Paddling in schools may sound inconceivable, but it’s not. 19 states still allow corporal punishment in public schools, and unfortunately it’s not one of those laws that has remained on the books but isn’t used. In the 2005-2006 school year, 223,190 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment, according to the Center for Effective Discipline. Even more disturbing, African-American students made up 36% of this number, although they comprise only 17% of all public school students–meaning they received paddling more than twice the rate proportionally as white students.
This is particularly disturbing considering the fact that corporal punishment has been abolished for prisons, the military, mental institutions, and in most industrialized countries, according to the National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Those in favor of paddling have made many arguments for its effectiveness, saying that it reduces violence in schools, makes kids work harder, and keeps struggling students out of prison. This is simply not the case. The Center for Effective Discipline provides clear statistics demonstrating that student shootings are actually more common in states that allow paddling; similarly, eight of the top ten paddling states are also in the top ten states with the highest incarceration rates. Non-paddling states also have higher ACT scores and higher graduation rates.
So what can we do about paddling in schools? First, if your state is on the list of states that allow paddling, contact your child’s school to find out what their policy on paddling is–how and when corporal punishment can be administered. If your child has special education needs that are being met through an IEP, make sure that the IEP specifies that your child should not receive corporal punishment as a consequence. Talk to your child about whether they have been paddled at school–they may be embarrassed or ashamed.
Finally, take action! Over 40 national organizations have come out against corporal punishment, including: NASSP, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the National Education Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Bar Association, and many others. Ask your local superintendent and your local Board of Education to ban corporal punishment in your district–write them letters, speak at board meetings, pursue meetings with them individually.
Pennsylvania banned corporal punishment as recently as 2005; New Mexico just banned it this year. States are coming on board, and you can make a difference in helping to tip the balance.
To read an article about corporal punishment in the New York Times, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/30/education/30punish.html?pagewanted=1
To find out how many children in your district and even at your school have been paddled, follow the Center for Effective Discipline’s directions here. They also have a template for a letter you can send to your teacher, principal, superintendent, and your board of education.
For NASSP’s position paper, click here.
Melissa Bilash is the 2010 Mom Congress delegate from Pennsylvania.