Do you know your school’s rules on corporal punishment? Amazingly, it might be allowed. That’s right: In many schools, teachers are allowed to strike or spank children to discipline them.
New Mexico just narrowly passed a ban on spanking in public schools. It joins 30 other states which had already banned the practice. That leaves 19 that have not. Many individual districts have existing bans, but not all.
I had no idea spanking, or any form of corporal punishment, was still legal in any school. Frankly, I’m shocked. I personally think all spanking should be outlawed. But even if it isn’t, surely it’s not something that should be allowed in schools.
The New Mexico bill was contentious, passing by just a few votes. It was far from a formality. There were 705 incidents of corporal punishment on record for 2006, the most recent year that data is available for. Clearly, a law was badly needed to protect children from the teachers and administrators who should have been protecting the kids but were hitting them, instead.
I think of spanking, especially in school, as this archaic practice, something that used to be commonplace but is no longer done. Like using leeches to bleed patients or sitting a kid in a corner with a dunce cap.
In fact, there’s plenty of spanking going on. Madeline wrote recently about depressed fathers spanking their toddlers. At least it’s well-understood in that case that the spanking isn’t an ideal behavior. Parents, especially depressed ones, don’t always do the best possible thing. We all do the best we can in the moment, but we screw up.
Spanking as part of a school’s discipline policy is a different matter. That’s a kind of institutionalized violence I’m deeply uncomfortable with. It’s also an especially bad idea for a school, because spanking makes kids kinda dumb.
I’m glad New Mexico outlawed it, and I hope the remaining 19 states will catch up soon.