NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Archbishop Gregory Aymond says he has firsthand accounts from students who said they were injured by paddling at a Catholic high school, challenging school supporters who have filed suit over the claims.
Aymond’s disclosure came as parents and alumni of St. Augustine High School challenged the accuracy of a 2009 report from consultant Monica Applewhite, who was asked to investigate the school’s disciplinary policy.

Applewhite’s report found that at least three students sought hospital treatment after paddling, that some were paddled “day after day,” and that some had been paddled “more than five or six times a day.”

Supporters of the school—the last Catholic school in the country to employ corporal punishment—dismissed those findings. In multiple lawsuits, supporters have sued Applewhite and charged her with fabricating her report to Aymond.

Applewhite, who is based in Austin, did not respond to a request for comment.

Supporters say there appear to be no corroborating abuse reports to police from doctors or others who are legally required to notify police when they encounter suspected child abuse.

Aymond, who has expressed deep reservations about the use of corporal punishment at a church-affiliated school, said he’s had firsthand encounters with students who said they were injured.

“I’ve had people, in person and in writing, saying they’d been injured,” Aymond said, without providing specifics. “I’ve had phone calls. I’ve seen people in person—former students and parents.”

St. Augustine’s supporters fiercely defend the practice, saying it keeps children safe from the seductions of street life that are especially dangerous for the young African-American youths served by the school.

(Bruce Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)

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