Assessing Whether Corporal Punishment Helps Students, or Hurts Them
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Assessing Whether Corporal Punishment Helps Students, or Hurts Them

JUDY WOODRUFF: But first, a new investigation examines the use of corporal or physical punishment in public schools and that is the focus of our weekly education segment Making the Grade. The practice is far less common than it used to be but a report in the journal Education Week finds it is still utilized in 21 states and more than 100,000 children were physically punished in one recent year. Proponents say it can be an effective way to motivate children to behave but much research suggests otherwise. We begin with a story of a nineteen-year-old in Mississippi, Trey Clayton, who was paddled repeatedly in high school because of discipline problems. The piece was produced by our partners at Education Week. Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of schools that use corporal punishment. My name is Trey Clayton. I’m 19 now. My paddling took place in Defense High School, 8th grade. School was fun. I got along with everybody. I was a good student. I didn’t do my schoolwork and I didn’t do my homework, but you know I did good on my test. I guess I was happiest at school when I was playing football. A lot of years in school, getting in trouble, being caught with cigarettes, arguing with people, trying to fight people and stuff. Ran my mouth a lot, didn’t really like it told what to do. But, if I had a choice to get paddling, I’d usually choose paddling, just to get it over with, cause I didn’t want to spend time in in-school suspension, ISS. Because my parents always told me, you know, ‘don’t ever choose suspension,’ you know, cause ‘you can’t miss school.’ Just like any other day, I’m in trouble, my buddy’s in trouble, so we’re talking library and they start, you know, telling us to hush. I just had something smart to say back, but knew I was gonna get pattern shows paddling so I get three licks it started escorting in class we are walking his office I want to walk around them and just woke up on the floor I felt something in my mouth and I start now hold my hand out you see what is start spitting out teeth like shards my teeth I’ve been a bit through both sides of my tongue I’ve got 12 30 missing and my daughter and mouth stage wired shut for six weeks when all this happened was taken with a call now week’s test and in the middle of them is what always happens so I never finished them they never gave me an opportunity to retake so it fell down for that you when I had to go back to the eighth grade at the same school I just didn’t go to school much and i felt again into a filing I was just like no sense in me staying you know doing this well have kero and one-year-old now to your road is not mine but take care of as she is mine but i love i love their i do believe in discipline another thing they do believe they need to know what’s right and what’s wrong but what happened to me I wouldn’t won’t happen to them I wouldn’t want to deal with that tray Clayton’s family filed a lawsuit against the school district but they lost the family eventually dropped the case the current school superintendent in that district says corporal punishment is still use their but that it’s quote used very judiciously now jeffrey Brown has a closer look at all of this with sarah sparks of the education week team serious barks welcome to I think a lot of people would be surprised at the continuing prevalence of this and where you and your colleagues we were a little surprised at how many states are still using corporal punishment we found 21 states and more than 4,000 schools were using physical discipline all different age levels grade levels absolutely we found from kindergarten all the way up through high school there were at least some students at every level also surprising and notable in your stories were how much policies can and do vary state to state and even within states right in some districts it was even school-by-school differences there is no official training not much guidance and not a whole lot of accountability on how corporal punishment gets meted out what about law we have 29 states who have outlawed corporal punishment 21 allow it to some degree or another and from state to state the policies and practices differ tremendously so define terms here what do we mean by corporal punishment we use the federal government’s definition which is generally paddling spanking any physical discipline that is done to a child did you find other kinds of punishment we did the data set that we used to doesn’t differentiate by what implement gets used we found everything from handling with a 20 inch wooden paddle to some cases of chemical spray or even a Taser and we should say the data comes from the federal government right civil rights right this is the most recent civil rights data from the Education Department it’s for the 2013-14 school year you also found the data a disproportionate cases involved african-american children and low-income children right I was very surprised that black students were twice as likely as white students to experience corporal punishment if you’re in a state that uses corporal punishment and your low-income you were also significantly more likely to be in a school that uses it so in the case of a student like Trey Clayton we so we saw in the video do you see that as a special case or as a typical it’s typical of the risks of using corporal punishment in schools Trey Clayton said that his corporal punishment was a little more severe than he was used to but trade been paddled many times in school before and we just don’t know what made him pass out in his case that incident the arguments that you often heard in favor of this are that it’s an alternative to suspension for example right we heard from from people who were very much against corporal punishment all the way to people who are defending corporal punishment that this is something that can be used to get a kid discipline quickly and bring them back to school and it’s used for everything from talking back in class to fighting in the halls but the research shows that in the long term it can have the exact opposite effect that educators think it will and hope it will have I mean we have studies that find higher aggression right it’s higher defiance of adults there is in a recent neurological study that found students who had experienced corporal punishment several times over time had lower brain matter in the part of the brain associated with self-control so there are some negative side effects to this and and are our people in places where they’re doing this aware of that or what it was their reaction when you pointed out the research for the most part they weren’t aware but also had a sense of this is part of our community this is something that we as educators grew up with and the kids that we’ve paddled over the years have grown up to be good people so I think there’s a lot of community support in some of the areas that still heavily practice corporal punishment let me as you finally what what rights if any do parents have if they want to keep their children from being subjected to corporal punishment in some states parents are allowed to opt their child out of corporal punishment but that opt-out doesn’t carry the force of law and from what we’ve seen in the lawsuits that have been brought over the years you don’t stand a very good chance in court if you are a parent or student who feels we were inappropriately corporal punished alright Sarah sparks of education we thank you very much thank you

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3 thoughts on “Assessing Whether Corporal Punishment Helps Students, or Hurts Them

  1. As a student who was corporeally punished, I say it helps. I didn't screw up, because I didn't want to get popped; simple as that. No discussion necessary.

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