Linda Leon" />
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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Guest Commentary

Corporal punishment has no place in modern society

Many of us can remember being reprimanded by our mom and dad when we misbehaved as kids. We were spanked, paddled and sent to time-out for our bad behavior. I have heard the stories from my parents and grandparents of the days they were paddled by their principal for misbehaving at school.

When I hear those stories I think to myself, “Wow, that was so long ago. I’m glad we know better and have changed our ways of educating our children.” But am I correct? Have the studies indicating how exposing children to violence yields long-term negative effects changed our public schools? The answer is yes and no.

Here is the good news: Federal law recognizes this is an issue and has given state legislators the right to govern their own policies regarding the use of spanking and corporal punishment in public schools. States have made efforts in the mission to stop spanking and paddling.

Currently, there are 31 states that have banned corporal punishment. The first was New Jersey in 1867 and the most recent was New Mexico in 2011. Other states, such as New York, Vermont, California and Illinois, have also banned corporal punishment in their public school systems.

Many anti-spanking advocates in schools are interested in protecting children and parents. It is important to recognize that evidence shows children exposed to violence perpetuate the same violence in their future. Our children deserve the same protection against physical harm as inmates in prisons, juveniles in detention facilities and patients in mental institutions, where it is illegal to reprimand with corporal punishment.

The bad news is that there are still 19 states that allow corporal punishment in school. In addition, many states not only allow corporal punishment, but  commonly use it as a form of behavioral change for students. Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas are great proponents of corporal punishment in school.  The ramifications of allowing such environments in our education system and communities are detrimental to everyone.

Our children deserve an environment conducive to positive learning and a support system that nourishes their education instead of impeding it. Recent studies have associated corporal punishment with negative outcomes such as deteriorating peer relationships, lowered school achievement, antisocial behavioral tendencies, psychosomatic complaints correlated to school avoidance and increased school dropout rates.

It is obvious to me that many states need to reconsider their approach of protecting children’s education and our communities as a whole. Many social issues, such as mental illness, domestic violence and at-risk populations, derive from violence at home and in schools.

Additional measures can be implemented to protect the integrity of our schools and increase successful outcomes. The cycle has to stop somewhere. Now is the time to take a stand against corporal punishment in schools by spreading awareness and educating our communities about the importance of ending this violence — not only in some schools, but in every school system in the United States.

Linda Leon is a social work graduate student and may be reached at [email protected].

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