Tag Archives: To Spank or Not to Spank? Corporal Punishment

Many schools in the South allow spanking

27 Aug

Joan Gausted of the University of Oregon has an excellent article in Eric Digest 78, School Discipline

School discipline has two main goals: (1) ensure the safety of staff and students, and (2) create an environment conducive to learning. Serious student misconduct involving violent or criminal behavior defeats these goals and often makes headlines in the process. However, the commonest discipline problems involve noncriminal student behavior (Moles 1989).

These less dramatic problems may not threaten personal safety, but they still negatively affect the learning environment. Disruptions interrupt lessons for all students, and disruptive students lose even more learning time. For example, Gottfredson and others (1989) calculate that in six middle schools in Charleston, South Carolina, students lost 7,932 instructional days–44 years!–to in-school and out-of-school suspensions in a single academic year….

How Can Schools Decrease Disruptive Behavior?

Working to change the above-mentioned characteristics may decrease disruptive behavior. First, rules and the consequences of breaking them should be clearly specified and communicated to staff, students, and parents by such means as newsletters, student assemblies, and handbooks. Meyers and Pawlas (1989) recommend periodically restating the rules, especially after students return from summer or winter vacation.

Once rules have been communicated, fair and consistent enforcement helps maintain students’ respect for the school’s discipline system. Consistency will be greater when fewer individuals are responsible for enforcement. Providing a hearing process for students to present their side of the story and establishing an appeal process will also increase students’ and parents’ perceptions of fairness.

Most state do not allow spanking, but many schools in the South still use corporal punishment.

Takepart.com, is reporting in the article, To Spank or Not to Spank? Corporal Punishment:

Corporal punishment is still surprisingly legal in many Southern public schools.

The Forrest City, Ark., School Board voted on Monday night to reinstate corporal punishment in its schools. The measure was strongly advocated by School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Woods. Many parents in the rural impoverished community near Memphis support the action, saying that children are out of control and need spankings either by paddles or rulers. Parents can tell school administrators, however, that they do not want corporal punishment used on their children.

Corporal punishment is legal under Arkansas law. It states “Any teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public schools.”

During the 2010-11 school year, Arkansas educators used corporal punishment 31,847 times, according to the website Never Hit A Child. Large county school districts such as the one that contains the state’s capital of Little Rock have banned corporal punishment…

All over the country districts are doing away with it,” says Murray A. Straus, professor emeritus of sociology and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. “Within the states that still permit it, the school boards of major cities have ruled against it….”

The American Acad­emy of Pediatrics has opposed corporal punishment for decades. The group “believes that corporal punishment can actually have a negative influence upon a child’s self-image and thus inter­fere with his academic achievement. Punishment does not teach more appropriate behavior or self-discipline and may even cause a youngster to behave more aggressively and violently,” according to the Healthy Children website.

Some states haven’t even bothered to keep statistics on corporal punishment. Louisiana legislators only passed a law in 2010 that “requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to collect specific data on the use of corporal punishment in all public schools and report it to the Legislature prior to the start of the 2011 regular session.”

The 2011 report found that educators administered more than 11,000 instances of corporal punishment in Louisiana during the school year…

But not all Southern states engage in thousands of spankings.

In Florida, corporal punishment has declined from 13,900 in 1994 to just 3,661 during the 2009-10 school year, and school districts that once used paddling as punishment have decreased by half.

Advocates for corporal punishment often argue that paddling is simply part of the Southern culture especially in the African-American community. They argue it’s difficult for the region where “spare the rod and spoil the child” is engrained in parents’ mentalities to change its methods after decades of spanking…. http://news.yahoo.com/spank-not-spank-corporal-punishment-reigns-many-southern-232500415.html

For those expecting a diatribe against the school officials in the South and calling them a bunch of knuckle dragging cretins. Not really, moi grew up in an ethnic household. One of the memorable lines which mpi found that ethnics of many races identify with is, “I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.” At that moment, moi’s self esteem was not critical.  

Before judging the folks in the South as a bunch of nutjobs who probably should be sterile. The question of discipline versus abuse should be examined. Child welfare Information Gateway has resources on that question. Lisa Aronson Fontes, Ph.D. has an interesting paper about Working With Cultural Minority Parents on Issues of Physical Discipline & Abuse

Child rearing is highly influenced by ethnic culture. What children need to learn and the methods considered best for teaching them, are passed down from one generation to another as cultural knowledge and tradition. Some people from other nations might see abuse in the common United States practices of circumcising male infants, denying children food between mealtimes, sending misbehaving children to bed without supper, and forcing infants to cry themselves to sleep at night alone.

Cultural subgroups also vary widely in the methods they use to enforce discipline and gain compliance. African Americans and people from the Southern United States are more likely to punish their children with a weapon that resembles a whip, such as an electric cord, belt or switch applied to the back or bottom (Showers & Bandman, 1986). European (White) Americans are more likely to use a paddle or an open hand to the bottom. Recent Korean immigrants may slap a child’s face. Chinese parents may pinch their youngsters and yank their hair more than other parents. Latino parents may make their child kneel with bare knees on a tray of uncooked rice (Fontes, 2002). And Puerto Rican families may place a toddler who is having a tantrum into a bathtub of cold water (Fontes, 2005). While cultural differences influence the kinds of physical discipline used, they do not determine whether these punishments constitute abuse in any given instance, since each one of these methods can be applied gently or with great force, frequently or rarely, for a long or short duration, and to children of different ages and vulnerabilities.

We should be careful to distinguish between a single episode of physical abuse by caring parents that stems from acceptable discipline gone awry and intentional, repeated abuse in which physical and psychological damage is evident. Both need to be taken seriously. But in the first case, education and stress reduction are probably the most appropriate remedies. In the second case, the parent may be evidencing severe psychological disturbance, substance abuse, involvement in intimate partner violence, or an actual dislike of the child. These factors must be resolved through more extensive interventions before skills training will prove beneficial.

No child should ever be abused, but not all physical discipline is abuse. Maybe it is time that some of the Northern sophisticates ponder that question.

See:

Education Law Center

Discipline In Schools: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©