Wednesday, August 20, 2008
For many of us who practice Education Law, we just assume that corporal punishment is illegal. However, it is not actually "unlawful" in the sense of being a crime. Many states prohibit this practice and discipline teachers and administrators for utilizing it. However, a number of states do not even go that far. Several states allow corporal punishment to actually be practiced. In those states, the only restriction on the use of corporal punishment is that it cannot be "excessive."
An August 20, 2008 CNN story entitled "More than 200,000 kids spanked at school" discusses the use of corporal punishment today. It includes a map of the 21 states where corporal punishment is permitted, available here.
The article discusses a U.S. Department of Education report which documented that more than 223,000 students had corporal punishment inflicted upon them last year. As the article states:
Corporal punishment in schools remains legal in 21 U.S. states and is used frequently in 13: Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida, according to data received from the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and cited in the report.
The highest percentage of students receiving corporal punishment was in Mississippi, with 7.5 percent of students. The highest number was in Texas, with 48,197 students.
"When you talk to local school officials, they point to the fact that it's quick and it's effective -- and that's true," Farmer said. "It doesn't take much time to administer corporal punishment, and you don't have to hire someone to run a detention or an after-school program."
But she said, "We need forms of discipline that makes children understand why what they did was wrong."
In addition, corporal punishment can be linked to poverty and lack of resources. For instance, the report said, "Teachers may have overcrowded classrooms and lack resources such as counselors to assist with particularly disruptive students or classroom dynamics."
The New York Times also covered this on August 20, 2008 and that article discusses the fact that more racial minorities are "paddled" than white students. That article is available here.
Corporal punishment is just wrong. Our schools should not be in the business of hitting children no matter what they do. The line between what is excessive and what is not is thin and corporal punishment can leave children with permanent scars. Its use can also be abused by schools. It is time for a federal law to be enacted which puts a stop to this dated practice for once and for all.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein