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Why corporal punishment is still used in some American schools

Corporal punishment in schools still legal in 19 US states

A video of a Florida school principal using a paddle to spank a 6-year-old student has sparked outrage online.

In the graphic video, filmed by the child’s mother on her cell phone last month, we see the student leaning over a chair crying, as she is paddled three times by Principal Melissa Carter of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida. Ms Carter is currently under investigation by the Hendry County School Board and the local sheriff’s office.

Corporal punishment – paddling, spanking or other forms of corporal punishment – is not permitted in schools in Hendry County.

But while physical discipline has been banned in U.S. military training centers, juvenile detention centers, and as punishment for a felony, slapping or spanking a child remains legal in 19 states across the country.

Here’s a look at the state of corporal punishment in American schools today.

Where is it licensed in the United States?

Nineteen US states – mostly in the south of the country – currently allow corporal punishment in schools. Rules in each state vary with respect to the type of paddle that can be used, the force with which administrators are allowed to hit the child, and whether “bodily injury” to the student is allowed.

Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia are among the states where the practice is used, although individual school districts in those states can vote to ban it.

Such is the case with the Hendry County School Board, which has banned corporal punishment even though the state it is in – Florida – allows it.

Some southern lawmakers are working to ban this practice. Louisiana MP Stephanie Hilferty this year sponsored a bill that, if passed, will make corporal punishment illegal in the state. According to Ms Hilferty, 744 students were punished with this form of punishment in the last full school year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Similar measures have failed in recent years, with some opponents saying the issue should be left to individual school districts.

Louisiana and Tennessee have made some changes over the past five years, changing their laws to prohibit school districts from using paddles or spanking to punish children with disabilities.

Yet it’s been a decade since a statewide ban was actually passed. New Mexico passed a law in 2011 banning corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool in schools.

What’s the story?

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment – which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment – did not apply to students in schools, meaning teachers could use corporal punishment without permission. parents.

There is no federal ban on corporal punishment. Although the practice has steadily declined over time, more than 106,000 children were physically punished in U.S. public schools during the 2013-2014 school year – the most recent year for which national data is available – according to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.

And critics of corporal punishment are quick to note that such discipline is not evenly distributed. Experts have found that black students, boys and students with disabilities are disproportionately the subjects of sanctioned violence at school.

In the 2013-2014 school year, black students made up 15% of all students but more than 22% of those who experienced corporal punishment, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office. Conversely, white college students made up just over half of all college students, but received less than 0.2% of the punishment.

Since 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a school ban.

And in 2018, the organization warned that parents should also avoid all physical and verbal abuse of children, calling them “ineffective in the short term and ineffective in the long term.”

“With new evidence, researchers associate corporal punishment with an increased risk of negative consequences on children’s behavior, cognitions, psychosocial and emotions,” the academy said in a statement.

And in other countries?

Although the practice has regularly fallen out of favor in the United States, 63 other countries allow corporal punishment in schools, according to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

Australia, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia all join the United States in allowing corporal punishment in some or all schools.

In the United Kingdom, corporal punishment in public schools has been banned since 1986. Private schools arrived a little later: 1998 in England and Wales, 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in Northern Ireland.

The ban is widely attributed to two Scottish mothers – Grace Campbell and Jane Cosans – who won a landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights to end corporal punishment in Scottish schools.

A few years later, Canada followed suit. The country’s ban also followed a court case, with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2004 that corporal punishment in schools constituted an unreasonable application of force on students.

But in Canada and the UK – with the exception of Scotland – corporal punishment remains legal in the home under certain circumstances.

Some 62 countries have banned this form of punishment of children outright, including in the home, according to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Sweden, Finland, Austria, Denmark and France are among the countries with a general ban.

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