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Corporal Punishment in Schools – Is this Archaic Form of Discipline Still Allowed?

Public-School-Negligence-300x262Black’s Law Dictionary defined Corporal Punishment as follows:

“Physical punishment as distinguished from pecuniary punishment or a fine; any kind of punishment of or inflicted on the body, such as whipping or the pillory; the term may or may not include imprisonment, according to the context.”

Many people think that corporal punishment is a thing of the past. An archaic or old-fashioned manner of punishment that was once common in the school system.  As an elementary school student of the 1970s, I recall classmates coming back from the principal’s office with a face that was red like a tomato and tears flowing out like there was no tomorrow.  It was clear that these classmates underwent the punishment of a paddling.  Many people would be surprised to know that corporal punishment in the form of paddling and other measures is still in place.

Currently (2019), there are 19 states that still allow corporal punishments in their schools with a heavy concentration of these states being in the South. Many parents and educators in these states seem to believe that corporal punishment is still an effective way of reducing disruptive behavior in the classroom. In 1977, after the Supreme Court of the United States in  Ingraham v. Wright ruled that corporal punishment was constitutional.  This meant that each state could create its own rules when it came to physically punishing students. A study done by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in 2014 showed that 838 children on average were subjected to corporal punishment per day based off of a 180 day school year. While this is lower than previous years, it is still an alarming number when you take into account that there has been cases where children have received physical punishments for menial infractions such as being tardy. Another issue with corporal punishment laws and actions involves the specification on how to carry out corporal punishment to comply with the applicable local / state laws.  Many such corporal punishment laws are very general in nature as to what would constitute excessive force or injury to a student. For example, in Florida,  the statute on point allows for the “moderate use of physical force or physical contact”.

Another issue that arises when evaluating the implementation of corporal punishment involves the population of students who are subjected to corporal punishment when compared to all students in the school system.  A Government Accountability Office report examining the 2013-2014 school year shows that black and disabled students were punished at much higher rates than other students. These studies also found that boys were more likely to receive corporal punishment than girls. Lawmakers have attempted to pass regulations on the punishments of children with disabilities, but have been met with resistance as parents are protective of their ability to discipline their children as they see fit. Many lawmakers and politicians are still fighting to this day to abolish corporal punishment. The last state to ban corporal punishment was New Mexico in 2011, and with the next election cycle coming up in 2020, do not be surprised if you see corporal punishment as a hot topic for candidates whenever discussing education reform in the United States.

David Wolf is a child injury attorney and child safety advocate.  He is the author of 12 books that focus on perspnal injury matters.  David Wolf provides a Free Consultation on all child injury and personal injury matters.  Attorney David Wolf firmly believes in Giving a Voice to Injured Children and Their Families.