Why Is Paddling Still Allowed in Schools?

Corporal punishment takes place in 19 states, despite a raft of evidence that it causes serious harm in children

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Two Texas mothers set off a firestorm recently when they complained that a male assistant principal had severely paddled their daughters. One of the mothers pointed out that school policy required that officials of the same sex as the student do the paddling. Now the school board has responded — by dropping the rule requiring paddlers and students to be of the same sex.

In other words, the Springtown Independent School District decided to expand corporal punishment, a move in precisely the wrong direction. Education experts are in wide agreement that physical punishment in schools is ill-advised: it is unequally meted out, it can cause serious mental and physical harm, and it is not as effective as other kinds of discipline.

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To residents of much of the U.S., beating schoolchildren sounds like a throwback to the nation’s distant past. In New Jersey, corporal punishment has been illegal since 1867, and in many school districts it has not been heard of for decades. The campaign to ban corporal punishment hit its stride in the 1980s and ’90s, when more than 20 states — including big ones like New York and California — adopted bans.

There are now just 19 states that allow corporal punishment in schools, but that still leaves a lot of students being paddled, hit or otherwise physically punished. In the 2005-06 school year, according to the Center for Effective Discipline, more than 223,000 students received corporal punishment. In Mississippi, the No. 1 state for corporal punishment, 7.5% of students were physically disciplined. In Arkansas and Alabama, 4.7% and 4.5% were, respectively.

Corporal punishment is not just a few raps on the knuckles with a ruler. It often means hitting a student on the bottom with a wooden paddle using considerable force. The mother of one of the Texas girls said that after her daughter was paddled, her bottom “almost looked like it had been burned and blistered, it was so bad.”

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There have been reports of students suffering worse injuries, including blood clots and broken bones. The ACLU and Human Rights Watch described the case of Tim L., a Texas fifth-grader who was beaten so brutally in 2003 that his genitals were bruised and swollen and his mother reported having to “pull the underwear off his behind from the dried blood.”

Corporal punishment has been linked to mental-health problems in children. Studies have found that children who receive physical punishment are more likely to experience depression, suicide and antisocial behavior. A Canadian study published this year found a connection between corporal punishment and alcohol and drug abuse.

The case in favor of corporal punishment is remarkably thin. Supporters often invoke the injunction “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” or simply point to the long tradition of paddling children and say they see no reason to stop now. But there is not a great deal of social-science evidence that paddling promotes better outcomes — and there is quite a bit that it does the reverse. Education experts say physical punishment instills a climate of fear in the classroom and is associated with students skipping class and dropping out of school.

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There was a time when critics of corporal punishment hoped that the courts would block its use. But the Supreme Court dealt those hopes a serious blow in 1977, when it ruled in Ingraham v. Wright that in-school corporal punishment does not violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The strongest force working against corporal punishment right now is a simple one: public opinion. Even among people who spank their children, having school officials paddle students is not popular. In an ABC News poll, 72% of respondents opposed physical punishment in grade schools. Even in the South, where corporal punishment is most common, just 35% were in favor.

New state laws against corporal punishment keep coming. Ohio adopted a ban in 2009, and New Mexico adopted one in 2011. But even with this momentum, it could be many years before all states ban the practice. That is why Congress should enact a national ban on corporal punishment in schools, like the one that Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York has proposed. Children in Mississippi and Arkansas — and Texas — should not continue to be beaten just because their states remain committed to a barbaric practice.

MORE: Spare Not the Rod

68 comments
colthammer
colthammer

A lot of kids need a good paddling. They are rude, smart mouthed and disrespect authority. A paddling now may prevent a run in with police later. I am PRO paddling after being a teacher.

jmc0044
jmc0044

I am a product of Florida public schools where assaulting students was rampant while I was attending. At one point we had a demerit system and I remember feeling that I was attending a prison many times always with the threat of being hit for either this or that infraction. I experienced  abuse and saw much of it (mainly upon boys) by coaches, teachers and administrators. I was even able to tell which of the male officials 'enjoyed' hitting boys. Gaydar helped. That's right I am a gay male, not that this is a gay (male)  issue as there were plenty of female abusers as well, but I found that sticking my butt up and letting another male hit it sexually stimulating and arousing. For those that think that hitting kids in school, especially during developing adolescent years, is not a sexual issue, think again. The buttocks, like the breasts and other parts of the human body are erogenous zones and yes some interpret these acts as sexual. The internet is full of spanking pornography websites and then look at youtube videos involving school paddling and read the overwhelming sick sexual comments.

After high school this has haunted me all of my adult life, so much so that I even joined S/M clubs and became involved with others that were into this type of violence. I was even paid to hit people and I paid to be hit by others as well. I had never experienced any of this at home growing up since my parents never hit their seven children. No, my exposure to all of this began at school where paddlings were constantly a part of my school experience. I cannot help wonder how my life would have been without this.

What I learned in school was hatred, contempt, fear, and feelings of revenge and rage, and of course more violence, but never ever did I learn respect.  That was decades ago but if I ever met any of those abusers today (male and female although most are aged or probably dead) I would spit right into their ugly faces. It is unbelievable to me that this still goes on in the schools of America today. It is illegal to strike a US prisoner and illegal in mental hospitals and our minor students should have the same protection. You also have the issue of who is a pervert and who is not. I have a friend who is a well respected and admired school administrator married with children and you would never guess, his fetish, but I know what it is--male ASS. He is a closeted pervert, and the state where he lives protects him to assault or rather as he calls it, "discipline" students.

ablg234
ablg234

Only parents should be allowed to spank their kids not anyone else. And even then only with their hand and only 2 or three times at a time on the butt. In addition, it should only be done from about 2 years to 12 years - you can't spank a teenager.

LisaBrady
LisaBrady

Morgrim maybe if you got spanked a little more you would do your freaking home work like I have done. if you look at the rate for murder the united states is at it's lowest lowest level since 1960.(first year they started doing these statistics) Our violent crime rate is at it's lowest level since 1971, and rape is at it's lowest since 1977. But since we are talking yougins let talk about youth crime. Violent crime for today youth is at it's lowest levels since the 1980's and has been on a pretty much steady decline since 1995.

Morgrim
Morgrim

I think it's hilarious that these "experts" don't look at the real statistical facts. When corporal punishment was more rampant, in schools, at home, and everywhere else, we had LESS violent crime, LESS school shootings, and LESS people killing themselves. Yet now that it is on the decline, everything else is going up... Yes we say spanking cause these type of things? No, it doesn't, quite opposite really... Of course, abuse will cause mental issues, but not spanking. Secondly, this document is so wildly taken out of context and written so far to the let it's ridiculous, dried blood bs, give me a break.

WHOOPYOURKIDS
WHOOPYOURKIDS

THAT'S WHAT WORNG THE WORLD NOW . DON'T SPANK YOUR KIDS YOU'LL HURT THERE FEELING . U HAVE TO DO SOMETHING TO MAKE THEM RESPECT ADULTS AND OTHER CHILDREN . WITH OUT RESPECT THEY GO ON SHOOTING SPREE . IF IT NOT DONE AT HOME THE  SCHOOL THE NEXT BEST THING . I GOT MY ASS WHOOPED AND I WAS TAUGHT RIGHT FROM WRONG. TODAY U JUST SEND THEM TO THERE ROOMS AND SAY DON'T DO THAT AGAIN AND THEN THE NEXT WEEK THEY KILL 5 PEOPLE .   THE WORLD REALLY GOING  TO SHIT .    SUPPORT THE WHOOP YOUR KIDS MOVEMENT . HELP THEM BE SOMETHING GREAT .

Michael Wellman
Michael Wellman

There's a huge difference between "being beaten" and being spanked.  My parents spanked me.  I can remember exactly one time when it was something more than a couple of swats on the butt, and that was 10 smacks with the paddle my Dad made for changing the grades on my Progress Reports (interim report card), and then forging my Teacher's signature on those progress reports.  It hurt, a lot... but while the pain didn't last, the memory did.  That was the last time that I lied to my parents about my grades in School, and the last time I forged anything.

When I went to High School, spanking was allowed, but rarely used.  In my 4 years of high school, I only saw it happen once... it was in chemistry class, when one of the kids decided to play around with one of the chemicals and was threatening his classmates with it.  When the teacher told him to stop before he hurt someone he splashed it toward the teacher (none got on her), and then decided to press his advantage.  The resulting contest of wills was broken up when the teacher left the room and came back with the Soccer Coach from next door, who quickly disarmed the student of his chemicals, took him outside, and paddled him.  It wasn't so much the pain of being paddled as the embarassment of being *the only person paddled at that school in 10 years* that made the kid behave from then on.

frizztext
frizztext

In Europe corporal punishment is forbidden in schools (and at home). It is allowed in Turkey and many Arabian States. Is half of the USA on the level of those not very civilized nations?

Guest
Guest

Is the author taking issue with paddling because it is not malkoth as is prescribed for him and his own?

George Babbitt
George Babbitt

Also, what this article fails to reference is that corporal punishment in the home is legal in all 50 states.

George Babbitt
George Babbitt

Corporal punishment should already be phased out of a child's life by the  time they go to school. It is valuable when the child is still developing functional bidirectional communication skills along with a sense of awareness that extends beyond the perpetual present, largely between the ages of 2 and 5.

Roy Austin Smith
Roy Austin Smith

The spankings should start in Washington DC. Every congressman, the president , his vp should have their a.... paddled hard. that is where is should start and the governemt should stay out of it.

Bershawn300
Bershawn300

The only thing that causes a raft of problems in children is abuse and/or neglect.  Abuse comes from "overspanking" or hitting.  Neglect comes from not setting parameters for children whatsoever.  Balance is key.  But spanking is not the end of the world for children, provided it does not become abusive and the adults have established a loving relationship with the child to begin with.  Spanking should be done out of love.  Honestly, more kids need to be spanked.  Too many kids show serious disrespect for others and are not disciplined for it.  Bring on the paddles!

leeddog
leeddog

This is another piece of politically correct BS. Does anyone even notice that the demise of our education system coinsides with the removal of corporal punishment in the schools. The inmates are now running the asylum and the teachers have lost control. I was paddled once, and that was all it took. I was a good student and a good kid, but I pushed it too far once and paid for it. I learned my lesson and it didn't happen again. That's called effectiveness. We could use more effective results in our educational system and less feel-good BS. Abuse? No. Punishment? Hell yes!

leeddog
leeddog

This is another piece of politically correct BS. Does anyone even notice that the demise of our education system coinsides with the removal of corporal punishment in the schools. The inmates are now running the asylum and the teachers have lost control. I was paddled once, and that was all it took. I was a good student and a good kid, but I pushed it too far once and paid for it. I learned my lesson and it didn't happen again. That's called effectiveness. We could use more effective results in our educational system and less feel-good BS. Abuse? No. Punishment? Hell yes!

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

This view is going to be unpopular, but I believe that pain is an effective punishment and deterrent when applied dispassionately, appropriately and only when necessary.

The fact is, pain is Nature's way of saying, "Don't do that."

The problem with "corporal punishment" and all the studies done is that they focus on what happens after it's misapplication or abuse.  OF COURSE if you keep hitting someone, they're going to be messed up. There are none on how to best use it.  Pain is one of the many methods of discipline a person should have at their disposal, albeit one used only very rarely.  Much like the "nuclear option" is it the punishment of last resort.

Children are raised in order to be good citizens.  As such, there should be written rules for them to follow and specific punishments for breaking those rules, with escalating levels of punishment for repeat offenses.  Once they become adults, they'll be dealing with a similar system.

Applying the "nuclear option" should always be a terrifying experience for a child.  They should be told it's going to happen and set a date and time.  Let them think about it.  The anticipation of pain is often worse than the pain itself.  When the appointed time comes, be dispassionate, measured and controlled.  Tell the child again what they did wrong, and why they're getting spanked.  Answer any questions they have honestly.  Administer a specific amount of spankings.   And once it's over, it's over.   The child has been told why, has had their questions answered has been punished and now has to think about it. 

If done right, this shouldn't have to be done more than once in a child's life.

I'm also in favor of public floggings, albeit in a somewhat different manner than one sees in movies about pirates.

Floggings would be done in public by a machine that is calibrated to inflict pain, but not permanent damage, depending on the number of lashes and the physical health of the individual as certified by a physician.  The overall number of floggings would vary based on the offense.  They'd be either in addition to any other punishment or the only punishment, saving jail space.  Floggings would be mandatory viewing of at least ONE per year - certified by the state - as part of every citizen's civic duty, especially if they want to renew a license.

As for what would have floggings attached to it and what wouldn't, I'd say that the severity of the crime should have something to do with it with the LESSER offenses being more likely to incur lashings as the ONLY punishment. 

The wealthy can afford fines.  The poor can not.  This creates a disproportionate imposition to the the punishments we have today.  Level the playing field by making the punishment for most civil offenses (like traffic tickets) hurt the same.  The more serious offenders we imprison first and lash once they're released.  A kind of "get out of jail" reminder not to mess up again.  Lashing them and then throwing them in jail sounds a lot less civilized to me, but if that's more effective, then we should do that.

The POINT to all of this is that Nature has a mechanism to teach all creatures not to do things.  It's called "pain".  It's apparent, given that the United States has more of its population in prison per capita than any other country on earth that we aren't law-abiding citizens, or our laws are too draconian.  Given that people seem to want stricter laws, I don't see a relaxation of those draconian laws anytime soon.  But we need a system that actually deters criminal behavior.  The discomfort of prison obviously isn't the best way of deterring crimes.  It merely puts it off until most criminals are out again and re-offend (often due to the fact that in our society, the NIMBY mentality doesn't give convicted felons much of a chance at making an honest living)  Some people feel no discomfort when they have to pay money because they can afford it.  The pain inflicted by our system is too light to be remembered or sufficiently feared.  It's too abstract ("Go to prison and you will never have a good job in your life." means nothing to someone who never had a good job in their life.).

Pain is not abstract.  It's direct, real, immediate and for most people, lasting if inflicted the same way it should be on a child - at an appointed time giving the offender a lot of time to think about it.

And by using this method, we can actually stop jailing people for minor or moderate offenses, which will help ease prison overcrowding.

Sadly, I don't see us becoming this enlightened (though I'm sure there are those of you who think this is barbaric).  Too many municipalities, counties and states rely on the revenue from the fines that would no longer be collected.  Red-light cameras are indicative of that.    However, taking our lessons in proper behavior from Mother Nature seems only prudent since those are the methods we have evolved to teach us not to do things.  Raw, physical pain is an excellent behavior modifier when applied with thought and reason.

How differently would YOU drive if you knew you would be publicly "spanked" for speeding if you're caught and that no amount of money would stop it?

Of course, this is merely a concept.  Implementation would need studies to help prove the concept.  No point in beating the brain dead if it turns out that spanking and public humiliation doesn't stop  people from doing criminal things.

Talendria
Talendria

A lot of people confuse punishment with discipline.  Punishment is reactive, an imposed set of consequences for misbehavior.  Discipline is proactive, a regimen that discourages bad behavior from occurring in the first place.  Discipline is obviously a lot more work for grown-ups than punishment, which is why we're having this discussion.  I've only seen two kinds of troubled kids:  the ones who have too much energy and don't know how to control it and the ones who are psychotic.  The energetic kids can be focused with yoga and cardio; the psychotic ones need to go to alternative school.  Spanking is never the answer.

Martyn Wilson
Martyn Wilson

Corporal punishment is a lousy idea that doesn't work - notwithstanding the "I was beaten senseless as a child and it did me no harm" comments. Children learn respect for teachers, parents and other members of society who are in "authority", and they learn it (in general) from the way these adults behave. Teachers and parents who cannot control their charges other than through the use of violence are never going to have their respect, only their fear.

It is, as has been noted here, no coincidence that most of the schools in the USA that still allow adults to use violence on children are in so-called "red" states. Like many another lousy idea, corporal punishment has its origins in the bible: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." - Proverbs 13:24. Another reason for a secular society.

krecik62
krecik62

@Martyn Wilson Translation from the Hebrew bible with many reluctance to other languages ​​and these proverbs is a tragedy.
Bible and the Jewish Torah włściwie (Old Testament) can not be a model because it is a misrepresentation and above all a very far-fetched.

TakeOneDo
TakeOneDo

This educated new ager is apparently for the way the world is going right now and that is why he doesn't agree with paddling.  How many of our philanthopists, scientists, and world changers of the past were paddled?  Oh...they could have been so much more if they would not have been paddled...PLEASE...Gee Wiz.  The world is full of more messed up people who don't respect or listen to anyone, because they weren't paddled in school Adam Cohen.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Kids have enough problems in school without corporal punishment.

Generally all it does is to serve to further segregate the kids into the good ones and the bad ones.

It is seldom used fairly and is often used inappropriately.

Whatever the parents proclivities in this regard if the school enforces it's own corporal punishment it damages the child more than it helps it.

Negative reinforcement is necessary, but the application of physical pain is the least appropriate form and seldom causes cooperation, rather rebellion and withdrawal.

It has NO place in the school system.

I think their is a case for a federal ban in line with cruel and unusual punishment.

Hitting children by any means is always cruel and even parents are often prosecuted for it now.

lokiii
lokiii

Of course on the other hand I saw schools reinstate it down here and trouble went way down in schools.  You of course will never have that mentioned.   The feral children people seem to want instead are far more destructive to society.   Light em up if they earned it.  There need to be real consequences in order to learn. 

Sara L. Rose
Sara L. Rose

With one or two exceptions, the states that allow corporal punishment are politically "red" and culturally backwards. Not exactly centers of intellectual ferment.  These states, like wooden paddles, are dumb.

JohnOBX
JohnOBX

I always enjoy reading articles that condemn a practice but then don't seem to offer any alternative solutions.  Okay, so we won't use corporal punishment, which should be a punishment of last resort, imo.  So after counseling them, banging erasers, and time out stops having any effect what do you resort to?  Hug them until they straighten up?

The sissification of America continues unabated.  I'm surprised they even allow contact sports in school anymore. 

my5guys
my5guys

1.  I was born in Mississippi and attended many schools there, various grades and areas. Besides the occasional problem, no rampant discipline issues.

2.  Attended North Carolina schools for various grades and was wrongly paddled in 1974 for another student's actions. I believed ending corporal punishment was good - until my own children became students and I saw what a mess had been made by ending paddling and instituting other forms of discipline. Each time a kid was sent home, the further behind he fell and this was a cycle that was hard to break. School personnel were impotent - unable to control the kids or the parents. The school system had become an extended Department of Social Services against their will - bus, feed, teach, and often clothe and administer all forms of treatment including basic, dental, speech, occupational and mental health - EVERYTHING BUT DISCIPLINE.

3.  Moved to Arkansas in 2010 and have opted out of paddling for my two sons UNTIL  this year - 7th grader can be paddled and 6th grader not. My sons have unique personalities and this works for us. 7th grader follows school rules BECAUSE he doesn't want a paddling AND would rather get a few licks instead of being suspended, missing classwork, prolonged parental punishment and peer pressure.

My father was a beater. I rarely spanked but knew when it was necessary. Three sisters, one brother and four sons later with experience in schools in MS, NC, AR and Pennsylvania from the 1970's until present day AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE WRONG - PADDLING HAS A PLACE IN SCHOOLS. That place needs strict guidelines and it may not be good for every school, district, county, or state but its working for us and we are in the top 5 in AR and have been recognized nationally for academics. It's not broken here so leave us alone.

Belisarius85
Belisarius85

>>

Children in Mississippi and Arkansas – and Texas – should not continue to be beaten just because their states remain committed to a barbaric practice.<<

Actually, if that is what the voters of said states prefer, I don't see what the problem is. You're going to stir up even more gridlock and hatred by allowing liberal states to force their beliefs upon conservative ones.