old Gary L Gunckel, a principal at the Indianola Public Schools, pleaded not guilty to two charges of felony child abuse on Friday after he hit two students with a wooden paddle. The school district has a policy that reportedly allows corporal punishment and administrators can paddle students if parents approve of it.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the accusations came after Gunckel reportedly used “unreasonable force” in swatting the two boys, ages 10 and 11, with a wooden paddle on September 6, The Duncan Banner reports. The affidavit also states that parents of both the boys gave prior permission for the paddling to be used as punishment after they were allegedly found to be fighting.
However, one of them complained to his parents that his bottom hurt and his mother saw bruising. Subsequently, parents of the second boy also found similar bruising on him prompting them to report the incident to authorities on September 8.
The mother of the first boy claimed she first raised her concerns with Indianola Public Schools Superintendent Adam Newman before alerting the police. Newman allegedly told her he had spoken to Gunckel and that the principal was just following the district's policy on corporal punishment, People reports.
Also, before authorities were informed, both Newman and Gunckel called the mother and the principal apologized to her "for busting the boys". “Gary told her he spanked the boys the same way he spanked high school students," the affidavit states.
“A lot of the school districts around here have corporal punishment the parents can all opt into,” said Sullivan, the district attorney. “When you register your child for school, you can opt into whether you allow your child to receive corporal punishment. Schools have different policies as to how it’s done. That school, even if you’ve opted in, you’ve got to get prior approval. The families were given a choice, either a days’ worth of suspension or a paddling, I believe.”
“The boys were disciplined according to the school policy, which allows for corporal punishment,” he said. “The parents of the boys noticed injuries that were rather excessive for what one would expect from a swat paddling, and they became concerned and so they had law enforcement investigate it. We reviewed it and felt that this was an appropriate charge for the evidence we had."
"As far as human beings go, I think this principal’s a pretty nice man,” Sullivan adds, "which is what makes this case so interesting and incredibly divisive.”
According to Sullivan, it is the first time that charges alleging abuse under school policies crossed his desk since he began working in the district attorney's office in 2011.
“He’s a beloved educator, which I understand,” he said. "I would hope that it could be resolved without trial, but that’s something way too early to speculate.”
In his defense, Gunckel said, “I am completely innocent of all charges and I’m looking forward to proving that in court,” and declined further comment.