Hitting students? Legally? Really?

Many schools across America control their students through fear and physical violence. And they do it legally. Whether your child can be paddled in public school as a form of punishment depends on where you live.

Most states ban the use of corporal punishment in U.S. juvenile correction facilities and in the prison system.  Yet nineteen states still allow the use of corporal punishment by school adults against students who misbehave, break a rule, have a bad attitude, perform poorly in schoolwork, or do something that annoys them. It is even harder to understand the thinking behind this when we discover that ten of these nineteen states that allow students to be disciplined physically, paradoxically prohibit corporal punishment in their penal systems! How can this be so? They do this with the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1977,  ruled that the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights only protects convicted criminals from cruel and unusual punishment, not students confined to a classroom. (State-by-state analysis of the legality of corporal punishment in the US)

Not unlike prisoners, students are a confined audience at the mercy of those in power. They are vulnerable to whatever their classmates and adults dish at them. Thankfully there is a growing awareness of the frequency and harm of bullying and harassment, especially of certain groups of students. In recent years, many states and school districts have enacted laws and implemented policies that prohibit such abuse. We acknowledge that we owe our students a school climate that is safe and nurturing.

Much of a teacher’s influence on her students comes from modeling, often unintentionally, and we ask teachers and principals to intentionally model what they expect from their students. In addition to the moral and ethical questions of adults hurting children, paddling is not compatible with the understanding of how children learn. Corporal punishment does not model positive social skills, is not a deterrent, does not teach better behavior, and it does not improve academic performance. Paddling teaches our children that adults have the authority, power, and right to abuse them, emotionally and physically, when they are frustrated, angry, or believe we ought not spare the rod. It erodes students’ respect for adults and their belief in non-violent ways to solve problems, and fans disenfranchisement and rebellion. And disturbing is the knowledge that it is administered disproportionately toward the most vulnerable of our children. The US Office of Civil Rights reports that students with disabilities and African American children are paddled at twice the rate of the general school population. The poor, disabled, and racial and ethnic minorities are the overwhelming targets of this sanctioned school violence.

School violence of any kind sickens the climate and has a negative effect on students’ attitudes toward themselves and others, and their academic success. When adults inflict the violence it is an even more egregious abuse of physical and positional power.  So how can we justify sitting by while adults discipline students by hitting them?

We can’t.

As we outlaw bullying in schools, we have a chance to extend these protections even further, to all children on a national level.  The hope lies in our vigilance and support of the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act,” HR 3027 introduced in Congress on Sept 22, 2011 by NY Rep Carolyn McCarthy.

Learn more about the topic and how you can help eliminate corporal punishment in America’s schools.

Huffington Post blog post “Corporal Punishment in American Schools — Teaching Through Terror?”

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Posted on May 15, 2012, in Bullying and Harassment, In the News, Laws and Policies, Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Children learn what they live. If they are hit, they learn to hit. Corporal punishment has no place in school.

  2. kidsrpeople2

    See Documentary showing brutal school beatings/shocking Injuries to US Students from School Corporal Punishment Discipline, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vt4v7KsFi8 school teachers, coaches and administrators who brutally assault students K-12 are Immune from criminal/civil charges leaving no legal remedy, parents would face Felony Child Abuse charges for similar injuries to children!

    School Corporal Punishment is discriminatorily applied to boys, minority, disabled and low-income students.
    http://www.hrw.org/reports/2009/08/11/impairing-education-0

    Schoolchildren in the United States are treated differently based on where they live! Corporal Punishment is Illegal in Schools in 31 U.S. States.

    Sign Petition to End School Corporal Punishment at http://www.change.org/petitions/support-h-r-3027-to-end-corporal-punishment-in-us-public-schools

  3. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something
    which helped me. Many thanks!

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