Corporal punishment in education: The discourse and the debate

  • Corporal punishment, a once-notorious practice in the American educational system is far becoming a thing of the past. But this ugly practice is still in existence in some parts of the country such as Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas. It is true that some students can’t just obey the law; they are rebellious and won’t abide by laid down rules. But is the solution to student misbehavior physical punishment?

    Many states think physical punishment is a perfect way of getting students to obey school rules. According to Education Week Research Center, over 100,000 students received one form of physical punishment in schools during the 2013-2014 academic year. The practice of paddling or swatting students as a form of punishment is not only archaic but dangerous and cruel. Teachers and school officials who carry out these punishments do not have any training whatsoever on how to punish, what amount of punishment applies to different students, and they don’t consider the psychological state of the student before subjecting them to punishments. This increases the risk of injuries on the part of the students, which raises the potential of nasty lawsuits that could cost the district a lot of money and its reputation.

    Corporal punishment is a contentious issue for many reasons. Firstly, it inflicts physical and psychological injuries on the victims. Secondly, available data shows it is a means of victimizing minorities. Data from the Department of Education shows that African American students made up 35.6 percent of students who receive corporal punishment during the 200-2007 academic year, whereas, they only accounted for 17.1 percent of the public school population all over the country. Also, an analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection of 2016 by Education Week Research Center showed that white students made up 60 percent of the population of schools where corporal punishment was still in use while black students comprise of 22 percent of the students. However, black students accounted for 38 percent of students who receive this type of punishment in the 2013-2014 school session, while white students with a much larger population made up only 50 percent of students who received corporal punishment.

    Also, in a 2010 joint report published by the HRW and ACLU on the effects of corporal discipline in public schools, some interviewees said that black students were more likely to be punished, especially students who have a darker shade of skin. This cruel practice doesn’t escape students with disabilities. The report stated that a disproportionate number of students with disabilities experience corporal punishment at school, mostly because of their disabilities. Many of these students end up worse than before receiving the punishment. This further supports the argument that corporal punishment shouldn’t be used in schools as a form of correction.

    The report goes on to list the negative effects of corporal punishment on the students and the educational system. The ACLU/HRW joint statement reported that studies have found that the schools in states with high levels of corporal punishment have lower academic performance than states where the practice is banned. It added that several children who experienced paddling, hitting and many other harsh disciplinary measures eventually developed anger, depression, and fear. In fact, the Society for Adolescent Medicine discovered that people who have been subjected to corporal punishment usually have reduced ability to concentrate, unhealthy peer relationships, antisocial behavior, rebellion against authority, lower academic performance, and a higher tendency for avoiding school and dropping out.

    There is a large body of convincing evidence to support the argument against the use of corporal punishment in schools. It is embarrassing for the students, the teachers, and the parents, and paints the districts and states that still use it in a bad light. In its recommendation on how to solve the problem, HRW says that rather than continue on this path, schools and teachers should fashion out better and more effective ways to encourage students to inculcate positive behavior supports. The body also encourages Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in schools. It also wants the government to empower parents and students to be able to seek legal actions towards enforcing their rights for freedom against physical punishment in schools.

    Corporal punishment is a big problem in the remaining states where it is still practiced. All hands must be on deck to eradicate the problem for the educational system as it does more harm than good.


    Heinze, C., and Heinze K. (2013.) Corporal Punishment as a Means of Education? Patterns of Interpretation in the German Educational Discourse in the First Half of the 19th Century. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from the Web

    The American Academy of Pediatrics. (2000.) Corporal Punishment in Schools. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from the Web

    Clark, J. (2017, April 12.) Back to school: Where corporal punishment is still used in schools, its roots run deep. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from the Web

    Crotty, J. (2014, September 21.) Should corporal punishment be allowed in schools?. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from the Web  

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