Jamie Simpson, Newsquest Media
Jamie Simpson, Newsquest Media

Corporal Punishment and Education
By: Rachel Gosney



Corporal Punishment: A Brief History

Historically, corporal punishment started within the Education system during the Victorian Era when parents believed insubordination would alienate their children from God and the teachers were held responsible for leading children away from insubordination, laziness, and sin (Dupper, 2008). Not only was school a place to learn information, but it was also a place which students received moral guidance. (Dupper 2008). Ideally, corporal punishment was meant to produce the cookie cutter child by teaching the child to conform to societal norms, ensure that learning occurs, and to teach the child to not sin (Dupper 2008). It could be said that the acceptance of corporal punishment is due to a literal interpretation of Proverbs 23:13-14: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” However, after Sigmund Freud released his research on child development during the 1920s and 1930s, parents began to realize the impact corporal punishment had on their children. During the 1940s, child development literature started challenging the widespread public support for corporal punishment. The literature suggested that most behavior problems punished by using corporal punishment were actually developmental milestones. By the mid 1960s, pediatricians started to view corporal punishment as “socially abnormal”, and soon after, Massachusetts and New Jersey banned corporal punishment as a form of discipline in schools. (Dupper 2008).
19 States which still allow or practice corporal punishment.Courtesy of The Center for Effective Discipline
19 States which still allow or practice corporal punishment.Courtesy of The Center for Effective Discipline


With the Supreme Court case Ingraham v. Wright 1977, junior high school students of Dade County, Florida filed an action in federal court stating that their constitutional rights had been violated because they had received “cruel and unusual punishment” at school (Wasserman 2011). The court ruled that the punishment which the students’ received did not violate the students’ 8th Amendment rights and that the 8th Amendment only protects convicted criminals from cruel and unusual punishment (Stephey 2009). Since then, the Supreme Court has not directly addressed whether or not students’ claims of “excessive force” by school officials is unconstitutional in nature. (Wasserman 2011). It should be noted that one of the students, Ingraham, received a paddling because he did not respond to the teacher fast enough. According to the records and case, Ingraham was paddled so severely that he developed a hematoma and had to receive medical attention (Wasserman 2011). The second student involved in the case was unable to use his arm for a week after receiving corporal punishment (Wasserman 2011).

Today, corporal punishment has been banned in 31 U.S. states; however, there are still a million cases of corporal punishment each year. (Dupper 2008). According to a 2009 report by the Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union, the most common form of corporal punishment involves children being striked by teachers or principals on the buttocks or upper thighs with a wooden paddle. In some cases, taped-together rulers or the teacher or principal’s hand is used (Adwar 2014). The same organizations have also found that students with disabilities often receive corporal punishment at a higher rate than their peers (Adwar 2014).

Corporal Punishment: A Trend and Issue in the Education System

How Corporal Punishment is a Trend

Corporal punishment is a hotly debated topic within our educational system. In 2011, Ms. Carolyn McCarthy, a U.S Representative from New York proposed the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” to Congress which would ban corporal punishment in every school across the United States (Rollins, 2012). If passed, McCarthy’s bill would have allowed the Secretary of Education to without funds from any educational institution that allowed corporal punishment (Rollins, 2012). It would have also promoted non-physical ways to curb student behavior by giving federal grants to schools struggling with disciplinary issues (Mebis 2010). However, when 223, 190 students were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year, with the majority of the students from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, and Missouri, it is clear that major support still exists for corporal punishment as a discipline practice (Darden 2009).

Opposition of Corporal Punishment
Those who oppose corporal punishment have the following reasons: it promotes violence and teaches children that it is ok to hit when angry or frustrated, injuries can occur, it can affect a child’s self image, and it may contribute to disruptive and violent student behavior. The use of corporal punishment has also been linked to lower academic achievement, higher dropout rates, higher rates of truancy and vandalism, and higher rates of pupil violence (The Center for Effective Discipline). Opponents also disagree with the use of corporal punishment because African American students and students with disabilities are disciplined with corporal punishment at a higher rate than their peers (Rollins, 2012). Of the 223,190 students during the 2006-2007 school year who received corporal punishment, 78% were male, which also shows a disparity regarding gender (Darden 2009). Schools are the only public institutions that allow paddling. The Director of the Center for Effective Discipline, Ms. Nadine Block, has stated the following: “When you hit kids with a 24-inch board that’s an inch think and 4 to 6 inches wide, this is not allowed anywhere else, not in prisons, mental hospitals, not in the military. You can’t hit your neighbor’s dog like that and you certainly can’t hit your neighbor with it (Sealey,n.d.).
The images below highlight the difference between test scores and graduation rates of states that allow corporal punishment and states that do not.

Center for Effective Discipline.JPG
The Center for Effective Discipline

Why Corporal Punishment is an Issue

In most schools, parents are provided with waivers to indicate whether or not they would like their children to receive corporal punishment, however, signing the waiver does not necessarily mean that the child will not be spanked by a school official. According to Ms. Tenika Jones, a Levy County, Florida citizen, her 5 year
old son, Gierrea, was paddled by the assistant principal even though she did not sign the waiver consentin
g to use corporal punishment on her child (Gonzalez 2012). Florida state law does not require parent permission in order to paddle children. In fact, the policy for paddling is set by each school’s principal (Gonzalez 2012). According to "Spanking in School, How Much is too Much?" on ABC news, 20,000 children each year seeks medical attention after receiving corporal punishment at school.However, corporal punishment is mainly an issue because of the effects it is said to have on children mentioned in the paragraph above.

To read a proposal outlining a behavioral management plan to be used instead of corporal punishment, please download the document below.

Annotated Bibliography
Adwar, Corey. (2014). These are the 19 States that Still Let Public Schools Hit Kids. http://www.businessinsider.com/19-states-still-allow-corporal-punishment-2014-3. This article outlines and illustrates which U.S. states practice or allow corporal punishment. The article also includes a few statistics regarding the 2006 Civil Rights Data Collection, as well as statistics from the Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union.

Darden, E. C. (2009). The Paddle Problem. American School Board Journal, 196(1), 39-40.http://proxygsucol1.galileo.usg.edu/login?url=http:search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=35628733&site=eds-live&scope=site. This article examines corporal punishment and whether or not it is used as a last resort.

Dupper, D. R., & Dingus, A. E. M. (2008). Corporal punishment in U.S. public schools: A continuing challenge for school social workers. Children & Schools, 30(4), 243-250. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210930248?accountid=10196. Retrieved from ProQuest, this article provides an overview of corporal punishment in the U.S. education system. The article also offers ideas on how to reduce the frequency of corporal punishment, specifically in religious communities which uphold the tradition of spanking.

Gonzalez, Sarah. (2012). Spanking Lives On in Rural Florida Schools. NPR 2014. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/13/148521155/spanking-lives-on-in-rural-florida-schools. This article brings light to the issue of whether or not a school needs permission from parents to paddle children. The article also discusses whether or not corporal punishment is an effective form of discipline.

Paintal, S. (2007). Banning corporal punishment of children. Childhood Education, 83(6), 410-413. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210392836?accountid=10196. Retrieved from ProQuest, this article provides information on the effects of corporal punishment, as well as strategies that might help eliminate corporal punishment.

Mebis, Liane. (2010). To paddle or not to paddle students. CNN News. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/08/05/corporal.punishment/index.html?iref=allsearch. Presented as an introduction to a piece of legislation to abolish corporal punishment, this article weighs both sides of the corporal punishment argument.

Rollins, Judy A,PhD., R.N. (2012). 2012: Revisiting the issue of corporal punishment in our nation's schools. Pediatric Nursing, 38(5), 248-248, 269. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1173218366?accountid=10196. Written by a RN, this article summarizes the effects of corporal punishment on children and the legislation introduced to Congress to ban corporal punishment.

Sealey, Geraldine. Schools Still Debate Use of Paddling. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92738&page=1&singlePage=true. This article gives a brief overview on why corporal punishment is considered controversial.

Stephey, M.J. (2009). Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools. TIME Inc. 2014. http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1915820,00.html. This article gives a brief overview on the 2009, 62 page article released by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.


Wasserman, L. M. (2011). STUDENTS' FREEDOM FROM EXCESSIVE FORCE BY PUBLIC SCHOOL OFFICIALS: A FOURTH OR FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT RIGHT?. Kansas Journal Of Law & Public Policy, 21(1), 35-85. http://proxygsu-col1.galileo.usg.edu/login?url=http:search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edslex&AN=edslexCB106365&site=eds-live&scope=site. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete, this article discusses the issue of whether or not corporal punishment violates the constitutional rights of students.