Bill Hopes to Ban Corporal Punishment in Schools

It’s hard to believe that hitting kids in school is still allowed, but I guess when you’re into hitting defenseless children it’s hard to give up. A new bill hopes to ban it:

Legislation to ban corporal punishment in most public and private schools was introduced in Congress Tuesday.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act,” which would impose the ban on all public and private schools with students that receive federal services.

Though there is no evidence that corporal punishment has any beneficial effect on students, and much evidence that it harms kids, 20 states still allow it.

School districts generally have their own rules for administering corporal punishment, or, in layman’s terms, whacking a kid. Sometimes the rules specify the number of times a kid can be hit, and usually they identify which part of the body can be struck (usually the buttocks but sometimes the hands, too). You can see some of the rules in a recent post here.

A congressional committee recently heard testimony about the subject and here are some of the facts members learned:

*School officials, including teachers, administered corporal punishment to 223,190 school children across the nation during the 2006-07 school year (according to conservative government estimates, the latest year for which national statistics were available).

*As a result of that punishment, 10,000 to 20,000 students requested medical treatment.

*Students are typically hit on their buttocks with a wooden paddle, approximately 15 inches long, between two- and four-inches wide, and one-half inch thick, with a six-inch handle at one end.

*Most students are paddled for minor infractions, violating a dress code, being late for school, talking in class or in the hallway, or being “disrespectful.”

I think this can only be a good thing. Teachers should not be allowed to hit children. Do you agree?

  • Cletus

    If they can’t hit them (and I agree, they shouldn’t be able to), they need to be able to expel them. Solutions to behavioral problems are not the problem of educators. However, left to fester, they are a problem for the entire educational system.

    • JohnMWhite

      In the US at least, I believe schools are fairly free to expel at will. Correct me if I’m wrong, someone?

      Personally, I find it suspect that anyone would take a job where they are given free reign to strike other humans for such nonsense as violating an arbitrary dress code.

      Still, in town it is well known when they get home at night their fat, psychopathic wives thrash them within inches of their lives…

      • Elanor

        They’re free to expel, but they rarely do except in cases of guns or extreme violence.

        I’ve never understood why schools continue to use suspension as a form of punishment. The kid is acting up seriously enough to warrant a suspension, probably means they have discipline problems. That’s a parental failing, mostly.

        So the solution is to SEND THEM HOME to goof off all day as punishment? Please!

        Most of these kids are sent home to no supervision and ENJOY it. Way to reward them psychologically if not physically as well.

        In-school Suspension should be the norm. You are monitored, you’re bored out of your mind and you still have to do your work. Some ISS even includes manual labor.

        • Elemenope

          To my admittedly incomplete knowledge, in school suspension is now the norm.

  • JulietEcho

    This seriously still happens? I had no idea. Wow… just… wow. Are the states that allow it mainly in the south?

    • Elanor

      I grew up in Florida, but the part that might as well be Alabama.
      I know my school had a paddle, but I never saw it.

  • Yoav

    I thought that a teacher hitting a naughty student’s behind with a wooden paddle is something that only happened in porn.

    • JohnMWhite

      It also happens if you get caught watching porn. QED.

      • yahweh

        Which would be a reason to watch more porn. A vicious (yet enjoyable) circle.

  • faithnomore

    I, too, had no idea this still happened….legally. That is horrifying. I was struck on the hand with a ruler when I was in first grade for some ridiculous violation (I don’t even remember what it was.) I will NEVER forget that. It was humiliating, degrading and it hurt. I promptly told my mom and was transferred to another class. No joke, I was one of the best students and a favorite with most all of my teachers from kindergarten through senior year. I can’t imagine what I did (maybe talking when the teacher was talking or something), but I’m sure it did not deserve a physical assault as a response.

    • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

      They’re trying to reinstate it where I live. Sigh. Brings back such fond memories of my early education…

  • Erik

    Wow, this is still legal in the US? You guys are decades behind…

    • wazza

      yeah, I think it was banned here some time in the late 70s or early 80s (here being NZ)

  • http://dougintology.blogspot.com Ibid

    Are we talking about hitting or hitting back? Because, seriously, when some little shit locks his teeth onto my leg he’s gonna get hit and possibly punted. That’s where I see a problem with the law. Spanking the children for doing something wrong, sure, ban that. Smacking a kid with a ruler for some transgression or other, sure, ban that. Defending yourself against assault… yeah, I’m not gonna care much what the law is. As it stands a teacher would likely be able to get the court to dismiss charges of assault for securing a violent child, but the teacher would at least have to change schools.
    I appreciate the intention of this law, but the execution would likely be a problem. We need more protection of the teachers and other students against feral children.

    While the schools are technically allowed to expel a kid it is so difficult as to be nearly impossible to do so. You’re better off waiting until they get themselves sent to prison.

    • nazani14

      There’s a difference between shoving away a kid who’s swinging at you and hitting back. Learn how to block a punch. If a kid actually locks his teeth onto your leg you may just have to stagger down the hall to the principal’s office with him attached. If you really think a large kid may assault you, review your options with the principal. I’m sure there would be an outcry if security cameras were placed in classrooms, but in some situations it might encourage better behavior by both students and teachers.

      • K.D.

        I teach high school. My kids in many cases are over 6 foot. The teacher needs the right to defend themselves at all costs. I have been to the hospital after being attacked. Somehow you folks thing this is a rare occurrence. The schools cover-up most assaults. Why should the teacher have to walk down the hall with a kid’s teeth in their leg? Kick the kid until they turn loose.
        There is something wrong with you Nazani. Do you think the police is going to let a kid just assault them?

        • Elemenope

          Do you think the police is going to let a kid just assault them?

          Police operate as if above-the-law all the time, and it is a manifestly bad thing that they do. Arrogating to oneself the power to assault people when you feel like you’re in danger is not a reasonable approach. I agree that teachers should have the right to defend themselves against actual physical threats (like the 6-footer with a bad attitude), but I have a hard time justifying a swift kick to a twelve year old, teeth or no teeth. And none of it has anything to do with corporal punishment.

    • Michael

      If you are literally attacked by a student and have some reasonable expectation of danger, I’m fairly certain you are in your right to defend yourself. That does not necessarily mean hitting back, but in some specific situations it might. That all has nothing to do with corporal punishment which is the purpose of this bill. Note that schools already specify where students are allowed to be struck, so if what you are describing were really a problem, it would probably already be a problem.

      • http://dougintology.blogspot.com Ibid

        Unfortunately, it’s a very serious problem. Teachers and students get physically attacked by students with some regularity. All too often the administration backs the parents instead of the teacher and the teacher has to take the student back in their classroom rather than expel the kid.

        When I was still an education major I asked my teacher how to deal with situations like that. After some hemming and hawing they were forced to admit that if the principal won’t back the staff there’s not much you can do other than leaving. Knocking the kid away or macing him always leaves the school vulnerable to lawsuits and will likely cost you your job. You just have to hope that the parents are aware of the kid’s behavior and won’t pull the usual “mah baby wo’n't do ‘at! Mah baby’s a gud kid!” crap.

  • Mike

    Mixed thoughts on this one. Surely if you have to resort to hitting a child, you have failed either as a parent or a teacher. On the other hand, while I believe hitting a child in a classroom should never be condoned, you can’t help but notice the serious failings in discipline since the ultimate sanction has been removed. I went from a school where sadistic old queers would beat you for breathing wrong to one where corporal punishment was very rare and only administered by the headmaster – there was no noticeable difference in the discipline levels between the two, but when corporal punishment was banned entirely in the state sector, things went rapidly downhill. Opponents of corporal punishment say it doesn’t work because it’s always the same kids getting beaten. Maybe – but it kept the rest of us in line.

    • Rev PJ

      Opponents of corporal punishment say it doesn’t work because it’s always the same kids getting beaten. Maybe – but it kept the rest of us in line.

      That sounds similar to the arguments I hear for capital punishment. If that argument held for capital punishment, then we wouldn’t b executing anyone anymore.

      I got paddled once in school, after some other kid punched me in the stomach. The only thing I did wrong was get punched, yet the idiot I had for a teacher was a proponent of “fairness”. He felt that all parties should be punished, and I suspect he got more than a little hard spanking kids. I have to admit that the paddling did have a lasting positive effect on my behavior though. To this day I distrust authority, and view folks who think violence solves problems as idiots.

      • DarkMatter

        I won’t group corporal punishment in school, capital punishment and violence as the same. Normally we outgrow our schooling naughtiness to became responsible adults in our society. We joke of our past.

        • Rev PJ

          I don’t consider them tge same thing, except wrt the specious deterrence argument. Somebody else getting punished never deterred me as a kid.

          People do not become responsible adults though the fear of punishment, they become responsible adults through choosing to `play nice’ even if there is no punishment.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the argument in favor of corporal punishment in the home as “My parents had to hit me once in a while and I turned out alright.” Some people do not really have an honest view of how they’ve turned out, and on the internet, especially when you’ve already been internet pals for a while, you kind of have to take their word for it, but you still don’t know what they’re capable of or how hard they hit when they do hit. They might use the word “swat” when they really do a light swat or when they really mean a literal ass-beating, or that “take them by the shoulders” to hold them in place and get them to look you in the eye when they really shook them like a ragdoll.. and for that matter is it any kinder to send them to bed without any supper one day, and then chastise them (or hit them, either) for not cleaning their plate the next?

          One thing I just thought of, however, is how many children who are hit in the home really don’t respond to anything else when they are older, but still in school. I consider my mother to have been more verbally abusive than anything else, although she hit me twice that I remember. Now, I was a meek and timid teenager and young adult, I was a good girl, I avoided trouble even more than was healthy. What I do not respond to (as a motivator) is the kind of drill sergeant attitude a lot of people have to offer. It paralyzes me now, even in spite of myself. If it pleases someone else to diminish my worth to me, I will not perform to the standard they are hoping to get by lighting my ass with a fire.

          That’s a little tangential, but if a kid is used to one avenue of punishment at home (and I mean in this case, physical punishment), no amount of talking to them or reasoning with them or verbally attacking them is likely to get you far. If they know you can’t lay a hand on them, they just laugh. That’s what kind of people these parents are raising. I am not in favor of hitting them, but the “and I turned out alright” excuse just doesn’t make it for me. As it is, I was not beat, and there are still things you shouldn’t do to children that don’t stand to leave a mark.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    I’d like to take this a step further, and make ALL corporal punishment, in school, AND IN THE HOME, illegal.

    Spanking is nothing more than self-justified abuse.

  • Jordan

    I got paddled at school (and at home) and it was never really a big deal for me. Honestly, now that I’m older most of the memories of me getting paddled are funny and endearing to me. But I do realize that not everyone’s experience is the same.

  • Ed S

    It may be of interest, that the Republican Party of Texas adopted the following as part of it’s 2010 platform:

    “Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. We urge the Legislature, Governor, Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education to remind administrators and school boards that corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

    The also adopted the following strange plank:

    “Foster Care – We support eliminating bureaucratic prohibitions on corporal discipline and home schooling in foster homes to help alleviate the shortage of foster parents.”

    In Texas, apparently, Republicans believe that more people will volunteer to take in foster children if they can spank them…

    • Yoav

      I’m surprised they didn’t claim that stopping teachers from shooting students violates their 2nd amendment rights.

      • Dutchgirl

        Don’t give them any ideas!

        • LRA

          *sigh*

          Stereotyping sucks.

  • L.Long

    Was there so know it happened….
    One 6 yr old was strangling a 5 yr old.
    The 5 yr old was turn blue in the face and starting to pass out.
    Every adult in the school refused to go near the 6yr old because because to touch IT
    would be to get his big shot arse hole dad on their arses.
    so they literally watched as the 5yr old was being killed.
    Some tried to ‘pull him away-gently’ to no results.
    The police were called and they, like christmas, were coming.
    One sharp whack on the head would have ended the whole thing….
    Think fast … the 5yr old is passing out!!
    Who has the balls???
    Well one woman did. She walked up, garbed a delicate part in her fingers, squeezed,
    and he let go, dropped to the ground, and screamed at his best and loudest.
    The nurse helped the blue boy and all was OK.
    But the 1st words out of ITS mouth
    ‘I’m telling my DAD (caps cuz he is SOOOoo important) and we are going to sue your ass for assault!!!’
    I hope the schools have their own police squad stationed there cuz those kids are going to run riot over everyone.!!
    The woman said tell your dad (not that important), bring him over and I’ll drop him to the ground and make him scream like a little girl. He never showed…no suit filed.

    There is a big difference between using force when needed and beating someone.

    So what would you do in the situation above, AND I SWEAR IT IS TRUE!!!
    Its your kid the victim, or your kid is the killer??
    what do you want the lone scared teacher to do??
    Remember force is illegal!!!

    No I am not for such things as beating-caning-whipping-or similar.
    But there are times when….and unfortunately the ‘bad kids’ almost always have ass-holes for parents. So be prepared to be terrorized by them if you even touch their poor good johnny.

    • Michael

      Pulling a kid off another kid is not corporal punishment and is not (nor will be made) illegal. I have no idea how this story is irrelevant.

      • Jabster

        It’s sounds as true as the story of Jesus to me!

      • http://dougintology.blogspot.com Ibid

        It shouldn’t be relevant, but it is. The woman who pulled the 6 year old off the 5 year old could end up in prison for what she did. That’s even without the corporal punishment laws.

        • Elemenope

          From the story it seemed like there were plenty of witnesses who could support a justification defense if a prosecutor was stupid enough to charge her or a judge was stupid enough to sustain a civil suit on the merits. Sure, it’s *possible*, but vanishingly unlikely, and certainly not enough of a disincentive to act decisively and appropriately to break up a fight or prevent one child from hurting another.

          • http://dougintology.blogspot.com Ibid

            The problem with this whole discussion is that we’re not thinking about how school systems function; we’re thinking like reasonable people. Yes, normal, rational, sensible people would see that the teacher was justified in grabbing the 6 year old off the 5 year old. Normal, rational people could make exceptions for self defense. However, most school districts would take the parents’ side no matter what. Even those that back up the teacher in court would likely end up firing the teacher a very short distance down the road.

            The intention behind the law is good. The only sensible reason to object to it is because one knows how stupidly this crap plays out in the school systems. If a kid scrapes his knee on the playground a teacher can get fired for touching the child without putting on gloves first. We’re always hearing about stupid administrators who freak out because a child prayed silently to himself before a test. Schools are stupid. The fact that the other teachers hesitated to stop a 6 year old from strangling a 5 year old speaks to how stupid they are and how scared the teachers are of the broken system.

            • Elemenope

              OK, but then that’s not really a beef with the rule so much as with problematic application of the rule. One that, having witnessed many systems of rules create perverse incentives and create unintended burdens, I can certainly sympathize with. One of the great issues facing schools (from primary school all the way up through college, where I am most familiar through experience) is that current tort law combined with the in loco parentis doctrine makes schools painfully absurdly risk-averse in regards to litigation. Schools will sooner throw students and teachers under the bus than face issues of behavior or systematic injustice if the probable cost of liability is greater than zero. The resulting behavior of admin. has more to do with administrative priorities than it does with any specific rule being put into place.

        • John C

          ‘The woman who pulled the 6 year old off the 5 year old could end up in prison for what she did’.

          And for what, essentially saving the other child’s life from the aggressor? Can we see how insane that is? Here’s the scary truth friends. We are empowering an entire generation of unruly, future predators who will wreak and unleash a severe devastation, exact a high toll (in cruelty) on our society in the days ahead by their beastly, brute behavior having gone virtually unchecked and unpunished their whole lives by a society that was unwilling (and too faint of heart) to mercifully yet sternly intervene in a demonstrable fashion for fear of retribution, legal trappings, etc introduced into our society via a political correctness movement that is ultimately… incorrect.

          Now, lest you think I somehow condone the ‘hitting’ of children or child abuse in any fashion, you are seriously mistaken, I abhor it as much as the next person, even more. I appreciate Daniel, his accommodating my contrary perspectives etc, but his use of a graphic on this thread that displays an adult apparently striking a child in the face, on the head shows a tremendous bias, was a poor choice and was obviously intended to infer that ‘Christians’ approve or turn a blind eye to such behaviors, nothing could be further from the truth. One can not reconcile cruelty and the Jesus of the NT.

          When the time comes to ‘pay the price’, when these little brutes grow up to be big brutes, we will have no one to blame except ourselves as a society as a whole. Its already coming to a head in inner city schools, teachers are afraid for their lives, literally. I was talking to one just last night at the playground where I take my precious granddaughter. She was telling me the horror stories that teachers have witnessed, endure, its so sad and unnecessary.

          The truth is, it is we, the adults that are inflicting upon these children a severe injustice and yes, even a cruelty of sorts by our unwillingness to act, to intervene and correct while permitting these behavior patterns to continue. We are losing (have already lost) our basic, innate, intuitive, God-given sense of right and wrong more and more each and every day as we sear our consciences to the future societal consequences, as plainly and unappealing as that may sound to you, the truth ‘hurts’.

          How long? How much longer shall we inflict this hell upon our children? Personally, I can bear it no longer, it breaks my heart, is an injustice and cruelty or the highest magnitude, to leave these little ones in such a state, to allow their little lives to maintain and manifest such a corrupted, self-focused nature. Make no mistake, we WILL pay the price for our sins of omission to these little ones, God help us.

          • Sunny Day

            “I appreciate … but his use of a graphic on this thread that displays an adult apparently striking a child in the face, on the head shows a tremendous bias, was a poor choice and was obviously intended to infer that ‘Christians’ approve or turn a blind eye to such behaviors, nothing could be further from the truth. One can not reconcile cruelty and the Jesus of the NT.”

            Congratulations on sinking to a new depth of inanity, you stinking moron.

            • Jabster

              It’s just more bollocks from John C … what he really wanted to say was if only we all believed in god everything would be fine.

            • John C

              No, if we all had our original, God-like nature’s restored to us, yes then everything (and everyone) would be more than ‘ok’. That nature is Love. And that is the True Offer in Christ. All the best.

            • Custador

              Yes, John. Because “God” created Adam and Eve perfect, then created a perfect “test” which he knew perfectly well they’d fail (which implies that it was created deliberately for them to fail) – and when they promptly did exactly what he wanted (i.e. failed), he decided he would punish the entire species descended from them as punishment. And how does he make humanity “atone” for doing exactly what he made them to do and wanted them to do? He came down to Earth and had himself killed in order to settle humanity’s debt to himself with his own blood.

              Seriously, my friend, if you (or anybody else for that matter) cannot see how retarded that whole premise is, then you need psychological help.

            • John C

              Daniel, obviously, this issue (child abuse) is a hot-button topic for me personally and like many of you I am extremely passionate about it. Having said that, I want to offer my sincere apologies to you if I offended you in any way by my comments yesterday, that was not my intention. I thought the accompanying pic was in poor taste (I still do) but it was effective, I’ll grant you that. The larger concern is the abuse itself.

              So please, thanks so much for you being you (accommodating and fair as you have been to me for some time now) and please forgive me if I came across to you as anything other than passionate about this (horrific) injustice, ie child abuse. Let’s put an end to it together shall we?

              All the very, very best.

            • John C

              Custy, remember this friend, God/Love is not ‘reasonable’, si Spirit and you will never comprehend it (the truth and beauty behind the story) from the reasoning aspects of your (human) mind, God is not approached in the same manner (and with the same faculties, ie reason & logic) in the way that one would approach an academic pursuit, He is not to be found ‘there’, but He is certainly able to be found.

              What you described above is not the story, but I can understand how you would come to that conclusion via the reasoning mind, it makes ‘sense’ to you, get it? All the best.

            • DarkMatter

              Just godly training for their little ones to become future martyrs for their god of truth.

  • Confused

    For a moment there I wondered who Bill Hopes was.

    I think that’s what they refer to on Language Log as a crash blossom.

    • Kodie

      I thought it was just me. Being not familiar with a lot of religious figures with articles about them, and having my attention divided on a phone call at the time I saw it, I thought Bill Hopes was a person.

    • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

      Funny. I had a similar impression at first. Except I was thinking Bill who? and why or how does he hope to ban corporeal punishment?

  • Hannah C

    Corporal Punishment isn’t okay in schools, period.
    I’m in high school now, and I still remember my second grade teacher ripping my work up for being “sloppy”. It was humiliating. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be hit as a punishment.
    In school suspension is much more effective, in my opinion. Aside from being cruel, corporal punishment doesn’t seem like it would have any positive effect on behavior. I can’t believe it is still legal in so many states…
    Yay for living in California and not having to deal with that crap!

  • DDM
  • Tee

    Depends where you live (country). Not justifying hitting a child by any means. Just saying it’s hard to argue this for me as where I was raised it was normal to get smacked if you were causing trouble.

    I think the issue with the USA is according to teacher friends I know there is they won’t suspend a kid (out of school suspension) cause it means less $$$$ for the district/school as they get a certain amount of cash per student who shows up.

    • moosolinisaki

      Ummm…the teachers (yes, I am one) would GLADLY recommend suspending a child who was making their and others’ school lives hell. They do not take into consideration the budget dollars when they have a child who is out of control with his/her violence and wrecking the learning environment. Puleeeze!

      • Tee

        Where do you teach? My friends who teach in California are are terrified to suggest to the principals an out of school suspension. The principal would much rather do an IN school suspension due to the money issue. Yes the TEACHERS may want the out of school suspension but if the principal won’t do it then what?

  • http://www.sarahtrachtenberg.com Sarah Trachtenberg

    I haven’t read all the comments (!), so I don’t know if this has been already said, but in the US, murderers on death row are protected from physical punishment, at least in theory. Innocent children are not. It would be illegal for you to hit someone convicted of killing a loved one in court, but it is perfectly legal to hit an innocent child (unless you’re *extreme* about it). Dig?

  • Kodie

    I’m definitely not in favor of corporal punishment, but it used to be ok for, say, a neighbor, to tell a kid to knock it (whatever misbehavior) off, and that doesn’t seem to be acceptable anymore. I don’t know what it’s like in states that allow corporal punishment in schools — how parents who wouldn’t let a stranger in a store (as I’m given to believe) tell their kid to stop messing up the displays without a dirty look/word/fight coming to them, will allow schools the “privilege” of actually laying a hand or paddle to them for arbitrary definitions of disrespect. I’m not a parent so I’m not even “allowed” to suggest someone might need an extra hand (not literally with my hand) with their parenting so I can shop or walk around anywhere in public without their kids wrecking stuff with abandon and running wild with no manners or suggestions that they learn some.

  • Shrubber

    Watched in class as a bully (6 ft +) was stopped from his bullying, marched to the front of the room, and paddled (2 pops, 90 lb. teacher). Then sent back to his desk.

    He was humiliated. Not hurt. Not injured. Not oppressed. Just De-bullied in front of the class.

    Public embarrassment is the idea, not pain and injury.

    • Elemenope

      If public embarrassment is the idea, there are equally effective ways to do it that don’t involve whacking him.

      • DarkMatter

        I don’t think he meant whacking in the teacher’s disciplinary action unless there was something wrong with the teacher.

  • L.Long

    My story above-the woman is safe because there is or was absolutely no evidence that she did anything. But remember if faced with such charges you are going before a judge (who probably wont), a prosecutor that will do ANYTHING to further his political career, and a jury of 12 opinionated people….Good luck because despite the myth you have to prove yourself innocent.

    As Shrubber tried to show the ‘violence’ is not really the important part and Elemenope is in a fantasy land. Embarrass a big kid with words??? HaHaHahahaha. I have never met a big bully or ‘misbehaving johnny’ who was stopped or embarrassed by words. The only 5 asses I met in schools were stopped when they got the crap knocked out of them…by other students, but the no violence in schools is also extended to the kids. And guess who gets classified as a bully?? Yep the one standing, so self defense will soon be illegal in schools as well.
    It is all going to make ‘going to school’ a fun filled time.

    And NO I don’t have a good answer because my answer requires intelligent, caring, able to do what is required -with restraint type people in the schools–like a SWAT team! After all the teachers are NOT there to control but to teach.


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