In February 2013, the North Carolina State Board of Education passed a resolution against spanking. The governor and state legislators as well as members of the Robeson County school board should proudly follow the lead of the state board and take immediate action to enact legislation and policies to ban corporal punishment in schools, becoming the 32nd U.S. state to do so in the best interest of students, educators and taxpayers.
Corporal punishment is the deliberate infliction of physical pain to punish students by school teachers, coaches and administrators, hitting students with big wooden paddles, typically 15 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide and up to a half-in thick, for minor infractions, modeling the use of violence to students as an acceptable way to solve problems.
As a result of paddling, many children are unnecessarily left injured, psychologically traumatized, degraded, and disengaged from school, educators face arrest and conviction for child abuse and neglect for injuries to children, as well as jeopardizing their hard earned teaching certificates, careers and reputations; taxpayer funding is at risk of costly federal civil rights lawsuits not covered by school district liability insurance as corporal punishment is a deliberate act.
Rights groups say such punishments are disproportionately applied to boys, disabled, minority and low-income students.
In addition, special education students with mental or physical disabilities are more likely to receive corporal punishment.
The United States Department of Justice Attorney General’s National Task Force Report on Children Exposed to Violence Report dated Dec. 12, 2012 states that: “Corporal punishment is permitted in some schools in this country although it represents the use of violence as a means of changing behavior and enforcing discipline. Every school in which corporal punishment continues to be used should be provided with education and training for all administrators, teachers, and staff on trauma-informed alternatives to corporal punishment that have been shown to be effective in maintaining discipline without violence.”
Research consistently finds that corporal punishment is harmful to the healthy development of children, an impairment to the learning environment and is associated with increased mental health problems in children.
More than 50 national organizations have called for a ban on school corporal punishment. They include the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, The National PTA, the National Education Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the American Association of School Administrators and many more. The United Methodist Church, the second biggest Protestant denomination, has called for a ban on school corporal punishment.
The National Education Association has a model bill banning corporal punishment that is used in drafting ban legislation that allows reasonable force to protect people or property.
April is “National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month” and the appropriate time to end policies in public schools that are harmful to the safety and health of children. North Carolina school districts have made great progress in banning the harmful and destructive practice of corporal punishment with less than six districts in the state maintaining corporal punishment policies.
Robeson County schools can proudly join leaders in North Carolina school systems that have replaced corporal punishment with a variety of disciplinary strategies that foster safe and orderly schools and improve school climate upon approval of a policy to ban corporal punishment. People may contact their state representatives and ask them to ban corporal punishment in North Carolina schools, putting students first.
Julie A. Worley is president of Tennesseans for Non-Violent School Discipline. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 931-980-2245.