Corporal punishment in schools is on the front burner in many places this month, including Congress where U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce legislation to ban the use of physical discipline in public schools.
At a recent hearing on the issue by her Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee, McCarthy said:
The federal government has outlawed physical punishment in prisons, jails and medical facilities. Yet our children sitting in a classroom are targets for hitting. We know safe, effective, evidence-based strategies are available to support children who display challenging behaviors in school settings.
Hitting children in school does not help them achieve academic success. Hitting children in school is not an effective discipline tactic. Hitting children in school does not make them feel safe in school. Instead, they feel humiliated, helpless, depressed, and angry. Hitting children teaches them that it is a legitimate way to handle conflict.
We are adults. We shouldn’t be hitting kids in schools. Instead, we, as a nation, should move toward these positive strategies when it comes to our school children. It has been a 150 years since the first state banned this practice in schools. Since then, 29 states have done the same. But it is still occurring every day in our nation and we still have hundreds of thousands of students being hit in our schools.
Only 20 states, including Georgia and most other Southern states, permit corporal punishment. (I won’t go into my arguments against it as I have done so in many other blog entries. This is my most recent tirade against the practice. But it’s a no-brainer to me. Ban it now.)
Here is a good Washington Post article, however, about a Texas system that is bucking the trend away from paddling students. The system is Temple, Texas:
Most school districts across the country banned paddling of students long ago. Texas sat that trend out. Nearly a quarter of the estimated 225,000 students who received corporal punishment nationwide in 2006, the latest figures available, were from the Lone Star State.
But even by Texas standards, Temple is unusual. The city, a compact railroad hub of 60,000 people, banned the practice and then revived it at the demand of parents who longed for the orderly schools of yesteryear. Without paddling, “there were no consequences for kids,” said Steve Wright, who runs a construction business and is Temple’s school board president.
Since paddling was brought back to the city’s 14 schools by a unanimous board vote in May, behavior at Temple’s single high school has changed dramatically, Wright said, even though only one student in the school system has been paddled.
“The discipline problem is much better than it’s been in years,” Wright said, something he attributed to the new punishment and to other discipline programs schools are trying. Residents of the city’s comfortable homes, most of which sport neighborly, worn chairs out front, praise the change.
“There are times when maybe a good crack might not be a bad idea,” said Robert Pippin, a custom home builder who sports a goatee and cowboy boots. His son graduated from Temple schools several years ago.
A joint American Civil Liberties Union-Human Rights Watch report last year found that students with disabilities were disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment, sometimes in direct response to behavioral problems that were a result of their disabilities. Many educators and psychologists say that positive tools, such as giving praise for good behavior and withholding it for bad, are far more effective for discouraging misbehavior.
Those techniques “encourage them to behave well in the future,” said report author Alice Farmer. Paddling “makes students lose respect for their teachers.”
Rules about paddling vary from district to district, but typically only administrators, not teachers, can mete out the punishment, which is done in private. Usually, a long, flat wooden paddle is used to give as many as three blows across the student’s clothed rear end, although Farmer found students who had been hit many more times. Boys are overwhelmingly the target.