Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools: Not Nearly As Uncommon As One Might Think

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Corporal Punishment in Schools

By Lilly Jackanin

young girl crying

I recently received a call from a mom moving from the state of California to the southern state of Alabama. She had done a tremendous amount of research in many areas, including the Alabama schools, before embarking on this decision. When she arrived, she went on the school district’s website to read the procedures for registration and attendance. As she proceeded cautiously to read the district’s handbook, she was outraged and alarmed to read – in much smaller print – that Corporal Punishment is legal in the state where she now resides. As she continued to further research this matter, she was appalled to see that this form of discipline is legal in 18 other states. As her explorations continued, she read about the disproportionate number of incidences that occur among disabled children, who are paddled mainly because their disabilities are poorly understood by so-called educators and school administrators. It should also be noted that there is an extreme disparity in the number of black male children targeted.

After hearing all this, I thought it prudent to explore further, because many of the families I work with at times find it necessary to move from one location to another in the hope of obtaining more adequate services for their children who have disabilities. After reading a number of articles regarding this practice, I came to the following conclusion: People are still haunted by memories of witnessing beatings and/or receiving them. Many report that the reasons for being paddled were arbitrary and inconsistent. There seems to be some decline in this method of discipline, primarily because the school districts want to avoid lawsuits. Abolition of this disciplinary measure has been met with mixed results. In some states, such as Texas and Alabama, parents have been given the choice of opting out of this practice. In other states, such as Maryland and Ohio, where Corporal Punishment has been banned, it is sometimes still put into effect. The detrimental effects of Corporal Punishment are so egregious that they are denounced by such groups as the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association. Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union in 2009 collaborated on a report called "A Violent Education", in which they labeled corporal punishment a violation of students’ "physical integrity and human dignity" and declared it "degrading, humiliating, and damaging."

The 19 states that continue to practice this method are as follows: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

The highest rate of incidents occurs in the state of Texas, followed by Mississippi and Alabama.

In conclusion, I feel that this technique causes so much emotional pain to all subjected to it, but particularly those who are weak, defenseless, and subordinate, such as our children. We as parents must nurture, love, and protect our children at any cost.

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