In These 19 States, Teachers Can Still Spank Kids

This may change in North Carolina, but what about the rest of the U.S.?

In November 2012 in front of the Supreme Court, Paula Flowe of New York City draws attention to a bill in Congress that would outlaw corporal punishment in schools. (Photo: Roll Call/Getty Images)

Suzi Parker is a journalist whose work also appears in The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters.

If John Tate, a North Carolina State Board of Education member, has his way, North Carolina will no longer allow teachers to spank their students.

Tate has asked the State Board to recommend that the North Carolina General Assembly and local school boards prohibit corporal punishment in every school in the state.

“The good news is that the vast majority of North Carolina’s districts ban the use of corporal punishment,” Tate said in an interview. “The less good news is that a handful still allow it. The preponderance of cases is housed in a smaller number still. It is time for North Carolina to stop the practice for all children.”

Earlier this month, a report to the North Carolina State Board of Education showed the number of corporal punishment cases fell from 891 during the 2010-2011 school year to 404 statewide during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Even though it's 2013, corporal punishment is allowed in public schools throughout the country, especially in the South. The 19 states that allow spanking in schools are: Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

This disturbs Julie Worley, a Tennessee parent who keeps tab on corporal punishment stories across the United States.

“The United States claims to be a world leader in human and civil rights, but the lack of legal protection for children not to be assaulted with weapons/implements such as wooden paddles, belts, etc. in society, especially taxpayer funded schools is unacceptable and perpetuates our shameful ‘Culture of Violence,’ ” Worley wrote in an email. “Children are our most vulnerable and defenseless citizens, responsible adults must ensure that children have adequate protections against assault and equal access to safe and healthy learning environments.”

A 125-page report from 2008 by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch stated that Texas and Mississippi children from three to 19 years old are “routinely physically punished for minor infractions such as chewing gum, talking back to a teacher, or violating the dress code, as well as for more serious transgressions such as fighting.”

The report also noted that tools used in such discipline were often baseball bats or standard paddles. The report said: “A teacher or administrator swings a hard wooden paddle that is typically a foot-and-a-half long against the child’s buttocks, anywhere between three and 10 times. Some children interviewed by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU sustained blows to other parts of their bodies, including their hands or arms when they reached back to protect themselves.”

Students often feel “helplessness and humiliation” after such a punishment, and this can result in anger, depression and isolation.

Worley said her son was to receive a paddling for a minor infraction, but he insisted that school administrators call his parents before he got it. Tennessee state law does not require parental consent or notification for children to be hit in school. Worley told the principal that neither she nor her husband use violence as a form of discipline.

“In my experience, corporal punishment is administered as a knee-jerk reaction for minor infractions in hallways just outside class where other students must overhear the blows, then the battered child must immediately face classmates when they return to their seat,” Worley said.

In North Carolina, the state school board will vote on whether to prohibit such corporal punishment during their Feb. 6-7 meeting. Opponents of corporal punishment are encouraged to contact the board in an online call to action.

“There is nothing good about corporal punishment and no research on record of which I am aware espousing anything positive arising from the practice,” North Carolina State Board of Education member John Tate said. “Beating kids doesn't yield good results nor does it set a good example for kids. Violence has the potential to breed violence. Hopefully the State Board of Education will go on record taking a position in opposition to such.”

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