In case you missed it, NPR recently published a map with data from the U.S. Department of Education that shows which states in the U.S. prohibit corporal punishment in schools, which states do not, and which states expressly permit it.
There are 22 states in all that don't say corporal punishment in school is a no-no. Almost all of the 15 states who "expressly permit" it are located in the southern part of the country. These states include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina and Wyoming. While the other seven—Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire and South Dakota—who don't say it's OK, but also don't prohibit it, are generally sprinkled around the northeast and the mountain west.
We live in Missouri, which isn't generally considered part of the south, but there's no doubt that corporal punishment is permitted in schools around here. While I've never seen it brought up during the 15 plus years my kids have been in public schools here—thankfully, our school district now prohibits it—I can't say the same thing about when I was a kid going to those same schools.
I was naturally a good student. I got good grades, I wasn't a troublemaker and I respected my teachers and my peers. However, there was one staff member I was always afraid of—the principal. I knew that kids were threatened with "the strap" and that when it was administered, that it hurt. A lot.
Not only could it can get out of hand, but inflicting pain as a method of discipline is not only ineffective, it can be damaging to a child in the long run.
While I never had a reason to really fear a strapping, the omnipresent possibility, no matter how small it was, made me fear the guy who I didn't need to fear at all. Also, fearing physical punishment didn't make me respect the principal. It didn't help keep me in line. Instead, I went to school worried that one little slip up could get me strapped across the hands.
An awesome environment for learning, right? Great for a growing child and her brain, correct?
While I wasn't overcome with terror every day, nor was I unable to function, I still think it's kind of screwed up that I went to school as a small child thinking the principal was physically punishing kids in his office on the regular, and that maybe it would happen to me some day.
Even though this was over 30 years ago, and isn't a modern-day issue with my kids, that doesn't mean that it still doesn't take place elsewhere—because it does. Twenty-eight states (plus D.C.) have expressly forbidden the practice, but the 22 that have not are definitely, in my opinion, behind the times.
In Missouri, where it is legal and permitted, the state has left it up to individual school districts to establish a policy on corporal punishment, including whether or not they are required to notify the parent, and whether or not parents can select an alternate punishment. So not only do some schools in Missouri dole out physical punishment, they may not even have to notify the parents about it. WTF?!
There are too many variables. Not only could it can get out of hand, but inflicting pain as a method of discipline is not only ineffective, it can be damaging to a child in the long run.
My hope is that individual school districts will create policies forbidding its use, like ours did, even within the states that have green lit corporal punishment. It's old-fashioned, it's barbaric, and it has no place in the education system. Period.