May 18, 2024


Law, This Is It!

Myths About Paddling-Corporal Punishment in Schools

6 min read

Here are a few words of caution to parents who have children in schools that use violent punishments, a.k.a. paddling. They need to anticipate disingenuousness on the part of educators and administrators who typically do not invite dialog with the public on this topic. When drawn into discussions about “discipline,” school officials are apt to trot out those familiar, well-rehearsed, stock responses, the purpose of which is to divert criticism and lull parents.

MYTH – Corporal punishment is used only after all other means have failed and is governed by strict guidelines.

FACT – The number of pupils beaten will always be grossly underestimated because school administrators are savvy enough to AVOID saying things that might alarm the public or draw attention to themselves. Furthermore, What does ‘strict guidelines’ mean? More often than not, violent punishments are used as a first response for trivial offenses. Guidelines, where they exist at all, exist more on paper than in practice. As a general rule, reliance on fear, force and violence in educational settings is inversely proportional to the level of competence of the educators involved. The least competent tend to be the most violent. They are also the most resistant to reform and most rejecting of other methods to correct unacceptable behavior.

MYTH – Teachers’ right to resort to corporal punishment must be retained because certain students can’t be controlled by any other means.

FACT – Violent punishment causes far more bad behavior than it corrects, if it corrects at all. The more some children are subject to educator violence, the more misbehaved they become. The very act of physical punishment destroys trust and engenders hostility toward the institution that is supposed to be serving them. As for children who conform outwardly due to fear of punishment, they are receiving an education mainly in one subject area: the abuse of power. Some of them will put that lesson into practice at the earliest opportunity.

MYTH – Well-behaved children have nothing to worry about.

FACT – Wherever pupil beating is allowed, all children worry about it. They know that punishers typically act on impulse and are rarely, if ever, called upon to justify their actions before or after the fact. A steady diet of fear and anxiety impedes learning and, moreover, is dangerous to children’s health.

MYTH – This method of pupil management has been in use for many years and it is overwhelmingly supported by parents and the public.

FACT – It is true that violent pupil management has been used throughout recorded history. But today, only the most culturally backward places continue to use it. In almost the entire democratic world, violent punishment of schoolchildren is illegal, and nowhere is it making a comeback. The dwindling number of parents who approve of these methods are themselves the products of such a system. Naturally, they feel reassured when they see teachers at school modeling the same bad behavior that they use on their own children at home. Violent parents and violent teachers alike delude themselves when they claim that their methods are universally approved.

MYTH — It works.

FACT — If it worked, why do punishers have to keep punishing? And why are our maximum security prisons filled with violent felons who were reared and educated by these very same methods? Parents tend to trust educators who, after all, are highly trained in their specialty and are licensed by the state. And virtually all parents want to believe that those who take charge of their child at school are motivated by genuine, nurturing feelings toward the child. Educators recognize and pander to this powerful, natural desire. Deliberate vagueness about the details serves the needs of both parties: the practical needs of the educators and the emotional needs of the parents. Responsible, thoughtful parents, however, need to bear in mind that they are delegating their most important responsibility to total strangers – strangers who have their own agenda, who vary widely in their level of competence, who operate with minimal supervision and with near-absolute impunity. Few people would hand over their car keys in the same circumstances, with the same degree of trust. Readers who visit the state education Web sites listed below and look for the word “paddle” or the phrase “corporal punishment” will come up empty-handed. One would never guess that in these school systems children are beaten in their pelvic area with wooden weapons between 1/3 and 1/2 million times annually according to the most conservative estimates. Some researchers estimate the number of legal pupil beatings in the 22 pupil beating states at about 1 million per year. Small wonder nobody’s talking!

States which allow corporal punishment:

Office of the Superintendent of Education
Alabama Department of Education
Gordon Persons Office Building
50 North Ripley Street
P.O. Box 302102
Montgomery, AL 36130-2101
Tel.: (334) 242-9702 FAX: (334) 242-9708

Office of the Director
Arizona Department of Education
State Capitol
1700 W. Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Tel.: (602) 542-5460 FAX(602) 542-5440

Office of the Director
Arkansas Department of Education
Four State Capitol Mall, Room 304 A
Little Rock, AR 72201-1071
Tel.: (501) 682-4204 FAX: (501) 682 1079

Office of the Commissioner of Education
Colorado Department of Education
201 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80203-1799
Tel.: (303) 866-6808 FAX: (303) 866-6938

Office of the Commissioner of Education
Florida Department of Education
Capitol Building, Room PL 08
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Tel.: (904) 487-1785 FAX: (904)488-1492

Office of the State Superintendent of Schools
Twin Towers East
Atlanta, GA 30334-5001
Tel.: (404) 657-0516

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Idaho Department of Education
Len B. Jordan Office Building
650 West State Street
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720
Tel.: (208) 334-3300 FAX: (208) 334-2228

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Indiana Department of Education
State House, Room 229
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2798
Tel.: (317) 232-6665 FAX: (317) 232-8004

Office of the Commissioner of Education
120 South East Tenth Avenue
Topeka, KS 66612-1182
Tel.: (913) 296-3202 FAX: (913) 296-7933

Office of the Commissioner of Education
Kentucky Department of Education
Capitol Plaza Tower – 500 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
Tel.: (502) 564-3141 FAX: (502) 564-5680

Office of the Superintendent of Education
Louisiana Department of Education
626 North 4th Street, 12th Floor
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064
Tel.: (504) 342-3602 FAX: (504) 342-7316

Office of the Superintendent of Education
State Department of Education
550 High Street, Room 501
Jackson, MS 39201
Tel.: (601) 359-3512 FAX: (601) 359-3242

Office of the Commissioner of Education
Missouri Department of Elementary
& Secondary Education
205 Jefferson Street, 6th Floor
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Tel.: (572) 751-4446 FAX: (573) 751-1179

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
New Mexico Department of Education
Education Building
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786
Tel.: (505) 827-6688 FAX: (505) 827-6520

Office of the State Superintendent of Public Education
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Education Building
301 North Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-2825
Tel.: (919) 715-1277 FAX: (919) 715-1278

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Ohio Department of Education
65 South Front Street, Room 810
Columbus, OH 43215-4183
Tel.: (614) 466-3304 FAX: (614) 644-5960

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Oklahoma State Department of Education
Hodge Education Building
2500 North Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4599
Tel.: (405) 521-4887 FAX: (405) 421-6205

PENNSYLVANIA (Some school districts ban corporal punishment)
Office of the Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street. 10th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Tel.: (717) 787-5820 FAX (717) 787-7222

Office of the State Superintendent of Education
South Carolina Department of Education
1006 Rutledge Building
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Tel.: (803) 734-8492 FAX: (803) 734-4426

Office of the Commissioner of Education
Tennessee Department of Education
Sixth Floor, Gateway Plaza
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243-0375
Tel.: (615) 741-2731 FAX: (615) 741-6236

Office of the Commissioner of Education
Office of the Texas Education Agency
William B. Travis Building
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1494
Tel.: (512) 463-5825 FAX: (512) 463-9008

Office of the State Department of Public Instruction
Wyoming Department of Education
2300 Capitol Avenue, 2nd Floor
Hathaway Building
Cheyenne, WY 82002-0050
Tel.: (307) 777-7675 FAX: (307) 777-6234

Information courtesy of Jordan Riak

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