My middle school teacher, Mrs. G, attacked the problem of spitballs, note passing, whispering, and other infractions by asking whoever she caught to hold out his/her hands (palms down) so that she could slap them with a ruler.
I never had any problems with Mrs. G until she looked out from her desk, saw a fair portion of her class in disorder, and promptly sentenced everyone in the room to one slap with her trusty ruler. Those who had been slapped said she hit them hard enough to raise a welt, so I planned non-co-operation when she approached my desk.
My hands were out. When she brought down the ruler with great force, I pulled them back. She missed. I was surprised that the ruler didn’t break when it hit the desktop with a loud thwack.
“Let’s try again,” she said, face flushed.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Definitely,” she said, aware that the rest of the class was whispering about her.
I held out my hands again. However, I was faster than she was. When she tried to teach me a lesson, I snatched the ruler out of her hands. I don’t think that had ever happened before.
“Give it back,” she yelled.
“I’m not that stupid,” I said.
When we got to the principal’s office, the principal asked if I’d taken Mrs. G’s ruler. I said that I took it in self-defense. When asked to explain, I said that Mrs. G was hitting everyone in the room with the ruler because she couldn’t figure out who caused the disruption. The principal said that sometimes that’s the only way to achieve classroom discipline.
My response was that inasmuch as she had no probable cause, she would have been guilty of assault and battery if she had successfully struck my hand.
My mother was called. When she appeared, she wasn’t happy. Had I been guilty of anything, I don’t know what she would have said. What she did say was that hitting every student in the classroom with a ruler was unacceptable and that she was going on record by forbidding any so-called punishment directed against me in the future.
Mother always stood up for me, and I loved her for it. Naturally, I wasn’t allowed to keep Mrs. G’s ruler. In future weeks, she used it liberally to measure how punishment to the guilty and innocent alike. Whenever she did this, she glared at me as though I was the spawn of Satan. The feeling was mutual.