Does Corporal Punishment Have a Place?

By De La Rosa, Shawna | District Administration, February 2017 | Go to article overview

Does Corporal Punishment Have a Place?


De La Rosa, Shawna, District Administration


While the controversial practice of corporal punishment declines, it remains legal in 19 states. In those states, boys, black students and children with disabilities are more likely to receive physical punishment than other students, according to recent report by the Society for Research in Child Development.

The 2016 report found that black children in Alabama and Mississippi are 51 percent more likely to receive corporal punishment than their white peers. Boys in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi--where corporal punishment is used more than any other states--are about 75 percent more likely to receive a physical reprimand than girls. And in many states, children with disabilities are also at a much higher risk for such punishment.

No federal law against it exists. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its Ingraham v. Wright decision that school corporal punishment is constitutional and left it to states to decide whether or not to allow it.

Since 1978, the practice has declined from 4 percent of students receiving it nationally to less than 0.5 percent today.

Arkansas numbers

In one corporal punishment state, the practice is decreasing, according to research done at the University of Arkansas by Kaitlin Anderson, a doctoral student at the university's education reform department, and professor Gary Ritter.

In 2013-14, the number of incidents reported dropped to under 20,000, from 36,000 five years earlier.

State lawmakers may hesitate to ban the practice because it is considerted an issue of local control--not an issue that needs a mandate from the state. At the same time, it remains a tradition in some rural communities, Ritter says.

Discipline dilemmas

Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Projects at UCLA, questions the practice. "I don't know any administrator that would support it except that some parents may want it or that it's tradition," he says. "There are a lot of adolescent girls getting hit. How is it ever OK to hit adolescent girls?"

But other forms of punishment, such as detention and suspension, remove students from class, which is also detrimental to a student's academic success and future, Anderson says.

Corporal punishment is usually used for offenses such as fighting, setting off fireworks, bullying or drinking alcohol on school grounds. …

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