There Is No Place For Corporal Punishment In Our Schools

After the shocking video from Georgia, why are teachers practicing corporal punishment at all?

I have said in the past—and still stand by my belief—that spanking isn’t abuse but that it is not a method of discipline to which I subscribe. I don’t want my kids to hit, so why would I hit them? I do think there is a huge grey area after which point spanking does become abuse. There are far more effective disciplinary tools at my disposal than to resort to swatting a kid’s butt.

That said, if I knew a friend of mine spanked her kids, I would keep my thoughts on the subject to myself.  I certainly wouldn’t call the authorities over a parent spanking her kids’ bums.

But I will call CAS, the police and a lawyer if I ever hear of a teacher laying a hand on a child. Any child.

My father likes to not so fondly recall the teachers he had who threw books at kids who weren’t listening and my mother can still give me the name of every single teacher who used a ruler to keep her classmates in line. But that was over 50 years ago. Surely teachers hitting students is as much a thing of the past as segregation. Right? Must be!

I’m sorry, what? It’s not?!?

Apparently, not even close. In fact in the southern U.S., it seems borderline commonplace and accepted for children to be hit by their teachers. In a whopping 19 states south of the border, corporal punishment in the classroom is still entirely legal and not just legal, but also regularly practiced.

“Students in those states received corporal punishment 166,807 times in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the most recent federal data available. That's an average of more than 900 times each school day,” NBC news reported.

I’d be interested to know how that number is being tallied. Do teachers submit a note to the principal every time they swat a kid? But I digress…

Late last week in Georgia, the mother of a 5 year old little boy shared video via social media of her child being paddled by his principal. It’s seriously mind blowing. Please be aware, the video is very shocking.

“That level of frequency [of the use of corporal punishment] seems to contradict a wide body of social science research on the negative impact of slapping, spanking or paddling a child. Some argue that spanking can help drive down a child's IQ or ability to learn. Others say it triggers more aggressiveness,” NBC reported. I suppose it’s not so surprising that authority figures hitting kids in schools can lead to those children having heightened levels of aggressiveness.

There are plenty ‘reasons’ for the vestiges of my parents’ childhood classroom experiences perpetuating well into the 21st century. Part of it is thanks to the good ‘ol U.S. constitution that protects every American’s right to sleep with a gun under the pillow and the right of teachers to hit their students. 

Explains NBC: “A teacher's right to smack a kid is protected by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1977's Ingraham v. Wright that physical discipline in public schools didn't violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment or its due process protections. In that case, the court cited America's long tradition of corporal punishment in schools—as long as it's not excessive or unreasonable.” Excessive or unreasonable according to who?

Credit for the practice is also given to religious beliefs that support strict interpretation of the bible and other, more cultural reasons that I won’t even bother go to into now, because ultimately that explains why people might practice spanking in the home. None of it justifies, in any manner shape or form, allowing teachers to paddle kids.

Should there be a differentiation? Is it any different than a parent spanking their own child? As someone who doesn’t spank by practice, I still feel like there is a significant nuance between the types of discipline I practice in my own home and the type of discipline appropriate in the school setting. But at the end of the day, I think paddling has no place in either.

It’s 2016! How this has been allowed to continue for this long is beyond me, but maybe the outrage that is resulting from the now-viral video will force change. Children will misbehave. Children won’t always listen. But, in school, that’s what the principal’s office and detention is for. 

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