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Posted at 12:28 PM ET, 06/29/2010

Bill to ban corporal punishment in schools introduced in Congress

By Valerie Strauss

Legislation to ban corporal punishment in most public and private schools was introduced in Congress Tuesday.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act,” which would impose the ban on all public and private schools with students that receive federal services.

Though there is no evidence that corporal punishment has any beneficial effect on students, and much evidence that it harms kids, 20 states still allow it.

School districts generally have their own rules for administering corporal punishment, or, in layman’s terms, whacking a kid. Sometimes the rules specify the number of times a kid can be hit, and usually they identify which part of the body can be struck (usually the buttocks but sometimes the hands, too). You can see some of the rules in a recent post here.

A congressional committee recently heard testimony about the subject and here are some of the facts members learned:

*School officials, including teachers, administered corporal punishment to 223,190 school children across the nation during the 2006-07 school year (according to conservative government estimates, the latest year for which national statistics were available).

*As a result of that punishment, 10,000 to 20,000 students requested medical treatment.

*Students are typically hit on their buttocks with a wooden paddle, approximately 15 inches long, between two- and four-inches wide, and one-half inch thick, with a six-inch handle at one end.

*Most students are paddled for minor infractions, violating a dress code, being late for school, talking in class or in the hallway, or being “disrespectful.”

*Almost 40 percent of all the cases of corporal punishment occur in districts in Texas (though not Houston) and Mississippi. Those states, along with Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, account for almost three-quarters of all the children receiving corporal punishment.

In Mississippi alone, there were 57,953 cases of corporal punishment in 110 of the state’s 152 school districts during the 2008-09 school year, according to the state Department of Education. That was a drop from the 58,343 cases reported a year earlier, but more than the 47,727 cases reported in 2006-07.

The Temple school district in Texas had banned corporal punishment, but recently revived the practice. My colleague Michael Birnbaum wrote it in April.

Meanwhile, the Memphis School Board is considering introducing the practice in what one board commissioner described as "war zone" schools. The resolution was introduced at a board meeting this week, and the panel has agreed to discuss it next month.

*Current studies indicate that physical punishment is more common in kindergarten through eighth grade (versus high school), in rural schools (versus urban), in boys (versus girls), and in disadvantaged as well as non-white children (versus middle-class and upper-class whites).

*African American students comprise 17 percent of all public school students in the United States but are 36 percent of those who are victims of corporal punishment, more than twice the rate of white students.

It will be interesting to see who steps up in Congress to defend this kind of violence in the schools. Let’s watch.

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 29, 2010; 12:28 PM ET
Categories:  Bullying, Health  | Tags:  ban on corporal punishment act, corporal punishment, corporal punishment and ban, corporal punishment in schools, hitting kids in school, mccarthy and corporal punishment  
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Comments

Meanwhile, the Memphis School Board is considering introducing the practice in what one board commissioner described as "war zone" schools.
........................
Great to see that the state that won in the Race To The Top in education is considering the use of corporal punishment.

Apparently the idea of testing children when they first enter the public school system, as is done in Great Britain, and separating the children by their abilities is not acceptable to Americans, while the use of corporal punishment for children is viewed as logical and acceptable.

I guess this make sense in a country that assumes that teachers should overcome all the problems for children that have a great deal of difficulty in learning, while Americans fully accept that only selective children can be trained to play on the football team.

Perhaps the President and his Secretary of Education should introduce the new policy of No Child Left Without A Sore Behind.

Posted by: bsallamack | June 29, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I am not in favor of corporeal punishment, but the issue brings up a lot of complicated problems we aren't addressing:
- there are students who are dangerous
- there are students with undiagnosed
neurological disorders who often can't control
themselves
- there are students who are bullies
- teachers and other students should not
have to worry about defending themselves

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 29, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, hit the wrong button.....


to continue with the issues:
- there are also students who act out
because of abuse in the home;

- a friend of mine who was from Tennesse
claimed that it was a 'male thing' in
his high school to challenge the male
teachers, and only the shop teacher with
the paddle could keep them in line.

Sooo, the above is probably the short list.

But, whether the problem is "War Zone" schools or a few out-of-control individuals in other schools, we must do better by our young people than just employing a big stick - we need to find out what isn't working, and why and what alternative solutions are.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 29, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

I am not in favor of corporeal punishment, but the issue brings up a lot of complicated problems we aren't addressing:
- there are students who are dangerous
- there are students with undiagnosed
neurological disorders who often can't control
themselves
- there are students who are bullies
- teachers and other students should not
have to worry about defending themselves

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large
.......................................
You are correct but corporal punishment will not deal with the problem since many of the problem children are from families where violence was the norm. Beating these children later in life is totally ineffective.

When children enter the public schools they should be tested and evaluated. These tests and evaluation should be used in their placement. Like it or not children are not all alike and they should be separated based upon their differences. This is expensive but it more expensive to place children, that can not be placed in a normal class room, in a normal class room. There is also the expense of smaller schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | June 29, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

it was a 'male thing' in
his high school to challenge the male
teachers, and only the shop teacher with
the paddle could keep them in line.

So we should only hire male teachers who are big enough to beat up on the kids? That has little to do with education.

My high school had a Latin teacher who was a 4'11'' woman, looked about 90 years old but wasn't, and taught Latin to the few students who took it and General English to the students who, in that high school at least, were considered too bright for special ed but not real students because they weren't headed for college. She never had a bit of trouble controlling her study hall or classes. It was well known, even by those of us who didn't take her classes, that she knew her subject perfectly and couldn't think of anything more fun than teaching students. On the other hand, the math teacher who was sarcastic, didn't know math well, didn't know any other subject, and refused to allow anyone to "waste study hall time" by reading a newsmagazine or paper until the civics teacher convinced him that was an assignment had the noisiest, most conteptuous study hall in the building.

Good teachers who respect the students won't solve all the discipline problems, but it's a start.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | June 30, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

@sideswiththekids:

I wasn't trying to defend that statement, just report one students' perception of how things went.

My concerns are still what I stated:

We are not addressing the very real problems of
- students who are violent
- students with disorders such as Asbergers, Tourette's, etc. who cannot always control their behaviors
- students who act out because of abuse at home
- teachers and other students having to defend themselves or not be able to teach/learn due to out-of-control students.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 30, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

While living in a rural area of Arkansas, my son started Kindergarten. During the first week of school, supported by the principal, the teacher brought a paddle to the room and explained how if they did not behave it would be used on them. My son, just 5, reported that "his teacher was scaring him" and he didn't want to go to school anymore. When I found out why and confronted the school, I was met with such a hostility that I immediately removed all my children from the school district. Even one county over though, I found the general school environment too hostile to provide an environment conducive to learning and months later we moved back to Texas where we attend the Richardson School District. We do not have corporal punishment here. It saddens me that anyone could resort to physical violence to solve any problem but that it is used by educators is the ultimate in the betrayal of children rights. The only way it will end is if a federal law is passed banning the practice and making it illegal. We cannot rely on the school districts to make the right choice and if you don't believe me, think about one that supported its decision to whack a five year old girl during her first week of school. What was her crime? She hit another child during recess. That will teach her! It's about time we put a stop to this practice!!! Support this Bill!!!

Posted by: radicalmommy | June 30, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Like all things in school, the issue of corporal punishment goes way beyond the paddle and its use. I am deeply concerned that the long arm of Congress is reaching too deep into a very local issue. Its "we know all and know better than a teacher, principle and parent" when it comes to discipline. Hooey.
The districts that allow paddling must have parental permission to do so. And that is the issue. It is not just paddling, but the many other social ills that parents throw onto schools to solve. Kids come to school with all sorts of baggage and parents want the schools to solve all. If so, that means hard decisions made at the local level, by administrators and teachers. When they do, we cannot have the Lords of Congress howl bloodly murder. I wish Congress had the conjones to help local districts make these hard decisions, by support and realistic ideals. But not by micro management and fake concern.

Posted by: deej18032002 | June 30, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

There is ALWAYS a more intelligent way to solve a problem than hitting someone! Most people have learned this by they time they are adults. It is part of education.

As a former principal of four different schools (K-8) in both high and low socioeconomic areas, the first rule was, "Nobody hits anybody, no matter what". We did not hit kids, nor did they hit each other. If they did hit someone, they were sent home for the rest of the day. If they didn't hit, they could stay at school. When hitting is prohibited the brain has to search for another way to solve the problem. Believe me when I say learning that rule reduced fights and vandalism at all of the schools.

It always amazed me that a principal could paddle a kid and then say,"There, that will teach you not to hit someone." What lesson do you think was learned?

Posted by: alphaq | July 1, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

There is always a more intelligent way to solve a problem than hitting someone.

Posted by: alphaq | July 1, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

alphaq makes good points, except: Where do school officials get the idea that sending a student home is always punishment and a deterrent? Granted, it did get the hitter away from his victim for the day. But if the parents aren't home or they don't care, it's a great way to get out of class. (Over the winter one of my substitute duties was to monitor the in-school restriction room, and one student told me bluntly that he and his friends call it a "getaway room"--they try to get sent there as a break from classes.)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | July 2, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

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