Georgia remains one of 20 states that allows corporal punishment – typically paddling — in its schools. Now come a new report on how kids with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined.
There has always been great support for corporal punishment here. I’ve listened to many legislative debates where lawmakers declared that they were paddled as kids and deserved every lick. Zell Miller once told me that his mother threatened any whipping at school would be followed by one at home.
According to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch: “The physical discipline, which often includes beatings, can worsen these students’ medical conditions and undermine their education.”
“Students with disabilities already face extra challenges, and being hit by teachers only make it worse,” said Alice Farmer, author of the report. “Corporal punishment is abuse, any way you look at it, and it violates students’ rights to a decent education.”
The report states that students with disabilities made up 18.8 percent of students who suffered corporal punishment at school during the 2006-2007 school year, although they constituted just 13.7 percent of the total nationwide student population. Along with paddling, students with disabilities suffered beatings, spanking, slapping, pinching, being dragged across the room and being thrown to the floor.
The report found that some students were disciplined for conduct caused by their disabilities; students with Tourette syndrome were punished for exhibiting involuntary tics and students with autism for repetitive behaviors such as rocking. Among the incidents:
Theresa E., whose 5-year-old granddaughter with autism was physically punished at her Georgia elementary school: “You could see the bruising. Her whole arm was swollen by the time she got to the emergency room. Her right arm. The doctor said it looked like she’d been hit by a baseball bat or had been in a motorcycle accident…To this day, I have no idea what they hit her with.”
Michelle R., whose son has Tourette syndrome, which causes involuntary physical tics, was punished for his condition at his public elementary school in Mississippi: “One of his tics was balling up his fists…that was seen as aggression and he would get in trouble with it…He would try to explain that it was a tic, and he couldn’t control it, but they see that as him escalating it…They had a closet and he would go in there and that’s where he was hit.”
Is there really that much coporal punishment in Georgia schools today? And should children with disabilities ever be physically disciplined?