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Posted at 12:52 PM ET, 04/16/2010

The rules of corporal punishment

By Valerie Strauss

In the 20 states that still allow kids to be paddled, 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).

In one system, school officials are discouraged from giving children extra work as a disciplinary tool, or forcing an apology, or doing anything to embarrass them. But paddling is okay. At least one district requires that the injuries to a child caused by paddling not be "serious or lasting," and that the person administering it be calm, not angry. Good rule, that one.

There is no research whatsoever showing that this actually helps maintain discipline, although every now and then there will be a story in which some school officials swear that corporal punishment saved their institution from chaos.

I found rules in a few school systems that I thought I’d share, just in case your school system needs them:

From the Wayne County Board of Education in North Carolina:

The Wayne County Board of Education believes that discipline is training which corrects, molds, and strengthens an individual toward his greatest potential. It includes rules affecting conduct or obedience to a given standard. By providing instruction and opportunities to exercise self-control, disciplinary measures help students become well-balanced persons, which is the long range goal of a good classroom climate. .... The following practices by principals and teachers in the disciplining of pupils are not condoned by the Wayne County Public Schools and should not be used:

a. Lowering Grades - Grades cannot be lowered as a means of punishment for misbehavior.
b. Mass or Group Punishment - This is a poor practice which usually causes resentment among students.
c. Extra Work - This is a poor form of punishment.
d. Forced Apology - This type punishment tends to perpetuate the problem.
e. Sarcasm-Ridicule-Embarrassment (Verbal Abuse) - This technique is a poor practice which tends to destroy respect for the teacher because the language tends to humiliate and degrade the student. Verbal abuse is, therefore, considered unprofessional and unacceptable.

But hitting kids in Wayne County is acceptable. Here are the rules:

“Principals [and] teachers... may use reasonable force including corporal punishment in the exercise of lawful authority to restrain or correct pupils and maintain order as provided by North Carolina General Statute 115C390; provided that the use of reasonable force shall not include striking with the fists or heel of the hand, kicking, slapping or any other extreme measures.”


Moving over to Burke County Public Schools in North Carolina, the rules from the school board are more explicit:

Principals, teachers, substitute teachers and student-teachers, teacher aides, assistant teachers and student teachers in the public schools of Burke County may use reasonable force in the exercise of lawful authority to restrain or correct pupils and maintain order; all corporal punishment shall be administered by a principal or teacher in the presence of another principal or teacher. In the event of corporal punishment being administered to a female student, a female teacher shall at all times be present.

For the purpose of this policy, reasonable force does not contemplate the following:
1. The leaving of a serious or lasting injury.
2. Shall not be administered in anger or with malice. It is recommended that corporal punishment be administered by using a paddle on the buttocks. In no event shall a student be struck about the face or head.
3. Shall not be administered for unsubstantiated reason. Teachers shall not administer corporal punishment without first consulting with and obtaining the permission of the principal, assistant principal or designee.
4. Corporal punishment shall not be administered to a child until the teacher or principal has fully explained to the child the reason for the punishment and shall have listened to the child’s explanation of his actions.
5. Upon parent’s written request, the teacher or principal administering corporal punishment must give the parent in writing his reason for the administering of punishment and the name of the second official or teacher present.....


Greenwood Public School District n Mississippi gets even more specific, limiting he number of whacks a kid can get in a single corporal punishment episode:

Corporal punishment for use in this district is defined as punishing or correcting a student by striking the student on the buttocks with a paddle. Corporal punishment may be administered by either the principal or assistant principal; but in either case, another certified staff member must be a witness.
Corporal punishment shall not exceed five (5) swats with a paddle. Corporal punishment may be administered only to punish and/or correct disruptive student conduct.
Neither corporal punishment nor the promise of corporal punishment will be used to stimulate academic achievement or to punish academic lapses.
Prior to the administering of corporal punishment, the principal or his/her designee shall advise the student of the particular misconduct of which he/she is accused. The student shall be given an opportunity to explain his or her version of the facts prior to the imposition of such corporal punishment.
The student shall be informed beforehand of the specific misbehavior which results in the use of corporal punishment.
Such punishment should not be administered in the presence of other students or in anger.....

I’m just sorry I missed the discussion among school board members when they weighed whether three or four or five or six whacks was the the right number to snap a kid into compliance.

By the way, if you are wondering who gets whacked, a 2009 national survey report by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said that students with disabilities are hit at a rate twice that of the general student population in the areas where it is allowed.

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By Valerie Strauss  | April 16, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
Categories:  Bullying  | Tags:  corporal punishment, paddling, school discipline  
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Well i read the article on corporal punishment in schools being revived in Texas i am all for it but there is one problem teen age kids today are rebellious and that i do not think is going to work because they will feel like they have been humiliated and will go and get a gun and come back to the school and shoot the person that used corporal punishment on them i think that the parents should have their rights back to discipline there teen age kids and i think that putting security officers in the schools and with metal detector like they use at airport and bring back the truancy laws and since local police do not have the man power to police this get private security companies to have security officers be those truancy officers as well as putting us.military drill instructors in the schools to put these rebellious teen age kids through boot camp disciplinary training as well as teaching them to be a respectful person in their communities and when a truancy officer picks them up from skipping school they get taken to a juvenile detention center and have to stay there until the next day and if they skip again after that they continue to be taken there until they stop skipping school as well as teachers should start teaching kids right from wrong instead of only thinking about how big their pay checks are going to be and just what summer vacation they can take in some other country or what cruise they can go on so i believe teachers should take a big pay cut until they actually start teaching instead of just pushing kids through school and shut down all these rap singers that promote violence and sex as well as the record companies that market that kind of music and parents need to be able to take a stand when it comes to there children instead of some childless DHS welfare worker how has no clue as to how to raise a child especially when they are teenagers.

Posted by: jamesperrault | April 16, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I cant believe that any school anywhere in the U.S has the right to paddle our children. Considering the fact that when us "Parents" just look at our kids funny in any way we have to worry about O.C.S. But yet its ok for "Teachers" to not only give "Our" children funny looks but touch them as well. This is an outrage!!!

Posted by: Ak_mom84 | April 16, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

What garbage. All chronically misbehaved kids should be paddled, at a bare minumum. I guarantee you the "disabled" kids the article refers to are not retarded or handicapped, they're the 50% or so of kids that have imaginary ADD or ADHD or grew up in a broken home or whatever. I don't doubt they get paddled more, because they usually deserve it.

Posted by: Jason38 | April 16, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I read a quote that said, "It isn't the severity of the consequence but the inevitability of it that matters."

Speaking as someone who has taught public school for over 30 years, the biggest problem I've encountered is a lack of consistency in enforcing expectations among teachers and administrators. That's the biggest problem. An administrator or teacher who consistently backs their word will usually see results. I saw my children's middle school turned around this way. The place was a zoo until he came along. I remember my daughter saying, "Mom, he just walks into the cafeteria and everyone just sits down and shuts up." They knew he meant business.

I can't imagine being in a situation where I would be expected to paddle someone else's kid. I didn't paddle my own and they were respectful, good students. There's no way I would hit a kid. Ridiculous!

Posted by: musiclady | April 16, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

More qualified teachers would help lessen discipline problems. My high school had a shop teacher and a math teacher whose study halls were always chaotic. They rarely sat down, prowling the room all period and pouncing on any kid who didn't have a notebook and textbook open or who dared to whisper "Thanks" to someone who picked up a dropped pencil. We also had a civics teacher who kept perfect order without getting up from his desk--occasionally, he would say he just looked up when there was too much mildly, "Keep it down--some people are studying." And we had a Latin teacher who never had a bit of trouble with anyone--she was by far the oldest teacher in the school (and looked even older) and was about 4'11", and no one ever gave her any trouble.

The main difference, as far as I could see, was that the even the kids who weren't taking civics or Latin knew heard that these two teachers knew their subjects perfectly and were good teachers; the shop teacher had a reputation for not handling equipment safely and for being sarcastic, and the math teacher would answer questions by offering the exact, word-for-word explanation he gave the first time you asked. He once complained that "every girl in this study hall is reading the same silly romance"--not recognizing "Wuthering Heights" as the English assignment. (Granted, most of us agreed that it was a silly romance, but the point is it was an ASSIGNED silly romance.)

Obviously, better teachers won't solve all the discipline problems, but kids respect good teachers and have total contempt for the bad ones.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | April 16, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

If there is to be corporate punishment children should only be paddled with the permission of a guardian only. Group punishment by kids bring retaliation by the victim. And in some cases retaliation has been brought against the teacher by the victim. Let it to the parent or guardian. By the way some teachers might enjoy this sort of thing. You have to be careful.

Posted by: MILLER123 | April 17, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

If paddling is a good idea for kids, then it's a good idea for adults. Proponents of corporal punishment should first experience it at the workplace. If your boss disapproves of your behavior, he whacks you 5 times on the butt. Good idea?? Would that make you a better employee?

Posted by: ClarkKent1 | April 18, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

anyone who wants to physically assault children should not be working in education.
anyone who ignores all of the scientific research that shows spanking reduces IQ, increases agressive behavior in children, etc, does not belong in the field of education.
anyone who feels they need to spank, has failed as an educator and should find some other type of job.

Posted by: MarilynManson | April 21, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

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