Corporal Punishment is Still Legal in Many States

Updated September 09, 2016 |
Corporal Punishment is Still Legal in Many States
As amazing as it sounds, corporal punishment is still legal in over 20 states. Fortunately private schools banned the practice many decades ago.

Do you realize that there still are nineteen states in which corporal punishment of students is still allowed? Merriam-Webster defines corporal punishment as "punishment that involves hitting someone :  physical punishment." Yes, it is legal to discipline students by hitting them in states in the South, the Southwest, and Midwest including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. It is legal to paddle students with a wooden paddle, While it was much worse ten or twenty years ago, it is appalling that in the 21st century the richest nation in the world still has nineteen states which permit a child to be spanked by an adult in a classroom. Corporal punishment has no place in schools.

Fortunately, I know of no boarding school anywhere in North America which permits hitting students. Period. Technically, the only states where corporate punishment is forbidden in private schools are New Jersey and Iowa. But our boarding schools, indeed our private schools as a whole, are enlightened exemplars of all that is good in education. Our private school Codes of Discipline and Conduct do not allow any form of physical abuse. For all kinds of good reasons. But most importantly our boarding schools understand what is required to create a better world, a world where children can mature into productive adults fully capable and confident of achieving whatever their dreams are. Corporal punishment is not part of that philosophy and understanding. That's why I want to call your attention to the fact that this negative, abusive, bullying, way of shaping children's lives is still legal and used in 19 states in the United States of America in 2016. Schools such as the Cristo Rey Schools offer a positive approach to teaching young people lessons about life and work.

One reason why Codes of Discipline and Conduct work so well in boarding schools is that both parents and students understand that they are bound by the terms of the contract which they have signed with the school. By way of contrast, parents and students in public schools know that they can drag disciplinary matters out because they are entitled to due process. They are not governed by contract law the way students in private schools are. In a boarding school, if the infraction of the rules is serious enough for a child to be expelled from school, she will be expelled. Take time to read and understand your child's Code of Discipline and Conduct. Discuss the document with her. Confirm that she knows and understands the rules and the consequences for breaking those rules.

Then

When I was growing up in Montreal back in the 50s, we still had corporal punishment in the classroom. That was because we followed the old Britsh model which back then permitted practices such as caning and strapping. Physical punishments ranged from getting your knuckles rapped with a ruler to being strapped with a very thick leather strap which was called the strap. I don't ever recall girls receiving any form of corporal punishment. But we boys most certainly did. A smart rap on the knuckles is something I remember to this day. It was administered to me by my third-grade teacher. She had a reputation for being a very strict disciplinarian. And indeed she was. To this day I honestly cannot recall why I got my knuckles rapped. I probably wasn't sitting up straight. Now, the strap was generally administered by the vice-principal or principal. It was the last resort when it came to punishment. You could hear a pin drop when somebody was sent to the principal's office for a strapping.  Even worse, we all would flinch as we heard the strap being administered. Yes, the principal purposely left his office door open with great effect. Abuse damages fragile egos. It undermines confidence. It kills a child's spirit. This chat with a Lower Canada College school alumnus sheds some light on how different things were back then.

Now

I do understand that the disciplinary pendulum has swung rather dramatically the other way. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" which is a loose translation of Proverbs 13:24 has more than an element of truth in it, doesn't it? In any case, most of us who are sending or have sent our children to private school understand that self-discipline is something which we adults need to teach our children ourselves. The school can certainly help, but in the end, we parents are responsible for making sure our children understand that there are real consequences for breaking the rules. Just as in adult life, there are no physical punishments. But there are real consequences such as losing one's job, or being fined, or worse, facing jail time. Learning to abide by the school's Code of Discipline and Conduct is a valuable lesson for later life.

The fix?

What can you and I do to eliminate corporal punishment completely?  Write your state legislators and let them know your feelings. You pay local property taxes, therefore you also have a right to inform your local school board about how you feel.  Hopefully, your local board will have long since passed rules and regulations forbidding corporal punishment in their classrooms. In many cases, insurance carriers have demanded that the practice be forbidden because it exposes the board to lawsuits as well as bad publicity. School boards have enough exposure to legal action in circumstances over which they often have very little control. They can and do forbid risky practices such as corporal punishment which they can control as a matter of policy. This video from PBS gives us an overview of corporal punishment in the U.S.A.

Finally, please speak up when you hear others advocating the physical abuse of children in our schools. For that, in the final analysis, is what corporal punishment is. Read about the history of corporal punishment so that you can speak knowledgeably about the issue. Please join parents everywhere who believe that children should be brought up in safe, nurturing environments at home and school.

Questions? Contact me on Twitter. @privateschl

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