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Corporal punishment is defined online by Merriam Webster as being “punishment inflicted on a person’s body”. They further add to the definition by pointing out that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “limits the use of corporal punishment on convicted offenders and prisoners”. However, they also point out that according to the U.S. Supreme Court the Eighth Amendment is “inapplicable to the use of corporal punishment on schoolchildren”. Therefore, it seems that although you can use corporal punishment on prisoners, it is illegal to use it on school children.

An article in the New York Times reports that corporal punishment is “prohibited at Head Start programs and in most Juvenile detention facilities”. However, it is allowed in the schools of many states. Educators are permitted to spank, hit, or slap children in these schools.

The New York Times also reported that according to the Education Department’s Office for Civil rights over 106,000 children were punished physically at public schools during the school year in 2013-14.

The question before us at this time is, “Should we have corporal punishment in the classroom?

Corporal Punishment Continues to be Legal in 19 States

It is still legal to use corporal punishment in 19 states. That means educators can legally paddle, spank, or physically punish students in these states. Corporal punishment is legal in private schools in 48 states.
The usual punishment in these schools is to spank students with paddles. These paddles are several inches wide and as long as two feet.

Corporal punishment in these states has continued to be legal for over 40 years. This is because the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that corporal punishment was constitutional in Ingraham v. Wright. The result of this ruling was to allow each state to make its own rules.

However, the use of corporal punishment is nearly extinct even in the 19 states that still allow it. Nowadays, schools simply reject the idea of According to Elizabeth T. Gershoff, professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, currently, there is no research on whether corporal punishment works in changing student behavior.


Why Corporal Punishment Should Not be Used in Schools

• Corporal punishment is a psychological and physical form of abuse. Corporal punishment gives the message that violence is acceptable socially. That message is wrong in today’s or the past society as well.
• It has been found that the students of schools who use corporal punishment are more orderly or disciplined than those at schools who don’t use corporal punishment. Since corporal punishment undermines the relationship between teacher and student, its effects are more negative than positive.
• It has been found that corporal punishment is not used in a fair and even-handed way. Boys are usually given more punishments than girls. Corporal punishment is used more on African American students for the same offenses.
• Physical discipline can cause psychological harm to a student and it only fixes a behavioral problem for a short time. According to many child psychologists, physical discipline may make a child more aggressive. It is more important to build a trusting relationship between teacher and child. To build good discipline usually takes more time and energy, but in the long run, it is more worth it.
• The use of harsh corporal punishment on a child can cause stressors of development such as aggression, depression, and addictive behaviors.
• A study reported in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma stated that corporal punishment caused a decrease in the cognitive ability of children. Children between the ages of 5 to 9 were affected the most.
• The prefrontal cortex is the thought processing and decision-making part of the brain. It was found in a 2011 study that corporal punishment interfered with the ability to understand the relationship between rewards and consequences. This study appeared in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
• The American Psychological Association published an article on the internet titled “The case against spanking”. Aggression, physical injury, antisocial behavior, and mental health problems were increased in children who were spanked, hit, or experienced other ways causing pain.

Safer, More Effective Discipline Options

• Parents and schools should develop skills to communicate in children beginning at a very young age. This will develop emotional intelligence in the children. They will be better able to express their feelings and build stronger relationships. Schools should be specific about what the consequences will be if a student doesn’t behave.
• Schools should inform students about what will happen if they don’t cooperate. Perhaps, they will lose recess time or some other privilege.
• Sometimes a time-out that separates a child from the unacceptable behavior works best. This will give the child time to cool off. You should let the children know what behavior will result in a time out in advance. The place for the time-out should be consistent and boring. When the child gets a time-out, the teacher should explain the reason and how their behavior made you feel.
• A teacher can take away privileges to get students to behave. One method might be to give the class as a whole points for good behavior. When a previous number of points agreed upon is met, the class as a whole could be given a special event. The teacher could reward the class with an ice cream or pizza party.
• Try a warning system. The teacher could use 3 x 5 cards to quietly warn a student he or she isn’t behaving properly. A white 3 x 5 card could be the first warning. A blue card might be to stay after class or school to discuss poor behavior. A red card might mean the teacher is going to call home about your behavior.


I am a teacher with 25 years’ experience teaching middle school students. Not once in the 25 years did, I feel corporal punishment was necessary. Corporal punishment is always wrong. Respect is earned by every teacher by example. Students need your understanding. All too often a student is misunderstood.

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