Wylie Greer and two of his classmates at Greenbrier High School in Arkansas decided to join other students across the nation in walking out of class Wednesday to advocate for stricter gun laws.
Greer told The Daily Beast that school officials gave him and his companions two options for punishment: in-school suspension or corporal punishment.
The 17-year-old student detailed what happened that day in a written statement to The Daily Beast. Greer sat outside with two other students at 10:00 a.m., he wrote, and both the principal and dean-of-students came out to ask what they were doing and if they would go back inside.
They stayed outside for 17 minutes — to honor the 17 students and staff killed by a shooter at a Florida high school — and returned inside, he alleged.
That’s when the trouble started.
“Over the next two hours, all three of us were called individually to talk with the dean-of-students,” his statement read. “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.”
Corporal punishment is still legal in 19 states, including Arksansas, where parental permission is required, according to The Washington Post. And 41 percent of Arkansas students go to a school where it is allowed, according to KARK.
Jerusalem Greer, the mother of Wylie, sent out a tweet about how her son and two of his peers received the punishment for walking out of “their rural, very conservative, public school for 17 minutes today.” Her tweet amassed over 18,000 retweets and 67,000 likes.
“They were given two punishment options,” she wrote. “They chose corporal punishment. This generation is not playing around.”
A slew of people responded to the tweet, with many expressing outrage or shock. That includes actress Patricia Arquette.
School officials are arguing that the students weren’t punished for protesting, but rather for walking out of class. Greenbrier Public Schools Superintendent Scott Spainhour told KARK that there are rules in the handbook about leaving class — and that all three teenagers were told they could be paddled or spend two days in suspension.
He couldn’t reveal what punishments the students chose, Spainhour said in an interview with KARK. But while the incident angered many online, others in the community of Greenbrier didn’t seem as upset by it.
"I raised my kids in the 60s and 70s,” a local named Ethel Rhyne told KARK. “They got paddled at school. They got twice as much when they came home.” Another community member named Melissa Hester said “if they break the rules ... then I’m fine with it.”
Greer told Raw Story that he received the paddling during his 6th period of the day, and that it “was not dealt with malice or cruelty.”
“I have the utmost respect for all the adults involved,” Greer said in a statement to the outlet. “They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated.”
But the high schooler argued that there was a strange irony in being paddled for protesting against gun violence.
“I believe that corporal punishment has no place in schools, even if it wasn’t painful to me,” he told Raw Story. “The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling.”