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Posted at 12:18 PM ET, 03/ 5/2010

‘Safe Students Act’ doesn’t keep kids safe: Paddling still allowed

By Valerie Strauss

Consider this:

In Mississippi, there were 57,953 cases of corporal punishment in 110 of the state’s 152 school districts during te 2008-09 school year, according to the state Department of Education. There’s good news and bad news about that: It was a drop from the 58,343 cases reported a year earlier--but more than the 47,727 cases reported in 2006-07.

And consider this:

The Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that it is legal for schools to spank or paddle kids for discipline in areas where it is not outlawed by local authorities. While Ohio banned it last year, and Pennsylvania did in 2005, there are still 20 states that permit corporal punishment in schools. They are mostly in poor areas of the southeastern United States, and hundreds of thousands of students are paddled every year.

In some cases, kids are badly hurt, and lawsuits are filed.

One case that went to the Supreme Court in 2008 told the story of an 18-year-old high school senior in Texas who alleged that she was paddled for leaving her charter school to buy breakfast. She said that she asked to withdraw from school when she was told she would be paddled, but that was not allowed. She was then restrained while an adult began to paddle her. She managed to free a hand, which was hit by the paddle.

Court papers said she went to a hospital for treatment of a swollen hand and bleeding buttocks. The school said, in court papers, that her injuries were “minor and temporary” and her hand would not have been hurt if she hadn’t tried to free it.

Why am I writing this now?

I wrote this week about the House of Representatives passing a bill informally called the “Keeping All Students Safe Act". The Senate is expected to pass it as well.

This bill sets minimum federal standards against the use of seclusion and restraints in public and private schools, a reaction to a U.S. government investigation that last year found hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death of children who were subjected to these tactics over the previous two decades.

Believe it or not, Republican opponents argued that states' rights were being trampled, and 153 legislators voted against it.

But the bill does not outlaw corporal punishment. Somehow, states still have the right to make the decision.

Until Congress forces states to stop this practice, kids will still be subjected to beatings in many schools in this country. That’s not just bad policy, that’s sick.

You can learn about efforts to end corporal punishment here.


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By Valerie Strauss  | March 5, 2010; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  Bullying  | Tags:  corporal punishment, keeping kids safe  
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Any school employee who paddles children needs to be locked up as a sex offender.

Posted by: cassander | March 5, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The real truth is that the majority of students who are subjected to restraint and seclusion are students with disabilities. Envision, in Montgomery County Public Schools, an elementary aged child with mental retardation pinned face down on the floor because she threw a box of crayons.
It happens.
Children with mental retardation and or autism are put in "alternative structure" also known as A CLOSET, where they may cry until they are hoarse from fear. And somehow that is OK because it's DOCUMENTED?
No. If the parents even find out about it the harm to the child is immesurable, any trust the family has with the school is FOREVER gone.
We're not talking dangerous criminals here. We're talking about children as young as kindergarten, with intellectual disabilities, who can be restrained by as many as 4 or 5 adults or locked in a closet. In so called Progressive Montgomery County Public Schools.

Posted by: ontarget1 | March 5, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

What's the point of federalism if the states don't get to make any decisions anymore? (And I mean that about a whole slew of topics, not just this.) Frankly, I'm surprised that states haven't outlawed it themselves, based on lawsuits (or the fear of them). But I do think that this issue, along with EVERY issue of education, should be up to the states. Get rid of the Dept of Ed altogether; the federal gov't has no Constitutional right to be involved with education. I'd love to see a study though, comparing the behavior/discipline/ learning environments of the schools in states with and without corporal punishment.

Posted by: LadybugLa | March 5, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I host a website,, about school paddling as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.
You cited some good cases that show just how useless US constitutional law is, even when supposedly protecting a legal adult high school student from brutality, injury, and possibly sexual sadistic exploitation and perhaps even spy camera S/M pornography. Texas, where this girl was paddled, specifically states that students can be videotaped in any common area of the school without theirs or thier parents knowledge or permission, and paddling is not excluded from that legal privelige.
Paddling high schools are rife, by nature, with sexual harassment hostile environment, and even "quid-pro-quo" trading grades for "bending over the desk," if the sexual aspects are acknowledge. Unfortunately in the US, sexual harassment is illegal in colleges and workplaces, but is perfectly legal in our high schools.
The laws of the heaviest hitter US states are appalling, often removing the third governmental check and balance of the judicial system completely from the same state inflicted injury cases. These mid-1990s passed "paddler proteciton acts" fly directly in the face of the 1977 Supreme court Ingraham v Wright, where it was said that the ability of injured students to sue in court would serve as constitutional due process. It is worth noting, thus, that the Supreme Court didn't simply "permit paddling" in 1977 -- they ruled on two narrow issues in a Florida suit, and they ruled that lawsuits had to be permitted to meet constitutional requirements. Now that the ability to sue has been nullified to the point of uselessness in many states like Misssissippi, Arkansas, Texas (per your example), and Alabama.
In Alabama, worse yet, all child abuse laws are nullified, including the production of child pornography, whenever paddling is involved, "for some reason?" Why would a law like that be passed if spy cameras were not taping school paddling, often with teen female victims, very often?
If the Federal government gives out any money to any school to make it better, more uniform, more scientific, less exploitive or abusive, then zero dollars should go to any school that practices the slave plantation model of schooling. It is time to end the quackery and abuse, or at least quit paying for it with Federal dollars.

Posted by: JeffCharles1 | March 5, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

To JeffCharles1: students in school--and teachers have almost none of the protections that adults in the workplace have. The EPA and OSHA have no power to enforce safety or air quality when students are affected, and the police are free to run drug sweeps with no reason for suspicion. And Justice Thomas doesn't think there's anything wrong with school officials strip-searching a 13-year-old to find out if she had on over-the-counter pain reliever.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | March 6, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

In a recent story about paddling, parents were for it. I wonder if one did a survey what would be the response of parents to the idea of paddling. One could argue that it is yet another parental responsibility handed off to the schools. But if one would stand back and look at all the things school MUST do, but shouldnt, paddling is just one more. If we damn paddling, then damn sex ed without judgement, handing out condoms, free sex counseling without parental notification, free breakfast and lunch, etc. We can argue consequences to student actions. But in todays schools, its more about student rights then consequences.

Posted by: deej18032002 | March 7, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

School Children in 20 states are the only group of people in the United States legally subjected to Physical/Corporal Punishment, being hit by school employees with WOODEN PADDLES to deliberately inflict physical pain and suffering intended to Punish them, already ILLEGAL IN SCHOOLS IN 30 STATES! It is ILLEGAL to beat prisoners! Corporal Punishment puts school districts at risk of lawsuits from paddling injuries. We are unable to protect our 3 children(who we do NOT HIT) from witnessing/overhearing students being threatened/paddled just outside class for minor infractions, then the battered student is further humiliated when they must immediately face classmates when they return to their seat. Tennessee State Law DOES NOT REQUIRE PARENTAL CONSENT OR NOTIFICATION FOR CHILDREN TO BE PHYSICALLY/CORPORALLY PUNISHED IN SCHOOLS! Our school board members IGNORED our written/verbal presentation in April 2008 during "National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month" to Demand they Prohibit Corporal Punishment of Children in our Schools and Federal and State government officials have informed us that our children's health and safety is a "Local Issue" left up to UNRESPONSIVE, AUTONOMOUS school district boards, thank goodness SLAVERY (which is where paddling has its roots) is not a "Local Issue"! Our children do not have EQUAL access to safe and healthy learning environments in 21st Century America!

Posted by: gworley1 | March 10, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

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