|by Clark Moeller||[Welcome]
Ending Corporal Punishment in the Schools
Clark Moeller, December 9, 1998 -- The Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy adopted a policy for Non Violence in December of 1998, which called for the ending of corporal punishment in the schools. The following article outlines the background on PADs position on this issue.
Most of the children in Pennsylvania live in urban school districts where corporal punishment is no longer permitted. That leaves half going to public schools where paddling is still permitted. In rural Bradford County, for example, half the school districts have ended the use of corporal punishment and half have not. More that half, 27, of the states in America have ended corporal punishment by state law. Pennsylania, which still permits the use of corporal punishment in schools, is surrounded by NY, NJ, MD, VA, WV, and DE, which have ended corporal punishment. New Jersey ended it in 1868. Only our bordering state, Ohio, has not ended it yet but, as in PA, over half of their students live in school districts which have ended corporal punishment by school Board policy.
As of 1987, only 9 states had outlawed corporal punishment. In the last 10 years, 18 additional states outlawed it. Thats a big change in 10 years. As more and more parents (more than 50% now) indicate they disapprove of corporal punishment in schools, the political support for school administrators and teachers who hit kids has declined. Nationally, the number of children paddled in school has declined from 1.4 million in 1978 to 470 thousand in 1994, a decline of 66% in 16 years. Either we now are spawning a new genetic strain of good children, or teachers have stopped complaining, or there is a massive attitude change underway against using corporal punishment.
Today in PA, less than 1% of the students are hit in school as compared to Arkansas, for example, where over 13% of the students get hit. Nevertheless, PA is still keeping company with Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolinia, Tennessee, and Texas, states that permit, and in some cases seem to promote, hitting children in school.
As a side note, all the European countries ended corporal punishment in the schools years ago. Poland ended it in 1783 and by 1890 nine European countries had ended it. By 1970 another 10 had stopped corporal punishment in the schools and by 1986 the rest had. This year, South Africa ended it. In March of 1998, the British House of Commons voted 211 to 15 to extend the ban on corporal punishment to include all private schools.
Consistent with the drop in paddling in American schools, there was a 17% decline in parents in the United States who used corporal punishment on their children between 1989 and 1996, according to polling for the National Coalition Against Corporal Punishment in Schools. As of 1998, seven European countries have moved forward and made it illegal for parents to use corporal punishment.
Following is a list of some of the professional associations that have formally adopted a policy or resolution against the use of corporal punishment:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Bar Association
American Assoc. For Counseling & Development
American Medical Association
American Psychiatric Association
Council for Exceptional Children
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Association of State Boards of Education
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Social Workers
National Association to Prevent Child Abuse
National Education Association
National Mental Health Association
So why do so many professional associations disapprove of corporal punishment and why have so many countries, states in the USA, and public school districts ended the use of corporal punishment? Long before the clinical research showed just how harmful corporal punishment can be, many educators felt that it was just common sense that hitting a child undermined his or her capacity to learn, hitting was a counter productive strategy for behavior modification, and hitting flew in the face teaching a child how to respect the dignity of others. These educators also observed, according to the national organization, End Punishment of Children,USA :
- It perpetuates a cycle of child abuse. It teaches children to hit someone smaller and weaker when angry.
- Injuries occur. Bruises are common. Broken bones are not unusual. Children's deaths have occurred in the U.S. due to school corporal punishment.
- Corporal punishment is used much more often on poor children, minorities, children with disabilities, and boys.
- Schools are the only institutions in America in which striking another person is legally sanctioned. It is not allowed in prisons, in the military or in mental hospitals.
- Educators and school boards are sometimes sued when corporal punishment is used in their schools.
- Schools that use corporal punishment often have poorer academic achievement, more vandalism, truancy, pupil violence and higher drop out rates.
- Corporal punishment is often not used as a last resort. It is often the first resort for minor misbehavior.
- Many alternatives to corporal punishment have proven their worth. Alternatives teach children to be self-disciplined rather than cooperative only because of fear.
In addition to these
considerations, the clinical research on the
negative effects of corporal punishment on children and
later on them as adults continues to mount (http://www.stophitting.com/EPOCH/).
According to Dr. Murray A. Strauss latest research
findings there is a significant difference in the
behavior and performance of (1) children and adults who
have never been corporally punished compared to (2) the
behavior and performance of children who experienced a
few to a high number of incidents of corporal punishment
and adults who as children experienced a few to a high
number of incidents of corporal punishment.
"Factfile: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth,"
Hetrick-Martin Institute, New York City, 1992