A school in the US state of Georgia has introduced a new method of instilling discipline in its pupils: Up to three clouts with a wooden paddle.

The Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics, which takes children from the age of five to 15, asked parents before the start of term this week for consent to paddle their children if they were caught breaching rules for the third time.

Jody Boulineau, the school's superintendent, told local reporters: "In this school we take discipline very seriously."

Georgia is one of 19 states that allows corporal punishment.

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"There was a time where corporal punishment was kind of the norm in school and you didn't have the problems that you have," added Boulineau.

He said the proposal had received a mixed response with some parents enthusiastic, although many people also took to social media to denounce the new policy.

So far about a third of respondents have given their permission.

The new policy, spelled out in a letter to parents in Hephzibah, just outside Augusta, says children will be suspended for up to five days if the school does not have permission to administer the paddle.

"It's just one more tool that we have in our disciplinary toolbox," said Boulineau. "There's no obligation. It's not required, so a parent can either give consent for us to use that as a disciplinary measure, or they can deny consent."

He added that he expected the punishment to serve as a deterrent.

The policy specifies that the paddle will be no more than 24 inches in length, six inches in width and three-quarters of an inch in thickness.

A maximum of three licks will be applied.

"The student will be taken to an office behind closed doors," it continues. "The student will place their hands on their knees or piece of furniture and will be struck on the buttocks with a paddle."

The legality of corporal punishment was tested at the Supreme Court which ruled in 1977 that the practice was constitutional.

That left states to choose their own policy. New Mexico was the most recent state to ban the beating of children in schools, enacting legislation in 2011.

A federal study in 2014 found that one child is hit in public school an average of every 30 seconds somewhere in the United States.

Some school districts set strict standards, banning bodily injury, for example, while others do not.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegraph.