“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.”
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.
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.