223,190 Kids Legally Beaten in US Schools

The iron age practice of "corporal punishment" is still legal in 20 states and there are no federal laws prohibiting it.
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For the first time in over 18 years, Congress has held hearings on the use of Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools. In the coming weeks, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY) will introduce a bill to institute a federal ban of corporal punishment in all US Schools. [source: US Congressional Hearing]

Every 20 seconds of the school day, a child is beaten by an educator. Every 4 minutes, an educator beats a child so severely that she seeks medical attention. According to conservative reporting to the U.S. Department of Education 223,190 students were the victims of institutionalized violence at least once in the 2006-2007 school year, of which over 20,000 sought medical attention. [source: Office for Civil Rights at the US Dept. of Education; Congressional Testimony]

Pre-school age through high school, students are being beaten with boards, belts, paddles, and whips... in public schools... in the United States... and while corporal punishment has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective and has deleterious effects on students, the practice continues and is legal in 20 states.

The iron age practice of "corporal punishment" is still legal in 20 states and there are no federal laws prohibiting it. The National Association of School Nurses defines corporal punishment as "the intentional infliction of physical pain as a method of changing behavior. It may include methods such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, shaking, use of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks, or others), or painful body postures."

From infractions as dangerous as forgetting a pencil to prom dress code violations, students are being beaten across the country. All of this, of course is without any due process, court hearing, and often the parents have no say in the matter. Did I mention that corporal punishment is outlawed in the US legal system, and even felons convicted of rape or murder can sleep soundly knowing they will never be subject to the same kinds of beatings we routinely doll out to our children in public schools. Not to mention that 97 out of the 100 largest US School districts have banned corporal punishment. [source: Center for Effective Discipline]

The United States stands alone in the developed world -- Canada, Europe, the UK, Australia and 102 other countries have long since outlawed the practice. [source:] The United Nations, Parent Teacher Association, American Civil Liberties Union, American Association of Pediatrics and countless other organizations have strong positions against the use of corporal punishment. [source:Center for Effective Discipline]

The American Psychological Association opposes the use of corporal punishment in schools and asserts that corporal punishment is violent and unnecessary, may lower self-esteem, is liable to instil hostility and rage without reducing the undesired behavior and is likely to train children to use physical violence.

In fact, the majority of research suggests that corporal punishment has little to no positive long term effects, actually decreases the effectiveness of other forms of punishment, and introduces a whole mess of other complications including increased drop out rates. Why then do some schools insist on using an ineffective, outdated practice? Since 30 states currently outlaw corporal punishment, what is so different in the lagging 20? Are the students somehow worse behaved? Are the teachers less capable of non-violent classroom management?

The United States must join the rest of the developed world and implement a federal ban on corporal punishment. Dodging the issue and leaving it up to the states is irresponsible and neglectful to the hundreds of thousands of kids physically abused by the education system every year. The "States Rights Gambit" didn't work for slavery or segregation, and it won't work for this either.

As a nation we may be in violation of international law by our non-compliance with the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - which we signed and ratified in 1992. The UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child found that "[c]orporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment are forms of violence and States must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educatioal measures to eliminate them" [source: A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in U.S. Public Schools]

You can help spread awareness around this issue by sharing this article with friends, blogging about it yourself, and joining the Facebook Group

Additionally, contact your state representatives office, and let them know you support a Federal Ban on Corporal Punishment - this is a real chance to leave a human rights legacy you can be proud of.

This article is the first article in a series on Corporal Punishment in the United States by Anthony David Adams, Founder of DetentionSlip.org

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