Corporal Punishment Predominantly Affects Minorities, Children with Disabilities

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foot_whippingDisabled and Black students at Greater Risk of Receiving Corporal Punishment

A recent study has found that corporal punishment is used up to 50 percent more frequently on African American children, children with disabilities and boys in the 19 states that still legally allow such punishment. This study, titled “Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools: Prevalence, Disparities in Use, and Status in State and Federal Policy,” was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas and looked at data from the Office of Civil Rights. This included a total of 163,333 children affected during the 2011-2012 school year.

Corporal punishment was found to occur predominantly in the southern States, with the heaviest concentration in Mississippi where 7% of children experienced it. Alabama and Arkansas were the next highest states, where both reported 4% of children experience corporal punishment. This punishment is defined as the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain so as to correct misbehavior.[i] The infractions that led to corporal punishment were sometimes minor and included events like the mispronunciation of words, laughing in the hallway and being late for class.

Other findings from this study include:

  • African American children are more likely to experience corporal punishment. In Alabama and Mississippi, they are at least 50% more likely to face this punishment and in one-fifth of the school districts in both states they were up to 5 times more likely to be corporally punished.
  • Boys are far more likely to face corporal punishment than girls, with eight states reporting a rate of five times more likely in at least 20% of school districts.
  • Students with disabilities were also more likely to be corporally punished. This covered students who qualified under the Individuals with disabilities Education Act and included physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. They also report an up to 50% increase in the likelihood of experiencing corporal punishment in many of the southern states.

The researchers also point out that evidence suggesting that corporal punishment is an effective method of punishment is lacking. One author stated, “The more children are spanked, the less well-behaved they are, the more aggressive they are, the more mental health problems they have, and unfortunately the higher risk they have for experiencing physical abuse at the hands of their parents.”[ii] She also cited research that indicated children subjected to this punishment had lower gains in academic achievement over time.[iii]

Corporal punishment is banned in 126 countries globally and the UN has called it a human rights violation. The only two industrialized countries that still allow corporal punishment are the United States and Australia. The researchers hope that their study will assist in the effort to ban the practice nationally.[iv]

Author: Rikki Roehrich

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