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Corporal Punishment in Schools: Does It Teach Kids a Lesson?

I'll just start with the stat I didn't know at all: corporal punishment is legal in schools in 21 US states. It is, however, illegal in 106 other countries, including most of Europe and the UK. I remember having to put my head down on my desk a lot (I was a talker, big surprise) and my history teacher did smack your desk with a yardstick if you fell asleep during a video, but it's not quite the same thing — no one ever hit me.

That's not the case according to this spanking new survey, detailing almost a quarter of a million kids who have been physically disciplined in schools. Opponents of the paddling practice call it abuse, while supporters say it works wonders. One former principal says, "You know, they may think about doing something but when they think about corporal punishment, that fear will make them say, 'No, I don't think I'm going to do that right now.'"

Whether it works or not is mitigated by the study finding that the punishment isn't doled out equally. To find out who gets paddled most,


African-American girls were more than twice as likely as white girls to be hit, as were kids with disabilities and Native-Americans. In the 2006-07 school year African-American students were 17.1 percent of the student body, and 35.6 percent of those paddled. Students with disabilities in Texas were 10.7 percent of students and received 18.4 percent of the punishment, a rate of almost twice as many beatings as expected.

Though little research has been done on corporal punishment's efficacy in classrooms, research shows it doesn't work in the home. One researcher says, "It makes them more aggressive, more delinquent, and makes them have more mental health problems."

Should schools and teachers have the right to use corporal punishment? If they do, how can they make sure it's even? Do certain populations misbehave more often causing the inequity, or does it highlight possible prejudice in the classroom?


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