Story at a glance:

  • There are 19 states that allow educators to spank their students.
  • Although it varies which counties and districts allow it, some educators do it regardless of local or state laws.
  • Black and disabled children are disproportionately beaten more than others.

There are 19 states that still allow corporal punishment — spanking — in schools, and a new study shows Black and disabled children get disproportionately beaten more than others.

During the 2017-18 school year, K-12 grade students were punished nearly 100,000 times, according to The Guardian that cited the federal Civil Rights Data Collection.


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Among the states that allow teachers to physically punish their students are the following: Wyoming, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, Illinois,  Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Arkansas, Arizona and Alabama.

A commonality among many of these states is that corporal punishment is persistent in the South where Black students face discrimination from white educators, the report noted.

The leading state is Mississippi, where teachers are known to implement corporal punishment nearly 28,000 times a year.

“It would be an aggravated battery if you hit an adult with that paddle [and] the fact that she hit a little first-grader makes it even worse,” Attorney Brent Probinsky, who is representing a mother of a girl recently paddled in Florida, said. “It’s against the law to impose corporal punishment on prisoners. It’s against the law to impose corporal punishment on children in youth detention facilities. It’s against the law to impose corporal punishment on your cat or your dog or your horse, but you can do it to a little child. So it needs to end. It’s barbaric.”

In Florida, where corporal punishment is OK, many counties have prohibited the practice. However, that does not stop some teachers from hitting their students.

“This is a major problem when, even in areas where supposedly it’s not supposed to happen, it’s still happening,” State Sen. Annettee Taddeo, a Democrat in favor of banning corporal punishment in Florida schools, told the 74, a nonprofit news outlet that specializes on education issues. “When the school boards say ‘We don’t want this in our counties,’ we as parents think, ‘OK, that takes care of it.’ It does not.”

In Louisiana, educators in more than a dozen districts struck their disabled students during the 2017-18 and 2019-20 school years despite there being a state law prohibiting corporal punishment on children with special needs since 2017. 


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Published on May 19, 2021