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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?


Join The Conversation
melizzle melizzle 8 years
Corporal punishment in a public forum? Not so much. Leave the parenting to the parents. I will admit, though, that getting the sense knocked out of me repeatedly during childhood by my parents for all my shenanigans straightened me up real quick.
CoralAmber CoralAmber 8 years
I was just watching a new show on Tru TV called The Principal and at one high school they give the kids a choice between Saturday School and three licks with a paddle. It's pretty interesting watching how some of these kids behave.
liliblu liliblu 8 years
Pop stated,"Racial profiling in the classroom... It's hard to prove isn't it? The stats alone don't convince me. I would guess that on average the African American students have harder family lives, perhaps absentee parents etc. and that would definitely lead to greater discipline problems. Just a guess though." It may be hard to prove but that does not mean it's not happening. We live in a country where 50% of marriages end in divorce. There are lot of broken families. I believe Perception is part of the problem. Some, not all, but some teachers come into the classroom with preconceived attitudes about certain groups. I substitute teach when I can. I've had conversations with teachers about students. Some are so fantastic they could write a book on the kids strengths, abilities, weakness, and personality traits. Others never look below the surface. They expect that kind of behavior from Johnny, so they never talk to Johnny.
death-by-chocolat death-by-chocolat 8 years
Okay I already posted this last night but for some reason it isn't showing. (!?!) I am speculating that the use of "disabled" for this survey largely pertains to the label of emotionally/behaviorally disabled, or learning disabled, which are frequently used by school counselors. Emotionally disabled kids, for example, may be children diagnosed with conduct disorder. It makes sense that a child who has such a disorder (exhibiting violence, manipulation, etc) or something on a lower behavioral-problem level like hyperactivity, would meet up with the principal more often than a child who hasn't been noted in one of these "disability" categories. It is doubtful that children with physical handicaps, or even standard IQ-based mental handicaps, would be physically disciplined. Also, just to play into the statistics, there is likely an element of self selection for the children. If you are a parent who has a 7 y/o child that will punch teachers in the stomach at random (true story, yes)-- e.g. a child who is labeled emotionally disabled-- you are probably more likely to seek out a school that enforces corporal punishment than other parents. Even to a less extreme, there are particular cultural and ethnic groups who desire a very obedient child, which may lead to more parents of 'misbehaving' kids in these supposedly targeted groups to be enrolled in a school with CP. I'm not advocating anything here, but I wanted to point out that there is a lot at play in the statistics quoted here (as always), and you should not take them at face value.
chocolatepasta chocolatepasta 8 years
Holy crap. I watched the video...I was glad to see that it's illegal in my home state, California, but horrified to see that North Carolina, where I currently live, allows corporal punishment. and i agree with plastic bee.... "The person who thinks corporal punishment on a disabled child is perfectly fine is the only person in my eyes that needs to be punished. Any form corporal punishment on a child is wrong."
Plastic-bee Plastic-bee 8 years
The person who thinks corporal punishment on a disabled child is perfectly fine is the only person in my eyes that needs to be punished. Any form corporal punishment on a child is wrong.
amybdk amybdk 8 years
Pop and lilkimbo... I agree.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i don't think that punishments like this are really going to make any difference in a child's behavior - but that just me. you don't learn anything from being hit or what have you. i think that if you want a child's behavior to change, you need to talk to them and understand why they are acting out and figure out what works. i know that for myself - if i were disciplined in a major way - i think that i would either continue to do it cause i'm stubborn, or i would retreat into myself and be really quiet and that's not good for development either.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Pop, I was thinking along the same lines. I also know that the U.S. is still partially racially segregated along class lines, so it's very possible, I would even say likely, that this is going on more at particular schools, not that the individual teachers are punishing one racial or ethnic group more than another. Regardless, it's still wrong. Nothing like this would have EVER gone on at my school growing up. The worst thing that ever happened was that we had to stay in during recess or have detention. I had detention one time, in fourth grade, for failing to turn in some assignments, and it was actually kind of fun. My teacher knew that I was a good kid, so she let me serve the detention with her instead of with the other kids serving detention. I got to stay in her classroom and we talked and I helped her put up new bulletin boards. A good time was had by all.
Shadowcat14 Shadowcat14 8 years
When I went to a private school in Oklahoma one of the teachers who taught 1st grade sent home permission slips to the parents to allow her to spank their children. This was ironic because she was a nun, supposedly a progressive one because she did not wear a habit.
death-by-chocolat death-by-chocolat 8 years
Why isn't my comment posted..? :-(
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
Racial profiling in the classroom... It's hard to prove isn't it? The stats alone don't convince me. I would guess that on average the African American students have harder family lives, perhaps absentee parents etc. and that would definitely lead to greater discipline problems. Just a guess though. In any case, I think some minor corporal punishment wouldn't be the worst thing ever, but parents should have to give consent. The rules would have to be really clearly laid out so that the parents felt comfortable with what was worthy of punishment etc. Also, the punishment would have to be carried out totally without anger. To me that is the difference between abuse and punishment in some of these cases.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
I thought my dad would have an aneurysm when he saw that report card. Kikidawn and Rainbow Brite, your parents are awesome :) Mine were as well, but I'm still traumatized over the whole "one single B in Social Studies the one time" thing. :p
Michelann Michelann 8 years
You guys are crazy. I just barely scraped by most of my grade-school career. I'm making straight A's in college though :)!
kikidawn kikidawn 8 years
I encountered my first "B" in 4th grade (math) and I was harder on myself than anyone else. I went home upset and as soon as I walked into the back door I fell to the floor crying. My mom was worried and asked me what was wrong and I told her and she tried to comfort me but it didn't work. From that point on I never received another B in my life (so far anyways! Still have 1.5 years of college ... and then grad school while teaching).
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
I didn't get my first B until Calculus my Junior year. I was so bad at Calc. I absolutely hated it. I was so worried to show my parents my report card and got myself all worked up about it. When I got home they were like, good job! Then I realized that they just thought the fact I was still trying to succeed was good enough! I still hate Calc.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
But, like Jude, I knew that if I got in trouble at school, I was in MORE trouble at home I remember the ONE SINGLE TIME I took home anything less than an was a B+ in Social Studies. (In fourth grade or whatever it was, I just could not concentrate on memorizing when various explorers discovered various things in the world.) My teacher had already pulled me aside to comfort me because she could tell I was upset about the less-than-an-A grade on my report card. But even despite her encouragement, both my parents asked, "So why was it a B and not an A?" I never got anything less than an A since then.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
Whew, I got licks in school. Every teacher had a paddle. It worked. But, like Jude, I knew that if I got in trouble at school, I was in MORE trouble at home. Also, back then, you had to respect teachers and obey them, even if you didn't like them. It was just something that WAS. Now, kids run all over some of their teachers. Parenting started taking a nosedive about 10-15 years ago.
kikidawn kikidawn 8 years
When I was in middle school parents had to sign a "permission slip" that stated the principal was allowed to use corporal punishment. My parents didn't sign it b/c they didn't want me being spanked by someone who may have a different view of what was "bad enough to be spanked for" ... also my parents didn't think it was fair if I were part of a problem that had several kids in it and some were punished by spanking and some weren't b/c of the permission slips. (I was never in trouble of any kind for the record ;) ) I don't agree with corporal punishment anyway(even though I was raised with it). But by teachers/principals it is unacceptable. No one will punish my kids like that! I can't believe that teachers would hit disabled kids ... but even that any kids!! That is truly uncalled for. My second grade teacher was a terror. I vividly remember her yelling at a kid b/c she found a paper under her rug that was from Nov or something and it was spring ... he never turned it in (or he did and she lost it) and so she yelled at him several months later! She scared me. My mom was going to get me out of her class but in my elementary we were only allowed to change classes in one grade and my next year (3rd grade) I had the possibility of getting an even worse teacher. My cousin had that teacher and she constantly yelled and belittled him.
death-by-chocolat death-by-chocolat 8 years
I'm going to speculate that the "disabled" label is largely being used in reference to those who are termed in the system as learning disabled or emotionally disabled. It would make sense that kids who have ADHD or have conduct disorder would be at a greater risk for meeting up with the principal. Doubtful they're actually taking kids who are physically disabled, or even classified as mentally retarded, down for a spanking. Also, just to play the statistical devil's advocate, the "targeted groups" may be represent populations of parents who want their children to be in a highly disciplined environment. If you have a child with conduct disorder who in public school walks up and punches a teacher at random, you just may be more likely to self select your kid into a school that enforces corporal punishment.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I got paddled by the principal when I was in 2nd grade. I never told my parents because I was afraid that I would get another spanking when I got home.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
When I was in first grade, there was a teacher fired for locking kids in the closet as punishment.
I thought I was done Sugaring for the day, but I just had to log on and say that that is AWFUL.
kastarte2 kastarte2 8 years
There was a sixth grade teacher in my school system who would put down kids in front of the class, push and hit kids. She was never fired or reprimanded. Most of the time, kids would complain to parents, the parents would confront her and she would accuse the child of lying or having an overactive imagination. She made my year in sixth grade hellish when she would do things like yell at me for getting up to blow my nose or tell my mother I hadn't turned in my homework when I had. It was odd. All the kids knew about her and dreaded her class and this went on for years, yet all the adults seemed in different. Finally, she pushed a kid in front of the school librarian one year when I was in high school and was forced into early retirement when the school year ended. She died that summer. Her brad of discipline was not effective on me. When I was in first grade, there was a teacher fired for locking kids in the closet as punishment. First graders are six and could be afriad of the dark. I think that is a little severe.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
This really isn't okay. If a teacher ever hit a child of mine, my child would not stay in that class. And if the school administrators approved of it, my child would not stay in that school. Hopefully my children would be well behaved, but I don't believe physical violence and humiliation are the proper way to teach a child anything. My parents raised me to be a polite, well behaved girl without ever hitting or spanking me. As far as I know, corporal punishment isn't allowed where I'm from.
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