A new report, analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education, shows that a shocking level of corporal punishment — where school personnel physically strike a child — is still being carried out in public schools.
The Society for Research in Child Development reported that more than 160,000 children were subject to corporal punishment in one year, in the 19 states which have not banned the practice. The report represents “the first-ever effort to describe the prevalence of and disparities in the use of school corporal punishment at the school and school-district levels.”
Most of this barbarity is carried out in southeastern states, and there appears to be a great deal of prejudice. In many states, children with disabilities were 50% more likely to receive corporal punishment than non-disabled children. In Alabama and Mississippi, black children were 51% more likely to be physically punished than white children in more than half of school districts.
Mississippi also has the dubious honor of being the state with the highest frequency, with 1 in 14 kids being physically struck by school personnel.
The behavior leading to corporal punishment ranges from bullying or setting off fireworks in school to “being late to class, failing to turn in homework, violating dress codes, running in the hallway, laughing in the hallway, sleeping in class, talking back to teachers, going to the bathroom without permission, mispronouncing words, and receiving bad grades.”
Even more disturbing, a review of 2003 data found that 10,000-20,000 children had to get medical treatment for bruises, hematomas, broken bones, and nerve and muscle damage after being struck by school authorities.
This abhorrent level of abuse is enabled by codes that give school administrators wide discretion, such as Texas, which defines corporal punishment as:
“…the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.” (Texas Education Code, 2013)
Some states specifically exempt school personnel from liability under child abuse laws, such as Wyoming which states:
“Teachers, principals and superintendents in each district shall be immune from civil and criminal liability in the exercise of reasonable corporal discipline of a student as authorized by board policy.”
In many cases, if a parent carried out the same punishment it would be considered abuse and give cause for the state to take their child away. One nurse, after treating an injury from corporal punishment, testified that she would have called child protective services if it had happened at home instead of school.
Missouri even “explicitly prevents its child protective services department from having any jurisdiction to investigate allegations of child abuse stemming from school corporal punishment.”
This is a shocking amount of vulnerability that the State deliberately creates for children, and the fact that it still exists in 2016 is unbelievable.
Corporal punishment is considered a human rights violation in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thirty-four prominent national organizations – including the National Association of State Departments of Education and the American Medical Association – oppose the use of corporal punishment, as well as the vast majority of Americans, according to polls.
Even animals have better protection than children in public schools. In most U.S. states, hitting an animal to the point of injury is a felony, but doing the same to a child is exempt from child maltreatment laws in most states where corporal punishment in schools is legal.
In general, the use of corporal punishment has declined greatly over the last few decades, despite a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that actually legitimized its use (Ingraham v. Wright). The 19 states still allowing its use are doing so in spite of research showing that it does not work and has negative consequences for a child’s development.
“Corporal punishment is not effective at increasing compliance in the short-term or at promoting long-term compliance and moral behavior. The more children receive corporal punishment, the more likely they are to be aggressive and to misbehave over time, over and above how aggressive or disobedient they are initially.”
“Corporal punishment has been linked with a range of unintended negative outcomes, including higher rates of mental health problems, a more negative parent-child relationship, lower cognitive ability and academic achievement, and higher risk for physical abuse.”
Corporal punishment is even banned in prison and military training facilities, but in 19 states children are still subject to this antiquated, barbaric practice. Twelve of these states have banned corporal punishment in “other publicly funded settings that care for children, suggesting that these states already recognize the harm corporal punishment can pose to children.”
If the adults in the video below would have held down and attempted to strike another adult, this would be considered assault. However, when the victim is a defenseless 5-year-old boy — it’s called education.
While the senseless brutality against children in public schools goes on, the federal government remains virtually silent. Even though it collects the data showing up in the report, corporal punishment is almost never mentioned in reports from the Department of Education, as the authors note.
In a country that claims to be one of the most advanced on earth, its most defenseless citizens are left vulnerable to public school authorities who believe physically injuring a child is the path to educational success.