You’re at work, and your boss just found you surfing the net. He (or she) calls you to his office, and orders you to face the wall. He brings out a plank of wood, perhaps 24 inches long, 5 inches wide and half an inch thick, and proceeds to whack you with it, hard – on your back, your arms, your behind, your thighs and your calves. If you resist or complain, you get more.
Then he orders you to address your coworkers and tell them you were not working when you should have been. He might tell you you are forbidden to go eat lunch.
Bizarre, isn’t it? But permitting corporal punishment in school is no different. Twenty states still consider physical punishment by teachers and administrators to be a legal form of discipline.
I remember being paddled a time or two by a nun. It was a mortifying experience. I was spanked because I didn’t admit to speaking when the teacher was out of the room. However, I didn’t admit it because I didn’t do it!! That time, anyhow. I bet many readers will recall being disciplined by paddle, or ruler smacked across your open palms, ears being pulled and twisted; a relative once had his lunch smashed onto his head because he didn’t ‘clean his plate’. In kindergarten.
Studies have shown that in schools which practice physical punishment, students invariably perform worse academically than in schools which prohibit it.
The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have been working together to end the practice everywhere and submitted a joing statement to the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families, which held hearings yesterday that are designed to address the problems which stem from the practice of beating, or ‘paddling’ children in school. This was the first hearing on this topic since 1992. Eighteen years!
From the 4-16-2010 article by Deborah Vagins, legislative counsel for the ACLU:
Hitting any student in school is unacceptable, but our research indicates that corporal punishment is applied at disproportionately high rates to African-American students and students with disabilities. According to the Department of Education, while African-Americans make up 17.1 percent of public school students nationwide, they accounted for 35.6 percent of those who were paddled during the 2006–2007 school year. In addition, although students with disabilities constitute 13.7 percent of all public school students, they make up 18.8 percent of those who are subjected to corporal punishment. In another ACLU/HRW report, Impairing Education, Corporal Punishment of students with disabilities in US public schools, we found that these students may be punished for behavior arising out of their disabilities themselves.
Here is an interactive map showing number of students receiving corporal punishment by state: The map shows both total students and students with disabilities who received physical punishment.
Summary by the ACLU:
The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch call on the federal government and US states to prohibit corporal punishment. School districts should replace corporal punishment with effective, positive forms of discipline, so that children’s human rights are protected, and so that every student throughout the United States can maximize his or her academic potential.
Numerous studies have shown that when a good, normally rational person is permitted to hold unreasonable powers over others, s/he will inevitably abuse them. The most spectacular experiment showcasing this unfortunate aspect of human nature is the famous Zimbardo prison experiment. So powerful were the findings that it has its own website.
Let’s get together and support the ACLU and HRW… corporal punishment is truly unconscionable – whether administered to adults or children, and so very easy to address.