Bullying: It’s Not Just For Kids (Corporal Punishment Is Alive And Well In Many US Schools)

“As the severity of corporal punishment in the delinquent’s developmental history increases, so does the probability that he will engage in a violent act.” – Dr. Ralph Welsh

School children are getting assaulted every day from first grade, all the way to their senior year. It’s not only perfectly legal, but widely practiced and even condoned. The fact that school administrators are the ones committing these offenses should make every one angry to the point of rushing down to their local school boards and demanding that this barbaric, ancient and widely disproved form of discipline be struck down by their state government. Because many parents did just that,  in most of the country corporal punishment has been on a gradual but steady decline since the 1970’s, and 28 states have banned it. But..

Not In The South…

In parts the South and the lower Midwest, corporal punishment in public schools still reigns supreme.  More than 300,000 American schoolchildren were disciplined with corporal punishment. The blows are usually administered with a thick wooden paddle and sometimes there are holes bored in the paddle to make the beating more painful. Where is this happening, exactly?  In Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas, with the worst offenders are Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

I bet many of you thought that corporal punishment has long disappeared from all American public schools, but the US Supreme Court decided in 1977 that spanking or paddling by schools is lawful where it has not been explicitly outlawed by local authorities. The effects of paddling can be devastating, as there are many instances where students have said that it hurts like crazy, and the paddlings have been accompanied by yelps and tears and red faces.

The Christian Connection…

It is no coincidence that the states who still condone, encourage and practice corporal punishment are those that have some of the highest concentrations of fundamental Christian citizens. These parents have adopted the widely accepted ideologies and doctrines of the Christian religion that often justify the abuse of children. The bible contains provisions for corporal punishment, and it is this form of discipline that many believe necessary to rear an upstanding and trustworthy adult.

The physical abuse of children is so common within Christianity that it is not even considered criminal, which is the main reason why corporal punishment is condoned as a perfectly acceptable form of discipline and the practice. To avoid any First Amendment tangles, public school systems have carefully worded their policies on corporal punishment not to include any reference to religion, is, in fact, based on the following bible verses:

  • Prov 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently).”
  • Prov 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
  • Prov 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
  • Prov 23:13: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
  • Prov 23:14: “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Shoel).”
  • Prov 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

Starting When…?

Many Christians believe that it is preferable to start physically abusing children at a young age. Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family,” one of the most influential personalities in Christian circles and widely regarded as an expert on child rearing, recommends spanking children as early as 18 months of age.  Apparently Dr. Dobson has no comprehension about the developmental problems that will befall a child when he or she is abused at home, in school and then to have their abuse supported by the church.  There is absolutely no refuge available to these children, and in many cases, they grow up to be abusers, themselves.

But a parent has a choice, right?  Well, I thought so. In Alabama, for example, a parent is required to sign a waiver to prevent their children from being disciplined using corporal punishment. The catch is that the parent has to appear at the school and promise the administration that their child will be properly disciplined. The school may still institute an administrative form of discipline, as well, such as detention or suspension.  At the outset, this seems legit, as the school does not require the parental discipline to be physical in any way. However, the official school policy states that the parents wishes that corporal punishment not be administered to their child can be overridden by school administrators.

Wait, What…?

Here is an excerpt from the Tallapoosa County (Alabama) Board of Eduction’s official parent/student handbook, which reflects the policy of the Alabama Board of Education policy on the administration of corporal punishment in Alabama Public Schools. The emphasis is mine, showing where a parent’s refusal of consent to use corporal punishment on their child can be overridden by the BOE:

CORPORAL PUNISHMENTAs a last resort method to maintain discipline or to enforce school rules prior to expulsion, a principal or designee may administer corporal punishment (paddling) through moderate use of physical force or physical contact. Such punishment shall be administered under conditions which do not hold the student to ridicule or shame and which punishment is never in the presence of other students.

No student is required to submit to corporal punishment.A student’s parent/guardian may make a written request that his/her child be exempted from corporal punishment and that an alternative punishment be given that is acceptable to the principal. If an alternative is acceptable to the principal but is not effective, the use of corporal punishment may be reinstated with or without the student’s parent/guardian consent.The procedures listed below must be followed to guarantee proper and legally required due process on behalf of the student:

1. The student must have been informed previously that his/her behavior could bring about the use of corporal punishment.

2. Prior to corporal punishment, initial efforts and/or alternative methods should be taken in an attempt to modify the student’s behavior.

3. The administration of corporal punishment must occur in the presence of another certified employee, but only after:

  • a. the school employee is informed about the reasons for punishment in the presence of the student; 
  • b. the student is given the opportunity to deny or admit his/her guilt; and
  • c. it has been determined that the instrument to be used to corporally punish is appropriate for the age and physical size of the student being punished.

4. No more than three licks shall be administered to a student’s buttocks.

5. Whenever corporal punishment is administered, a written report shall be made and a copy forwarded to the child’s parent/guardian.

6. No instrument shall be used that might produce physical injury to the student, no part of the body above or below the buttocks may be struck, and the number of strokes and everity thereof shall be reasonable and moderate.

7. Only paddles are to be used in administering corporal punishment and are to be made from a general and smooth wood product and conformed to the following maximum sizes per dimension:

  • Grades K-6: Length 7 1/2″, Width 3 1/2″, Thickness 1/4″, and Handle Length 4″.
  • Grades 7-12: Length 13″, Width 5″, Thickness 3/8″, and Handle Length 4″.

Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools...

Here is a graphic from The Center For Effective Discipline which shows that in the 2005-2006 school year, 223,190 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment.

Here’s a similar graphic which also breaks it down state-by-state:

Where I Live…

In Georgia, where I reside, the law also allows for the beating of a child by the Department of Education. The Georgia law reads:

“All area, county, and independent boards of education shall be authorized to determine and adopt policies and regulations relating to the use of corporal punishment by school principals and teachers employed by such boards.”

Section 20-2-731 lays out some general guidelines, including the following:

  • (1) “Corporal punishment shall not be excessive or unduly severe”.The law gives no specifics about what excessive or unduly severe means or defines what level of corporal punishment is appropriate.
  • (2) “Corporal punishment should never be used as a first line of punishment.” Every school district I spoke with in researching this story quoted this as part of their policy.
  • (3) “Must be administered in the presence of a principal or assistant principal, or the designee”. Some school districts, but NOT ALL, told me they SOMETIMES used a designee to make sure a female administrator paddled a female student. This was not always the case.
  • (4) “The principal or teacher who administered corporal punishment must provide the child’s parent, upon request, a written explanation of the reasons for the punishment”
  • (5) A doctor’s note can excuse a child from corporal punishment

Georgia law allows each school board to decide if they will allow corporal punishment within their school district, but even within school districts, how the policy is implemented varies greatly from school to school. Here’s a link to the story as it was covered by the local news, which includes this handy document for more details.

Eyes opened yet?  I hope so, because if we allow this to continue then we are no better than those third-world countries we read about whom treat their students in similar ways.


  52 comments for “Bullying: It’s Not Just For Kids (Corporal Punishment Is Alive And Well In Many US Schools)

  1. April 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Prov 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

    This is so evil to me. When I see, or hear, a crying child, my heart goes out to want to comfort them and console them and find out what’s wrong with them. The Bible prescribes not only beating your child, but ignoring their cries.

  2. April 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Why hasn’t anyone ruled that Tallapoosa County BOE rule illegal? You can barely say “hi” to a kid without parental approval, but they can ignore the parent’s specific requirements?

    Further, the parent has no choice but to have the kid in that school. That very same school where the BOE can beat the crap out of their kid without their permission.

    I’m not a violent revolutionary, but no adult is going to hit my kid… under any circumstances.

    • April 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      I have spanked my child on a few occasions. Any one else raises a hand to him will suffer the consequences, whether it be prosecution to the fullest extent of the law or meeting their violence with my own.

  3. Deepsix
    April 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Louis CK has a great bit on hitting kids. Start at the 4:55 mark.

  4. April 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I got paddled once. And that’s when I used to go to Nellie Reed School and I got caught spraying water onto the mirrors by shaking my hands in the bathroom rather than using a paper towel like I was supposed to. The teacher took me to the principal’s office and gave me one swat with the paddle. Afterwords I never got paddled again. I shook my hands still but I started to use paper towels more so I won’t mess up the mirrors again. Years later, much of my 4th grade stay in another school was meant with a spank on my behind and mostly getting my long haired pulled for misbehaving in class and not doing my homework. One time the teacher gave one of my classmates a bloody nose when she grabbed hold of him and carelessly knocked him onto the edge of a table when he was caught misbehaving in class. She was sorry she did that, but still it was totally wrong for her to do that despite his misbehavior. All this happened so many years ago when I used to go to elementary school. Today my hair is pretty short. But back than my hair was long and in pony tails.

    Glad to see my state of Michigan being among the states that have banned such practices. It’ll be better for misbehaving kids to get privileges taken away from and get detentions and suspensions from school than face the paddle, hair pulling, and spankings on the hind end, don’t you think?

  5. prtsimmons
    April 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks for the eye-opener. I don’t understand why hitting an adult with a piece of wood is considered ‘assault with a weapon’, while hitting a child with a wooden club is considered discipline. Words fail me.

  6. smrnda
    April 13, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Being from a liberal northern city this is just horrific and astounding to me. I’d read about this only recently; growing up I thought that corporal punishment had been completely outlawed in schools. Shows how little I really knew.

    What I find repulsive is that the schools, in an obnoxious, paternalistic fashion, demand the right to beat kids even when the parents disagree if the school decides that the ‘alternate’ punishments haven’t been effective. School ‘discipline’ is pretty capricious, subjective and arbitrary, with individual teachers rarely being consistent in their treatment of students. I mean, if a person hits somebody, last I checked it was a crime. We do give parents a free pass on that but I would imagine that a parent has a right to demand that other adults not hit their kids.

    Despite what idiot sadists like James Dobson say, there is zero evidence in support of corporal punishment and pretty much no evidence that punitive parenting or child-care gets good results at all.

  7. Gregory in Seattle
    April 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I do hope these states have “Stand your ground” laws. If a school official ever came after me with a weapon, you can be damned sure I would take whatever steps were necessary to defend myself from assault.

  8. alanuk
    April 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    King James Version (KJV)

    18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

    19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

    20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

    21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

  9. Rick Schauer
    April 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I left teaching over this. In Minnesota special ed. we could place a child in a locked solitary confinment cell periodically throughout the day with little oversite for abuse and bias. When I realized what I was part of I was shocked.

    The message being sent is don’t bully the bulliers.

    And in the case of corporal punishment you don’t educate human neural pathways through the gluteus maximus…really, it’s a simple concept that unfortunately these “educators” don’t get.

  10. Art
    April 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I’m going to assume it is a coincidence that the numbers paddled and the number executed are proportional.

  11. Azuma Hazuki
    April 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Anyone who had tried that on me as a girl would have ended up needing a trip to the hospital. Luckily I come from a state where this isn’t allowed, but I was what is gently called “a behavior problem” as a child (the roots of which were simply anxiety and depression, but heaven forbid anyone try and treat that…). I was also always very tall for my age and heavier than I looked. And I’d gone berserk and pulped other students before for less.

    One of these days, one of these people is going to make a child snap, and that child, as I would have, will gouge out eyes and tear skin and bite and break bones. And I will be applauding as it happens.

    • Norman Lycan
      April 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      Well children are in a formative stage, and should be treated as prospective future productive citizens, what you said disturbs me. You have some anger issues that need to be resolved.


  12. amhovgaard
    April 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I’m glad I live in a country where this is illegal. Spanking is only OK if the person you are spanking is an enthusiastically consenting adult. And it is worse than worthless as a method for improving a child’s behavior – the only reason why people think otherwise is that humans don’t intuitively understand things like statistics and the effects of regression to the mean.

  13. redpanda
    April 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I spent some time skimming Pubmed for articles mentioning corporal punishment. All of the ones I saw that were attempting to understand and quantify the effects of corporal punishment on the involved children didn’t seem to be discriminating between parents that use it as sparingly as possible and only within strict guidelines and children who were assaulted regularly, severely, and often in anger.

    Is there any data out there on the effects corporal punishment when administered by otherwise good parents who only use it at all because they’ve been taught that it works and is good for the long-term benefit of all parties involved when used “properly?”

    Are there reliable data that indicate that corporal punishment works more like a carcinogen (a little bit is a little bad, and more is worse), and not like a drug (where there’s a therapeutic dose, and going beyond that can have negative consequences)? Honest question, I don’t have a dog in this fight yet.

    • anne mariehovgaard
      April 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      The first problem you’ll run into with your “drug” hypothesis is that punishment in general is much less effective than rewards as a method for changing behavior, and often counterproductive. This is true for adults, children and lab rats alike, and has been demonstrated in too many studies to count. Another problem is that “as sparingly as possible” = not at all. It is banned in several countries, and we haven’t seen any increase in out-of-control kids or criminal/violent adults. In societies where corporal punishment is common I would assume that most of the parents who use it are otherwise good people who believe it is necessary and the right thing to do (“My parents did it to me and they are good people”). It is difficult to read people’s minds, especially when they are extremely likely to be rationalizing their own behavior (“It’s for their own good, not an outlet for my frustration and anger at their behavior”), so it is hard to tell why they are doing what they do in order to divide them into two different groups. The most “positive” evidence I’ve seen only suggests that sometimes it doesn’t seem to do much harm, if it’s light, rarely used and the parents are otherwise good and loving. But we already knew that it’s possible to be a less than perfect parent, even do some really stupid things, and still have your kids turn out mostly OK.

  14. Zugswang
    April 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I was a backpacking instructor for several years, I used to take Boy Scout troops on extended backpacking expeditions, one such crew was from Mississippi, and while cooking supper, the topic of school segued to talking about corporal punishment.

    The thing that startled me, was that these kids acted like it was completely normal, and recalled all the times where a teacher would slap the back of their heads with a ruler for minor offenses, and then wooden board treatments for more “serious” transgressions, and they acted like it was nothing!

    The parents were just as unperturbed, and some even seemed to gloat that if their kid ever got it at school, they’d get it again when they got home.

    The thing that got the adults hot under the collar? Earlier, when I was explaining the ins and outs of using latrines in the backcountry, they didn’t like that I used the phrase “take a poop”, and were still offended when I switched to “drop a deuce”. Lesson learned? In Mississippi, beating your kids for venial offenses is as natural as breathing. But referring to using the toilet as anything more scatologically explicit than “using the restroom”? VERBOTEN!

  15. Norman Lycan
    April 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Zug said:

    “The thing that startled me, was that these kids acted like it was completely normal, and recalled all the times where a teacher would slap the back of their heads with a ruler for minor offenses, and then wooden board treatments for more “serious” transgressions, and they acted like it was nothing!”

    I can relate. When I was in school, for a student to get ordered out of class with the teacher following with his “weapon” was the “red badge of courage” for the bad boys. Inside the classroom, we could hear each strike, and we would count them, and it would be the subject of discussion at the next recess. While it remains true, that it is inappropriate assault, somehow, we find our center.

    But, if my fundamentalist parents heard that I had been beaten in school, that is when the real consequences arrived. My father and mother, when I was very young, owned his and hers Harley 74’s and each had leather riding jackets with riveted waist belts. That’s what they used to beat me and my brothers with, and it was brutal. And almost daily.

    Here’s the sad part of the story. My firstborn was a girl, and I used “weapons” on her, too, as I was still in the brainwash. But, in my own defense, though I mistakenly thought it was necessary, when I abused her, I sat and cried with her until she forgave me. My parents beat me in anger, yelling at me as they hit me again and again. It seems like an important mitigating circumstance.

    Notable fact, I was born with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, with comorbid Opposition Defiant Disorder. This before they even had a name for it. I could not focus, I could not sit still, and I resented authority. So, my parents had their hands full, but I believe that no beating I ever received had any influence on the ultimate outcome. It only made me hate and distrust them.

    I also see kids set loose on the street to do the stupid shit that kids do without consequence or supervision. I hear the talking heads on the news saying it’s the parent’s fault, because they don’t discipline their chidren. Well, when you send your kid to time out, and he says, “Fuck YOU”, who ya gonna call? “Ghost Busters”?


  16. April 13, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    What is so hard to understand about “DON’T HIT KIDS”?

    Just DON’T.

    No, don’t justify it, or rationalize it as “discipline”.

    Just fucking STOP.


    It is NOT OKAY.

  17. gwen
    April 14, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I found corporal punishment to be cruel and arbitrary.In the second grade, I was the class scapegoat. The rest of the class soon discovered the teacher did not like me (I was the only black student in the school). If anything happened in the class, even if the teacher was looking at the offender and KNEW who the offender was, all they had to say was “Gwen did it” and I was brought to the front of the class (at least once a day), my dress pulled up and paddled in front of the class. I was afraid to tell my parents, I didn’t understand it was not my fault. I thought that if I would be extra good I would not get paddled that day. I cannot remember many days that year I was not paddled. I had another such teacher in the 4th grade. She slapped me for very minor infractions. No other student received such treatment. It finally came to a head in an instance where I KNEW I was not wrong, and slapped her back. My father was called to the school. My father was fair, and asked me why I slapped the teacher. He felt her reason was specious, and told her she was not to ever lay a hand on me again. I am TOTALLY against corporal punishment in the school. One thing NOT mentioned in the article, are the number of students hospitalized or needing treatment after corporal punishment. I read a story about a teacher who’d put several students in the hospital. If he’d been a parent, he would have been arrested, but since he was a teacher and it was legal, he was not. It has been 50 years since I was hit by that teacher, and it still infuriates me that they could do such a thing. I made it clear, when my children went to school that the teachers were NOT allowed to EVER lay a hand on them FOR ANY REASON.

  18. cry4turtles
    April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I work in early intervention and deliver services in the home. Also being an avid reader, I can’t help but peruse book shelves. When I see Dobson I’m sure I openly wince. Parents often ask me about spanking. My answer is thus–If you cut in front of me at the grocery store, I’m not free to hit you. I could be prosecuted. There are laws to protect adults from assault. Why are we allowed to assault our children? I also discuss studies that suggest that children predisposed to increased testosterone (boys) can be significantly more aggressive if spanked. Then I follow up with my husband’s story, who was beaten mercilessly by good intentioned fundie parents, then turned into a terrible brawler/bully as soon as he was big enough to stay their hands (which he literally did). This seems to elicit second guessing about the spanking of toddlers–the result I’m looking for.

    • Norman Lycan
      April 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      Hi, turtle,

      I remember you from the freethinker UK, as I remember you were always a farely conservative atheist, open minded. So, I want to ask you a question. We see teenagers on street corners selling drugs, breaking into houses and stealing shit. Stealing cars, and killing each other. Is that the parents fault? Because I hear that all the time. Bill Cosby chastized the entire black community for not disciplining their children. He basically blamed the parents for failing to train their children.

      If the parents are failing, what is it they are supposed to do, that they are not doing? I was beaten by my teachers and my parents, and I don’t think it changed anything, but, my story is just an anecdote. I want to hear from all of you, your brilliant solution to how to perfectly raise a child to be a productive citizen. Because I have heard nothing of that. Actually, I suspect that none of you are even qualified to render an opinion. And neither am I.

      So let me finish by saying, “I don’t know”.


      • ischemgeek
        April 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

        @NL I think you’re making the mistake of equating beating with discipline.

        You can discipline a kid without beating them. Grounding, restitution, time-outs, and similar solutions are all ways of discplining kids without resorting to violence.

        Speaking as someone who was subject to corporal punishment and non-violent punishment at various points in my life, I’ll say this: Corporal punishment taught me only that might makes right and made me angry. Non-violent punishment, on the other hand, taught me stuff. Case in point: Once, I got angry and threw something through a wall in a fit of pre-teenage rage (I was a messed-up kid from about age 8 to 16. There are reasons. I’ll leave it at that). My parents made me fix the wall and pay for the supplies out of my own pocket money that I was saving for something I wanted. It taught me a lot more: I learned 1) how to fix a wall with a hole in it, 2) how much it costs, 3) breaking stuff delays getting things I want to get for myself, 4) how much work it causes people when you break something, and 5) that non-violent solutions are more effective. After all, they could have hit me for it, but that wouldn’t have fixed the wall, would it? I felt worse about it after I’d been made to fix it myself than I ever did when smacked for stuff.

        Which is why my parents stopped corporal punishment around age 4: It didn’t work. If anything, it made me more likely to misbehave. Non-violent punishment, on the other hand, usually fit the misbehavior better and made me less likely to act that way in the future.

        • anne mariehovgaard
          April 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm

          This is the only kind of punishment my parents ever used with me and my brothers, and I don’t really think it’s a punishment, just a natural consequence of your behavior: if, as an adult, you break something in your own house in anger, you have to replace it yourself – it will not magically reappear or fix itself. Their reaction to other kinds of misbehavior was to sit us down -hold us if necessary – and talk about what we had done, how that made them/other people feel, have us try to explain why we did it, what we thought would happen if we kept doing it, if everybody else did it… very boring, embarrassing and something you’d try to avoid, but not painful – and it actually showed that they respected us and expected us to take responsibility for our own behavior.

          • ischemgeek
            April 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm

            Your parents seem calmer than mine… I’ve felt many things from my parents, but “respected” has never been one of them. I believe their decision to move to non-corporal punishment with me was a pragmatic rather than moral one (especially considering they had absolutely no issue with threatening violence against me well into my late teens). My parents are many things, but they’re not stupid: Non-violent punishment worked, violent punishment didn’t.

            Full disclosure: my parents and I have a bit of a strained relationship so I’m not exactly unbiased in my opinion. Then again, I know for a fact that I’m not exactly unjustified, either. But it’s a long story and off-topic for here.

      • kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith
        April 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

        So, I want to ask you a question. We see teenagers on street corners selling drugs, breaking into houses and stealing shit. Stealing cars, and killing each other. Is that the parents fault? Because I hear that all the time.

        Yes and no.

        First, the teenagers who do these things have quite a high probability of being among those who were subject to corporeal punishment as children.

        What I think is that hitting a child is itself a failure at parenthood and a lazy stand-in for being an actual parent. For establishing respectful relationship with a child, which agrees to rules not only for the child, but for both parties.

        As a parent you are a guide for a child for his/her becoming an adult. Hitting a child teaches him/her that violence is an acceptable solution to problems. It destroys the thrust a child can have in his/her parents.

        Another thing people have to understand is that the responsability of a parent is limited. Not everything a child is or do or thinks is due to his/her parents. Children are people who are born with their own personalities. Some are easier to live with than others, and sometimes a child’s personality is completely at odds with a parent’s.

        There are people we don’t get along with. It happens between a parent and child too. In these cases sometimes it is better for a parent to disengage and let someone else deal with the child, rather than constantly confront. It has happened to someone I know. They are both happier, and saner, now that they don’t live together anymore.

        • gwen
          April 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm

          I didn’t use corporal punishment either, for the same reason. All it says to a child is ‘I am bigger than you and can hurt you’, it doesn’t correct the underlying problem. My oldest was both dyslexic and has ADD. He now has an MBA. No, I did not use corporal punishment. There are better ways to get your point across. In the real world, as adults, we don’t expect beatings for doing wrong. Why should you do it to a child. As an adult, it would be criminal assault, I have never understood why you can legally assault a child under the guise of discipline. And we are an African American family.

  19. JoeBuddha
    April 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I raised two kids barely any punishment and ended up with two bright, respectful adults. I’m fortunate that my wife taught me how to do this before she died, and that I’m fortunate that I was able to learn (I was brainwashed by my parents). Beating kids leads to the (mistaken) belief that that’s how you show your love and concern for your own kids. I continue to be alarmed when I hear people reminiscing with apparent approval over the times they got into trouble and were beaten for it.

    • Norman Lycan
      April 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      You never had me as your son, and you would have beaten me, and I would have deserved it. So, count your blessings. 🙂


  20. April 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    State-sanctioned corporal punishment of children in schools is just another example of where bible-based morality fails to be moral! It’s indeed no coincidence that where this practice is most common is in states where religion is most commonly considered to be very important in peoples’ daily lives. Great essay, Al!!

    • Norman Lycan
      April 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Previous posts spoke of parents signing papers instructing the school district to not assault their children. Under those circumstances, the school is free to inform the parents of the percieved offense, and the parents can deal with it within their own circle. A family circle would put the evidence to the test, and appropriate measures could be decided by the adults. Therefore, I cannot concieve of a set of circumstances under which a student needs to be assaulted by a teacher, ever!!!!!!


  21. crocswsocks
    April 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I’ve always wondered why the only people you’re allowed to physically strike are the small, trusting, impressionable ones.

  22. crocswsocks
    April 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Dammit, deepsix; That’s where I got that, and here you’d already posted the video.

  23. ischemgeek
    April 15, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I think it would be wise for them to examine jurisdictions where it’s prohibited for corporal punishment by teachers. Reason being:

    I had an abusive teacher in grade 3. She hated me for many reasons that don’t matter.

    She knew she wouldn’t get away with hitting me after my parents nearly got her suspended from her job for smacking me in the face, so she made it known through her actions that any kid who hit me not only wouldn’t get punished, but if they hit me when she was pissed off with me (which was almost always), they might get a reward. The other kids in the class figured it out really quick, and so I was the class pariah pretty quick.

    She never referred to me by first name, she’d call me a slur based on my heritage (I’m white, but I was the wrong kind of white for this community), Brat, my surname (in a derogatory manner), Moron, Idiot, etc… She insulted me all the time (stupid, bitch, brat, you’ll never amount to anything, etc). I spent more time in the in-school suspension room than not (which I enjoyed, actually: The secretary took a shine to me so I was allowed to get books from the library and read as soon as I was done my work, and I loved reading so I’d get my work done by 9:30AM and get to read until school let out at 2:30, plus I was away from the teacher, so I honestly failed to see how it was a punishment – and once I figured out how much I had to act out to get sent there, I’d be back in class for a day, then get myself sent down to in-school suspension and have a fun week).

    Unfortunately, she figured out I liked in-school suspension around March and I wasn’t sent down anymore… Instead she’d do stuff like sit me in the front of a room with a sign saying “Brat” on my back or make a point of leaving the room after she finished dressing me down and only coming back after I was crying.

    In grade 7, there was a different teacher who used to throw books at students who pissed her off too much, and in grade 10, the French teacher would beat up male students who pissed him off and then say they were fighting and have them suspended. Teacher vs student, who’s the administration going to believe?

    My schools were very small (total of <40 teachers between the two I attended), and if there were 3 that used corporal punishment despite the prohibition, how many are there in larger schools and centers? I doubt that my schools were so exceptionally bad in their teaching that they collected a hugely disproportionate number of abusive fuckwit teachers.

  24. April 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I find the idea that corporal punishment exits abhorrent–plain and simple. I taught high school for 10 years and never even heard about it occurring. Some of those years were in Texas, so I suppose what school district you are in makes a significant difference. This is something that needs to end.

    There is zero evidence that corporal punishment works as a deterrent or that it corrects bad behavior. While I am not a psychologist, I think the verdict is in on the fact that it can cause lasting harm.

    Thanks for posting this Al. As someone who has lived most of his life “up North” I can honestly say that I do not think most people realize this kind of thing is still going on.

  25. jufulu
    April 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Back in the 60’s when I was in grade school, I used to get swatted for failing spelling tests. At the time it was water off a duck’s back, I often think it was more about embarrassment than pain. It is so weird to me that people could think that I would learn to spell better because I got swatted. To date I still can’t spell.

  26. Norman Lycan
    April 15, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Well, grounding, suspension of privileges, are really civilized ways to discipline your children. But, what exactly do you do when you order your child to their room, and tell them they are are grounded for a week, and they look you straight in the eye, and say, “FUCK YOU”, and walk out the front door? Now, you have shit on your plate. A fourteen year old out beyond your doors doing whatever suits him while you are liable for his actions until he’s an adult.

    Go ahead. Shoot your magic bullet at him and redeem him. Getting the shit beat out of me never changed anything. I had to grow out of my disability. Two of my children had to do the same. But, who the hell is some stooge appointed by some school district doing with the authority to assault my children? He better have his legal ducks in a row, or I will tear him an asshole where he didn’t need one.


    • ischemgeek
      April 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      @ NL

      SO… if you tell your bosses to go fuck themselves, would they be justified in beating the shit out of you?

      They’d be justified in firing you, but not beating the shit out of you.

      Likewise, a parent may be justified in confining a kid who’s behaving recklessly like that, but not in beating the shit out of the kid.

      Furthermore, I think in such a case, mental health treatment is somehow more apt than assault and inflicing psychological and physical trauma. Just sayin’.

    • Tony
      April 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      The problems involved with handling difficult children involve so many factors, that chances are there isn’t any easy solution that works for everyone.
      That said, corporal punishment as a form of discipline has been long discredited. Given that, it should be abolished completely.

    • Kemist
      April 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      And you think hitting the 14-year-old is going to make him disciplined ?

      I’d advise you not to try it. 14 is old enough to hit back, and with enough force to send you to the ER.

      You seemed surprised at Azuma’s reaction – don’t be. Children don’t all feel beatings are justified, and several children who have been hit truly hate their parents for it.

      If you do not get along, hitting him won’t solve the problem. It will escalate. It will get worse. Count on it.

      At this age the best solution, as I said earlier, is to disengage. Let someone else deal with the teenager – and not one of these goddamn religious boot camp, please. What he needs is discipline and structure, but not, definitively not, what amounts to assault on his person.

  27. speedwell
    April 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Norman, the sheer inability to think of an effective alternative does not award you, or anyone else, the right to assault children.

    • Norman Lycan
      April 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      ischem and speedwell,

      No civilized parent wants to assault their child. And it might seem like I have been all over the spectrum with my posts. It’s only because I was a problem child, and I wonder if there was any intervention that would have made a difference. At the same time, parents are held responsible for the conduct of their minor children. And when grounding and time out doesn’t work, what option is left? My input is, don’t hit the kids, because if they have crossed the boundary where their respect for you no longer carries enough weight to adjust the course in their lives, violence is already irrelevent. Let them go to find the consequences of their behavior. Sad, almost always, tragic, now and again. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Owners of their own lives.


      • speedwell
        April 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

        Your masochism and inferiority complex also do not award you, or anyone else, the right to assault children.

      • MatthewL
        April 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm

        I certainly can’t speak to your experience and only have personal anecdotes and my own experience as a guide, but I have found and observed that if you give kids love, respect, understanding and support while also making clear that you expect them to be the best that they can possibly be, they tend to raise themselves.

        With my two younger ones just the threat of parental disapproval was enough to elicit good behavior and the combination of loving support and high expectations have made them proud of their good behavior and quite self-disciplined. We rarely if ever punished them but rather made clear that bad behavior had unpleasant consequences. For example bad manners at dinner would result in being sent away from the table until they could return and behave properly. Tantrums were much the same. We didn’t (and don’t) consider this punishment, just making it clear that if they weren’t going to behave they were not welcome in our company.

        Now that I think about it I did have one form of punishment that I used to good effect sometimes.. When they did something I felt was wrong I would explain to them at considerable length and in great detail why what they did was inappropriate. The effect was actually twofold. Obviously the tedious lecture served as an effective discouragement, but it also gave them the opportunity to discuss and disagree with me if they felt I was being unreasonable. After a bit, all that was usually needed was to say “that behavior is inappropriate” and they would stop.

        Lest you think we were simply blessed with good ones, our son has always been quite a handful. Very willful, arrogant and self possessed. Fortunately under our regime these traits were turned to advantage and he now takes considerable pride in being a thoughtful, caring and well behaved teenager.

        We have had similar experiences with our older kids (my step-kids) and with a variety of cousins, grandkids and other peoples children. While it’s not a definitive sample I feel quite confident that the combination of love, support and high expectations will work best in most if not all circumstances.

      • MatthewL
        April 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

        Sorry for the double post. The submit button was too close to the edit frame for clumsy iPad user.

      • kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith
        April 17, 2012 at 9:21 pm

        Maybe something would have worked in your case, maybe not. But hitting you certainly didn’t make things better did it ?

        No child deserves to be hit. Ever. It’s not an acceptable form of punishment. It’s not a good teaching tool.

        Also, when a parent feels overwhelmed, it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to disengage instead of letting despair and anger get the best of him/her. Children are not born with an instruction manual (no matter what the horrible, criminal Pearl and others of their monstrous kind might say), and each of them is different.

        Sometimes also, the problems might be a little deeper than typical teenage rebellion.

        Another of my friends has a son, now an adult, who had a terrible, terrible temper. He would throw things, punch holes in walls, yell for the slightest reason (finding an empty milk carton when he wanted milk for instance). They even had to call the police on several occasions because their son had barricaded himself in a room, and they were afraid for his safety.

        After hospitalisation in a psychiatric emergency ward, it turned out their son had borderline personality disorder.

        Hitting him to “discipline” him would have been both catastrophic and cruel. It’s not his fault he’s sick. But there certainly are parents who would have felt compelled to do so. People with borderline personality disorder are extremely labile and can be perceived as capricious. But they did not, and now their son has accepted that he is sick, that some of his reactions are abnormal, and that he needs medication. He is now living a relatively normal, albeit low-stress, life.

      • Rick Schauer
        April 21, 2012 at 9:14 am

        You’re still a problem Norm.

  28. Azuma Hazuki
    April 17, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Norman, you’re missing the larger point here: in the end all corporal punishment really teaches a child is that might makes right. In that sense, any rational child would reason that if s/he beat seven flavors of copper-plated Hell out of the adult abusing him/her, that would make him/her then in the right.

    I have come close to this. I very nearly took a tennis racket to my father around age 8 or 9 (the time scale is hazy; my memory is extremely damaged). What stopped me was, even as a frightened, angry child, my own realization that I had to be a better person than an adult. That was probably what killed my relationship with him, thinking about it. That didn’t stop him hitting me either; it was around age 10 when I informed him after he hit me that I read the anatomy textbook, knew where the solar plexus was, and would kill him if he ever hit me or my sister again, that did it.

    Hit your kids if you want. But don’t be surprised if you break them…or if they break you. If you end up being beaten to death or set on fire or worse, you have only yourself to blame. Hope like hell (since we don’t pray) that your children have the inner strength I did.

  29. Poppy
    April 17, 2012 at 10:12 am

    When I was a child, my school had corporal punishment. My mother told the principal that if I got hit, she would hit him in the same way.

    He apparently said: “Ma’am, that would be assault.”

    She says she responded: “My point exactly. Touch my child and you will pay dearly.”

    Don’t mess with my momma. 🙂

    • Rick Schauer
      April 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Smart mom you have there.

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