School Corporal Punishment

School corporal punishment covers official punishments of school students for misbehaviour that involve striking the student a given number of times in a generally methodical and premeditated ceremony. The punishment is usually administered either across the buttocks or on the hands, with an implement specially kept for the purpose such as a rattan cane, wooden paddle, slipper or leather strap. Less commonly, it could also include spanking or smacking the student in a deliberate manner on a specific part of the body with the open hand, especially at the elementary school level.

Advocates of school corporal punishment argue that it provides an immediate response to indiscipline and that the student is quickly back in the classroom learning, rather than being suspended from school. Opponents believe that other disciplinary methods are equally or more effective. Some regard it as tantamount to violence or abuse.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, and generally in the English-speaking world, the use by schools of corporal punishment has historically been covered by the common law doctrine of in loco parentis, whereby a school has the same rights over a minor as its parent.

In most places nowadays where it is allowed, corporal punishment in public schools is governed by official regulations laid down by governments or local education authorities, defining such things as the implement to be used, the number of strokes that may be administered, which members of staff may carry it out, and whether parents must be informed or consulted. Depending on how narrowly the regulations are drawn and how rigorously enforced, this has the effect of making the punishment a structured ceremony that is legally defensible in a given jurisdiction and of inhibiting staff from lashing out on the spur of the moment.

The first country in the world to prohibit corporal punishment was Poland in 1783.

Individual US states have the power to ban corporal punishment in their schools. Currently, it is banned in public schools in 31 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. In two of these states, New Jersey and Iowa, it is illegal in private schools as well. The 19 states that have not banned it are mostly in the South. It is still used to a significant (though declining) degree in some public schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

In 1867 New Jersey became the first U.S. state to abolish corporal punishment in schools. The second was Massachusetts 104 years later in 1971. The most recent state to outlaw school corporal punishment was New Mexico in 2011.

Private schools in most states are exempt from state bans and may choose to use the paddle. Here too, most of those which actually do so are to be found in Southern states. These are largely, but by no means exclusively, Christian evangelical or fundamentalist schools.

Most urban public school systems, even in states where it is permitted, have abolished corporal punishment. Statistics collected by the federal government show that the use of the paddle has been declining consistently, in all states where it is used, over at least the past 20 years. The anti-spanking campaign Center for Effective Discipline, extrapolating from federal statistics, estimates that the number of students spanked or paddled in 2006 in U.S. public schools was about 223,000.

Statistics show that black and Hispanic students are more likely to be paddled than white students, possibly because minority-race parents are more inclined to approve of it. However, a study in Kentucky found that minority students were disproportionately targeted by discipline policies generally, not only corporal punishment.

Federal statistics consistently show that around 80% of school paddlings in the U.S. are of boys, most likely because boys exhibit more often than girls the kinds of misbehaviour for which corporal punishment is thought appropriate.

One study has alleged that students with disabilities are "subjected to corporal punishment at disproportionately high rates, approximately twice the rate of the general student population in some States".

Corporal punishment in American schools is administered to the seat of the student's trousers or skirt with a specially-made wooden paddle. This often used to take place in the classroom or hallway, but nowadays the punishment is usually given privately in the principal's office.

Most public school districts lay down detailed rules as to how the ceremony is to be carried out, and in many cases these are published in the school's student-parent handbook.

In 1983 a school administrator struggled with a student, trying to force her to bend over a chair to receive a paddling. During the struggle, the student fell against a desk, sustaining a serious injury to her back. In order to avoid similar incidents, a school district might adopt a rule which provides, "Corporal punishment shall not be administered if it requires holding a student or struggling with a student."

Increasingly, corporal punishment in US schools is, either explicitly or de facto, a matter of choice for the student. Thus, the rules of the Alexander City Schools provide, "No student is required to submit to corporal punishment." Many school handbooks provide that where a student refuses to submit to a paddling, he or she will receive some other punishment instead, such as suspension. Students are unlikely nowadays to be forcibly restrained while being paddled, as happened in the 1970 case which came to the Supreme Court in 1977 as Ingraham v. Wright.

Many school districts also offer parents an opportunity to state whether or not they wish corporal punishment to be used on their sons and daughters. Typically, the parents fill out a form which is filed in the school office. In many districts this is an "opt-out" system. In others an "opt-in" system applies, whereby no student is so punished without explicit parental consent.

A bill to end the use of corporal punishment in schools was introduced into the United States House of Representatives in June 2010 during the 111th Congress. The bill, H.R. 5628, was referred to the United States House Committee on Education and Labor where it was not brought up for a vote. As of June 2011 a similar bill has not been re-introduced in the 112th Congress. A previous bill "to deny funds to educational programs that allow corporal punishment" was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991 by Representative Major R. Owens. That bill, H.R. 1522, did not become law.

U.S. states banning school corporal punishment
Thirty-one U.S. states and the District of Columbia have banned corporal punishment from use in state schools. Two states, New Jersey and Iowa, additionally ban the use of corporal punishment in private schools. The states, in chronological order of the year they banned, are:
New Jersey - 1867
Massachusetts - 1971
Hawaii - 1973
District of Columbia - 1977
Maine - 1979
New Hampshire - 1983
New York - 1985
Vermont - 1985
California - 1986
Nebraska - 1988
Wisconsin - 1988
Alaska - 1989
Connecticut - 1989
Iowa - 1989
Michigan - 1989
Minnesota - 1989
North Dakota - 1989
Oregon - 1989
Virginia - 1989
South Dakota - 1990
Montana - 1991
Utah - 1992 (banned by administrative rule R277-608)
Maryland - 1993
Nevada - 1993
Washington - 1993
Illinois - 1994
West Virginia - 1994
Rhode Island - 2002
Delaware - 2003
Pennsylvania - 2005
Ohio - 2009:  The Ohio ban was signed into law by then-Governor Ted Strickland on 17 July 2009, and enforcement of the ban began on 15 October 2009.
New Mexico - 2011

Site Map