Target: United States Secretary of Education John King, Jr.
Goal: Ban corporal punishment in United States public schools.
A Georgia mother recorded school principals swatting her son with a paddle in school. The story is viral and reigniting the conservation as to whether or not corporal punishment should be allowed in public schools.
Currently, 19 states allow corporal punishment in public schools. This means school administrators in these 19 states are allowed to swat, spank, slap, and paddle students if the administration deems the child’s behavior bad enough to warrant such a response. Unfortunately, there is no legal precedent banning the practice, for the Supreme Court ruled in Ingraham v. Wright (1977) that corporal punishment in public schools did not violate the constitutional rights of students because corporal punishment did not violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment or due process clauses. In Ingraham, the decision was made citing the United States’ tradition of corporal punishment in public schools as precedent for its acceptability — so long as the punishment wasn’t excessive or unreasonable.
But despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, the debate over whether or not educators and administrators should be allowed to physically punish students for their transgressions is far from settled. Research suggests that spanking retards a child’s IQ and triggers more aggressive behaviors in children. Child welfare advocates claim that corporal punishment is disproportionately administered to students with disabilities and students of color, increasing chances they will fall behind in school.
During the 2011-12 academic year, for which the most recent federal data is available, there were 166,807 instances when corporal punishment was used on a public school student in the United States. That’s over 800 students each day nationwide.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
Despite being upheld as a constitutional practice, corporal punishment, especially when administered in a public school setting, has been shown to have harmful effects on students. Research suggests that corporal punishment stunts a student’s ability to learn and makes them more aggressive. Corporal punishment also appears to be improperly implemented in United States public schools, as it appears to be disproportionately administered to students with disabilities and students of color.
While a parent is free to punish their child any way they wish in the privacy of their own home, corporal punishment should not be an option available to government employees in a government setting.
Over 31 U.S. states have already banned the practice. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have ruled corporal punishment of children in schools to be a violation of their human rights and as of May 2015, 125 countries around the world have banned all forms of corporal punishment in schools.
It is with this in mind that we urge you to work to abolish corporal punishment in every U.S. state.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: German Federal Archive