18 Nov 2018
Corporal Punishment: Should It Be Legal
Corporal punishment is currently legally implemented K-12 in fifteen states in America. Corporal punishment is any form of discipline where physical force is used to inflict light pain. Most examples include spanking with the hand or some object. The Committee on the Rights of the Child states that corporal punishment is “invariably degrading”
In K-12 schools in America where corporal punishment is legal students are often smacked with more than a hand, sometimes a paddle, ruler, or leather strap. The states that still implement corporal punishment are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. While 70% of corporal punishment happens in five states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. There isn’t too much correlation between these states other than their political affiliation. These states are all predominantly Republican. The University of Chicago had conducted several surveys concerning spanking children. The question asked is “Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking?” This survey shows that Republicans are quite a bit more likely to favor spanking. Since 2008 65% of Democrats are in favor of spanking while 80% of Republicans are. It is also shown that regions most to least likely to agree with spanking are as follows: South, Midwest, West, Northeast. This is an interesting fact, as the vast majority (eleven out of fifteen) of the states in which corporal punishment is still legal are in the South while the numbers for Midwest as well as the West are tied at two. None of the Northeastern states of the United States still allow corporal punishment in schools.
Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas once even publicly stated that he spanks his children while the general public was barely phased by it. This is because it has been commonplace in America for so long for parents to physically punish their children without thinking of the long-lasting effects. ABC News conducted a poll that concludes that sixty five percent of parents approve of spanking as discipline in their home, however, seventy two percent of parents say that grade-school teachers should not be allowed to spank their students. So why is it still such a big problem?
The most commonly used argument for corporal punishment in schools is that it is appropriate to set boundaries and earn respect when used in moderation. A study conducted in December 2016 concluded that children who had endured physical punishment were more apt to deal with aggression. This study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology. It examined how corporal punishment effects two-year-olds later in life. Led by Marcos Mendez from the Department of Family Studies and Human Services of The University of Kansas. Mendez used information from 218 couples with one first-born child beginning at age two and revisiting a year later. About sixty eight percent of father and sixty seven percent of mothers admitted to hitting or spanking their children in some manner and as hypothesised the children who were physically punished at the age two later developed several emotional issues. Such as, but not limited to, strong aggression, difficulty holding attention, and general anxiety.
An article written by USA Today states that children who were physically punished at ages as young as fifteen months were increasingly likely to exhibit bad behaviour and negative temperament in fifth grade and up. Gustavo Carlo, a professor of development at the University of Missouri says, “How parents treat their children at a young age … significantly impacts their behavior,” So if corporal punishment from our own parents has long lasting negative effects on children what could it do if received from teachers?
The story of Joshua Watson, a sixth grader in Texas tells a harrowing tale of corporal punishment in schools. Joshua was given the choice to serve five days of in-school-suspension or to be paddled three times. His only offense was forgetting his pencils to class which earned him his tenth demerit point. With Joshua’s parent’s permission he chose to be paddled. He recounts the day it happens, saying that waiting in the principal’s office was the, “the longest 10 or 15 minutes I’ve ever had.” The vice principal instructed him to remove his pants and come into his office, he ordered Joshua to bend over a chair and smacked down hard on his bottom with a paddle. Joshua screamed and begged to stop even bargaining to serve two weeks of in school suspension. The vice principal hit him two times more, the whole time Joshua crying and pleading. When he got home his bottom was bruised blue and red, he couldn’t sit on it for two weeks, but what lasted longer than the physical hurt was the emotional scarring. Joshua began to have awful, vivid nightmares and they continued for almost a year. Joshua’s mother, Paula, said that he couldn’t even sleep in his own bed out of fear and he never slept the whole night. Paula even homeschooled him the next semester because Joshua was too frightened to return as well as taking him to a therapist who diagnosed the eleven year old with post traumatic stress disorder. Joshua’s experienced with corporal punishment occurred ten years ago, but unfortunately instances like this happen in schools to this day. The American Civil Liberties Union recorded that roughly 220,000 children are physically punished in public schools a year. The American Psychological Association, The National Parent Teachers Association, and the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse say that corporal punishment should be completely taken out of schools.
There are several other methods of discipline than corporal punishment that are just as, if not more effective and won’t leave a child with the same disorder that many of our military soldiers are diagnosed with. Simply meeting with a student’s parents and discussing their behaviour and working to understand why they chose to make a bad choice can make them feel like their feelings are respected and help the parents guide their children in the right direction.
Corporal punishment is an outdated and overly-violent method of discipline. It creates long-lasting trauma for a child and in extreme cases can cause them to withdraw from school. School is meant to be a safe environment for learning, to a breeding ground for fear and aggression. While we cannot prevent parents from using this on their own children it is not the place of the teacher, vice principal, counselor, or any school staff to do so.
“Population Distribution by Race/Ethnicity.” KFF, 2016, www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedRows=%7B%22states%22:%7B%22north-carolina%22:%7B%7D%7D%7D&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%2. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.
Enten, Harry. “Americans’ Opinions On Spanking Vary By Party, Race, Region And Religion.” FiveThirtyEight, 15 Sept. 2014, fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-opinions-on-spanking-vary-by-party-race-region-and-religion/. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.
Secor, Everett. “Ted Cruz Hits His Kids, And America Seems Fine With That.” Rise: News, Contributer, risenews.net/2016/01/ted-cruz-hits-his-kids-and-america-seems-fine-with-that/. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.
Vitelli, Romeo. “Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child?.” Psychology Today, 18 Jan. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201701/spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.
Waters, Rob. “Beyond physical pain or injury, hitting children can cause long-lasting anxiety, social withdrawal and severe depression.” Corporal Punishment and Trauma, HealthyDay, 20 Jan. 2018, consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/children-s-health-10/child-development-news-124/corporal-punishment-and-trauma-644895.html. Accessed 14 Nov. 2018.
Abbasi, Waseem. “Harmful effects of spanking a toddler can trigger bad behavior — even 10 years later.” USA Today, 16 Aug. 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/16/harmful-effects-spanking-toddler-can-trigger-bad-behavior-even-10-years-later/562203001/. Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.
Morin, Amy. “8 Ways to Discipline Your Child Without Spanking.” Discipline, Verywell Family, 25 Sept. 2018, www.verywellfamily.com/alternatives-to-spanking-1094834. Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.