Oklahoma school principal charged with child abuse for paddling students

INDIANOLA, Oklahoma — An Oklahoma principal accused of spanking two elementary school students with a wooden paddle, leaving both boys bruised, has been charged with child abuse and placed on administrative leave.

Pittsburg County court records indicate Gary Gunckel, the 50-year-old the principal at Indianola Public Schools, was charged last Friday with two counts of child abuse by injury. A preliminary hearing conference is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Oklahoma City TV station KFOR reports that Gunckel is accused of “using unreasonable force” on Sept. 6 when he paddled the students aged 10 and 11.

According to an affidavit of probable cause dated Sept. 21, a parent of one of the boys told Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Deputy Cody Vaughn that the bruising and welts on her son’s buttocks after the paddling were excessive. She said she reported it because she wanted to protect her son and other students from that kind of treatment.

*Click to read more from our sister station KFOR

She said the mother of the other boy contacted her to say her son was also bruised, the affidavit says.

The parent told Vaughn that Gunckel sought her permission to paddle her son as punishment for arguing with the other boy, and that she agreed.

She said Gunckel later apologized “for busting the boys” and said he spanked the elementary students the same way he spanked high school students. He told the parent he was sorry that her son bruises easily. She said he explained to the boy that it was “supposed to hurt so that he would remember not to do what he was doing anymore,” the affidavit says.

Indianola Superintendent Adam Newman posted a statement on the district website that says Gunckel has been placed on administrative leave until the charges are resolved.

“On Friday, September 28, 2018 felony charges of child abuse by injury
were filed against Indianola Public Schools Elementary Principal, Gary
Gunckel. The charges relate to student discipline that took place at
school. Mr. Gunckel has been placed on administrative leave while the
legal process determines the outcomes.

Although federal law prohibits any school district from disclosing
specific information related to an individual child’s discipline or their
student records, Mr. Gunckel followed district policy. In addition to
following district policy, all administrators are asked to contact parents
and offer alternatives to the discipline options.

While the district has a policy in place that outlines the student
discipline, including the types of discipline methods available for
administrators to utilize, the administration will seek out input from our
community and parents, to determine their thoughts and opinions on
whether or not we will move to change the discipline policy.”

KFOR attempted to reach Gunckel but got no response.