Newspaper article News Sentinel

Corporal Punishment Still Present in 19 States ; Study Shows It Affects about 160K Students

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Corporal Punishment Still Present in 19 States ; Study Shows It Affects about 160K Students

Article excerpt

More than 160,000 children in 19 states are the victims of corporal punishment in schools each year, new research suggests, with black children in a few southern school districts about 50 percent more likely than white students to be smacked or paddled by a school worker.

In the findings, released Wednesday by the Society for Research in Child Development, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group, researchers note that black children in more than half of school districts in Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, are at least 51 percent more likely to receive corporal punishment than white children, while in one-fifth of districts in both states, black children are more than 500 percent, or five times as likely, to be spanked or paddled.

Using data issued periodically by the federal government's Civil Rights Data Collection, researchers found that black students in several other southern states -- Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee -- also are more likely to get corporal punishment.

The prevalence of corporal punishment in schools has been dropping steadily since the 1970s -- it fell from about 4 percent of schoolchildren in 1978 to less than 0.5 percent today, largely because half of states banned school corporal punishment between 1974 and 1994. But since then, researchers say, only a handful more states have followed suit.

At the same time, federal reports on school discipline have downplayed corporal punishment's role, even though the data continues to be collected.

"This is hidden for a lot of Americans," said Elizabeth Gershoff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin who led the research. "Even though it's a small percentage, for those 160,000 kids, they're being hit and hurt and it's affecting their educations. …

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