A swing at misbehavior

April 18, 2010, 3:37 p.m. | By Lauren Kestner | 13 years, 7 months ago

Over the course of their time at Blair, students have learned to comply with the discipline policies outlined in the MCPS Students Rights and Responsibilities handbook or at least accept the consequences: detentions, parent-teacher conferences, and for the worst offenses, suspension or expulsion. Students in many Texas school systems, however, now face a far more sinister punishment as a deterrent for cutting class, badmouthing a teacher or breaking the dress code: three or more painful whacks to the buttocks administered by a school official.

A growing number of school districts in Texas permit corporal punishment. Photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News.

Growing up in an area where bikini-clad PETA volunteers flock to the streets in middle of December to protest the mistreatment of animals, it may come as a shock to learn that 20 states still permit corporal punishment of misbehaving students in schools. More than a quarter of the estimated 225,000 students who braced for the paddle's sting in 2006 hailed from Texas, where a growing number of school districts have recently reinstated this outdated and barbaric disciplinary measure to curb truancy, violence and disrespectful verbal exchanges with teachers.

Administrator assurances that corporal punishment is subject to significant restrictions, including parental consent and limits on the number of thumps that can be levied, do little to assuage concerns that this form of punishment disproportionately targets male students and those with learning disabilities. These glaring inequities in the application of corporal punishment, a practice so controversial that it is now prohibited in federal prisons, stain the integrity of the American education system.

Contrary to administrator claims that corporal punishment is indispensable to keeping troublemakers in line, recent studies indicate that this disciplinary measure exacerbates aggressive behavior and instills an unhealthy dose of fear among the student body. A study published in the July 2002 edition of the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin found a strong association between the use of corporal punishment and ten negative child behaviors or experiences, including increased antisocial behavior that would be undesirable in a school environment. Author Elizabeth Thompson also noted that physical punishments are effective at producing immediate compliance but encourage aggressive or inappropriate outbursts when authority figures are absent.

Fortunately, students and parents disenchanted with schools' corporal punishment policies will not be alone in the fight against out-of-touch administrators who have embraced the antiquated disciplinary policies of their youth. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D - N.Y.), chairman of a House subcommittee that convened last Thursday to discuss corporal punishment in schools, is initiating legislation that would require schools across the U.S. to throw out the dreaded paddles and draft a new disciplinary code grounded in clemency and fairness.

Lauren Kestner. Lauren Kestner loves Trader Joe's chocolates, cheesy television soap operas, summer trips to Lake Anna, coffee ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, hikes at Northwest Branch and shopping at Heritage. Playing soccer for Blair or her MSC club team and running at the gym consumes much … More »

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