Another viewpoint: Anywhere else, it would be assault


The Washington Post

While the use of corporal punishment in schools is a widely condemned practice, officials in more than 15 states can still strike a child for misbehavior.

In 2021, a 4-year-old was allegedly hit and then restrained and beaten a second time for talking during nap time in Louisiana. And in Mississippi, an 8-year-old found herself in a hospital bed with a fractured finger after enduring a beating for talking in class in 2018.

Violence is not an acceptable form of discipline. It is not only ineffective but counterproductive, too. Research shows children who are physically disciplined become more aggressive and antisocial and experience more mental health problems.

In Louisiana, Mississippi and other states, many still defend the right for schools to physically discipline children. And while these states often say they will seek parental consent, restrict excessive force and establish a variety of other policies to prevent abuse, neither the Louisiana nor Mississippi parents said they approved the beatings. Meanwhile, the definition of excessive force is too vague to be protective.

There should be no gray area. The United Nations considers corporal punishment a human rights violation. And leading medical associations, including the American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, decry the practice.

While most schools have abandoned the practice, it lingers in many districts in the South, where a history of racial violence makes the continued existence of school-approved physical punishment more concerning.

About 70,000 instances of corporal punishment were recorded in 2017-2018, according to the latest federal data. Among those who were subjected to it, more than 13,000 students had disabilities — a group that, along with Black students, research has found to be disproportionately targeted for physical punishment.

Mississippi, which had the highest number of corporal punishment incidents of any state in the latest federal data, recorded more than 3,800 instances of physical punishment in the last school year, according to reporting by The Post’s Donna St. George. Of those, 54% were directed at Black students, who make up only 47% of the state’s enrollment.

Defenders, such as a Missouri school district that reinstated paddling as what it claimed is a last resort for consistently disruptive students, argue its necessity. One Texas lawmaker said, “Kids do need to fear leadership,” as the state legislature considered — and defeated — a proposed ban on corporal punishment this spring.

Schools are meant to teach children to become confident, capable citizens, not fearful followers. But when children are beaten at school, they learn the wrong lesson — that conflict should be settled with pain and physical force rather than communication. More than 90% of schools understand this. The rest need to join.

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