U.S. Department of Education urges states: Stop paddling students

This screen grab came from a video of two Jasper County educators paddling a 5-year-old. Posted online by the child’s mother, the video created a national furor and has now been viewed by nearly 6 million people.

In its waning days, the Obama Department of Education is attempting to rid American schools of the outdated and discredited practice of paddling and caning students.

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to governors and chief state school officials  this week urging them to end corporal punishment once and for all.

The U.S. DOE cannot compel states to outlaw corporal punishment; it can only counsel against it. In a conference call with reporters Monday, Education Secretary John King condemned corporal punishment as “harmful, ineffective and often discriminatory” and “criminal assault and battery if experienced by adults.”

(The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree with King on the ineffectiveness of swatting students.)

King said more than 110,000 students endured corporal punishment in 2013-14. Many were African-American males. African-American girls are also likely victims.

On the press call, Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center said, while 15 percent of the girls in U.S. schools are black, they account for 41 percent of the girls who experience corporal punishment. Graves said paddling is used for minor student infractions, including dress code violations, tardiness and running in the cafeteria.

“Our schools are bound by a sacred trust to safeguard the well-being, safety, and extraordinary potential of the children and youth within the communities they serve,” King said. “While some may argue that corporal punishment is a tradition in some school communities, society has evolved and past practice alone is no justification. No school can be considered safe or supportive if its students are fearful of being physically punished. We strongly urge states to eliminate the use of corporal punishment in schools– a practice that educators, civil rights advocates, medical professionals, and researchers agree is harmful to students and which the data show us unequivocally disproportionally impacts students of color and students with disabilities.”

Georgia is among 15 states that specifically allow corporal punishment. Georgia leaves the decision of whether to use corporal punishment to the districts. Districts in metro Atlanta have long ago retired the paddle, but corporal punishment persists in some rural Georgia counties.

A video earlier this year of two Jasper County educators attempting to hold down a crying 5-year-old to paddle him brought international condemnation. Nearly 6 million people viewed the heart wrenching cell phone video recorded by the child’s mother.

According to 2015 Georgia data, as reported by districts, 5,849 students were disciplined in school using corporal punishment. The total number of incidents of corporal punishment was 9,713. Pulling out only students with disabilities, corporal punishment was inflicted on 991 students. The total number of incidents of corporal punishment among children with disabilities was 1,760. (Some kids were paddled more than once.)

Most of the states that sanction paddling are in the south or west, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C, prohibit it. (Seven states neither expressly permit nor ban corporal punishment.)

In its official statement, the US DOE said:

There is a wide consensus from teachers’ groups – including both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association – as well as the National PTA, medical and mental health professionals, and civil rights advocates that corporal punishment has no place in our schools. Eighty organizations, include the National Women’s Law Center, are releasing a letter this week calling on states and policymakers to end this practice.

“It is a disgrace that it is still legal in states to physically punish a child in school. Students are subject to corporal punishment for something as minor as cell phone use or going to the bathroom without permission. And students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately victims of physical punishment,” said Fatima Goss Graves. “Not only does corporal punishment inflict pain and injury, it also stifles students’ ability to learn. Policymakers must eradicate violence against schoolchildren and instead foster learning environments that are safe and productive. This barbaric practice must end.”

In the short-term, students who receive this form of punishment show an increase in aggressive and defiant behavior – the opposite of the intended outcome. In the long-term, students who experience physical punishment in school are more likely to later grapple with substance abuse and mental health issues, including depression, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress.

Corporal punishment in school is also associated with poorer academic outcomes. Research has shown, for example, that corporal punishment can affect students’ cognitive functions, lessening brain development, verbal ability, problem-solving skills in young children,  and lowering academic achievement.

The letter builds on the Obama Administration’s work with states and districts through its Rethink Discipline campaign, which has focused attention on the importance of school disciplinary approaches that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments in which students can thrive.

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
quickdigits
quickdigits

I guess I always thought there was a federal law against corporal punishment? I didn't know it was left up to the states to decide? Guess I'm kinda in the dark about this, but one thing I Do know: although I was never paddled in school, because my parents Taught me to behave, I did get a few slaps across the wrist in class, and I witnessed one of my teachers have a physical fight with a student (JD) who perpetually came late to class. We all turned out fine, are Not mentally ill in any way, Respectful of people and generally we're all good honest citizens. This idea that paddling is going to destroy a child is Ridiculous!

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

Seems kids were better behaved in the past when corporal punishment was routine.  (This was usually followed by more corporal punishment when they got home, along with suspension of anything that would be considered a privilege.)  For example, I don't recall a single incident when someone brought a gun to school in the 4 years I was in high school.  Now these are daily occurrences, even in middle schools.


These so-called "victims of corporal punishment" EARNED every bit of it, and probably more.

Astropig
Astropig

I read that about 80% (thereabouts) of corporal punishment is dispensed to males.Therefore,I'm in favor of doing away with it altogether.I would have been even more adamant in the 70's,when I experienced it first hand.I'd have been an activist then,if I had not been pulling girls hair,putting thumbtacks on teachers chairs and generally behaving as a pre-adolescent boy behaves.


My protest chant would have gone something like this:


"What do we want!!?"


"Patience!!!"


"When do we want it?"


"Now!!!"


RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Folks used local control as their excuse for opposing the OSD, now those same folks think it is OK for the Feds to tell them how to discipline or not discipline their children.  Folks don't seem to know what they want, in the education arena.

Courtney Burkey
Courtney Burkey

How about using Restorative Justice? Discipline vs. Punitive.

Michael Campbell
Michael Campbell

I'm an advocate of paddling the parents. That's the root cause of the problem most of the time. \U0001f60b

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

Calls to disband the USDOE are in a word, stupid. 

As states like Texas try to do EVERYTHING they can to whitewash, change and distort our nation's history through curriculum changes and the use of textbooks filled with half-truths and falsehoods, we need the USDOE now more than ever to protect us from being completely overrun by the "anti-academia, anti-enlightenment" crowd.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@TruthReallyHurts So, we leave truth to be determined by the folks, who think your elementary school child should use whatever gender bathroom they wish?  Or the folks who think Climate Change is the most pressing problem we face in America?

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

In a word, yes.

We certainly cannot leave it up to a state that does not want the true picture of slavery taught to students. A state that equates the abomination of slavery to indentured servitude.

As for the issues you raise, "the gender bathroom" issue was/is so trivial. It's common sense. If you have boy parts but ID with a female, if you go to that bathroom you have no choice but to go into a STALL, where no one can see you handle your business. If you have girl parts but ID as a male, nature will not allow you to use the urinal. So guess what? You're still going to have to use the STALL!

As for climate change, calling it our most pressing problem might be a bit of a stretch, but denying it exists is about as ignorant as it gets.

Once again, the right is on the WRONG side of an issue. Shocker!!

Joyce Naumis
Joyce Naumis

No, we teachers just need our administrators to actually support us and reinforce consequences for the students who make bad decisions!

Kara Gibson Richardson
Kara Gibson Richardson

Not only administration - school boards as well. However, most disciplinary issues stem from the home. Oops!!! I'm not supposed to hold parents accountable. My bad! \U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602

Milo
Milo

This is symbolic of the reasons that got Trump elected. 

dg417s
dg417s

I'm not advocating corporal punishment, but the topic does come up in class discussions from time to time. When I mention that although my district prohibits it, it is legal in Georgia, the usual response I get is "I'd like to see some teacher try and hit me." Students are very defiant with any sort of punishment. Give them detention, and they don't show up so suspend them (as one if my former colleagues called it "Xbox day"). So, the question then becomes what consequences can a school give to effectively manage student behavior? Positive reinforcement can only go so far. When you have 35+ students in a classroom, one or two can make a great lesson very difficult to conduct.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@dg417s Penalize their parents.  It's about the only way to get the parents to attend to their parenting.  Enough time hauled before the court MIGHT get parental attention. But only if the court backs up the schools--right now, in my area, the court does not.  Gives parents time after time after time to allow their children to skip school, etc, with only threats--no follow-through.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Perhaps now the Federal Department of Education will be disbanded.  While paddling may not be the best discipline(especially for older students), the problem is that they have moved away from ALL older forms of discipline, and what they have replaced them with (OSS and ISS) are very ineffective.  A student misbehaves because he doesn't want to be in the class, so as punishment, you let him out of the class!  Makes sense to someone, I guess.  While we are getting the Feds out of education, maybe we can remove IDEA, also.  

methuselahschild
methuselahschild

i urge congress and president to dissolve the dept of education, give back the taxes it absorbs and let states/local governments control their education.

Tom Green
Tom Green

I bet they'll also find that boys are over-represented too?

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

Right let's take another one from the dwindling number of consequences teachers can use to reinforce appropriate behavior.

Alesha Daves Stiles
Alesha Daves Stiles

I am a Georgia teacher and we are NOT allowed to paddle. It is something that is done by an administrator with the parent present and at least two other witnesses while it is recorded. I honestly don't think there has been a paddling in our district in the last twenty years.

Addie Watkins
Addie Watkins

No teacher worth his/her salt needs paddling in his/her arsenal.

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

I don't think teachers should paddle. But I think it should be an alternative for administrators to use. There is precious little else. And just because YOU think " no teacher worth his salt" would paddle does not mean it's true. You don't decide for me or others what strategies are effective with the students in our classrooms. You don't know me or my students. I had a group of teachers on a team tell me that I should never give detention because the students had " already had too long a day".

Alesha Daves Stiles
Alesha Daves Stiles

PBIS is a great program that works wonders to improve student behavior. There are other ways to improve behavior other than paddling. Whatever a parent decides to do in their own home with their child for punishment is their business, but I for one would never lay my hands on another person's child because I know if anyone laid their hands on my child, I would be after them for all they were worth. I completely understand detentions and things like that but as a mother if anyone ever punished my child by spanking them in class, I would have their job by the end of the day. That is my job to decide how to carry out harsh punishments if she does something very bad at school not a strangers. ISS, OSS, etc are all good punishment options but physically hurting a child is not.

Michael Tafelski
Michael Tafelski

Race disparities in use of corporal punishment in Georgia is a serious problem.

Chris Mashburn
Chris Mashburn

Black students are not raised with manners at home so the school need to discipline those students more.

Page Lassiter
Page Lassiter

As are the race disparities in the number of conduct violations.