Recent studies have shown that most parents have turned away from corporal punishment as a way to discipline their children. Sadly, many schools have not. In 20 states, public school students continue to be hit by their teachers for offenses big and small. But now, for the first time in 18 years, Congress is talking about the use of corporal punishment in schools and considering outlawing the practice.
Corporal punishment is defined by the National Association of School Nurses as “the intentional infliction of physical pain as a method of changing behavior. It may include methods such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, shaking, use of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks, or others), or painful body postures.”
If that description makes you cringe, it should. Even incarcerated criminals are protected by law from being physically abused by those in a position of authority over them. But for many of our kids, there is no such protection. According to a report by the U.S Department of Education, over 200,000 students were victims of corporal punishment in U.S. public schools during the 2006-2007 school year.
Not only do we treat children worse than criminals when it comes to legalized physical assault, we pretty much stand alone in doing so. 102 countries, including Canada, Australia, Europe and the UK, have outlawed corporal punishment in schools. And the list of organizations who oppose it in the U.S. is long and includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The reason other countries have outlawed it and experts oppose it is because it is just plain wrong. The American Psychological Association says corporal punishment may do far more than inflict physical pain. It may lower self-esteem, instill hostility and teach children that physical violence is a acceptable problem-solving tool.
So, wouldn’t you agree that it is time to put an end to this barbaric practice? If you are not sure, check out The Center for Effective Discipline for more information. And take note: In a few weeks, New York State Representative Carolyn McCarthy will introduce a bill banning corporal punishment in U.S. Schools. Let your state representative know how you feel.
Image: Jason O’Halloran/Flickr