Friday, September 29, 2023

A Mo. district reinstitutes spanking if parents are OK


The school board of the Cassville School District in southwest Missouri voted in June to reinstitute corporal punishment, or spanking, for students who misbehave, as long as each kid’s parents approve its use for disciplinary purposes, the Associated Press reports.

Some people in the district are upset about the policy change—the district dropped the use of corporal punishment in 2001—but others thanked school officials for bringing the possibility of corporal punishment back to Cassville.

“Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I’ve run into have been supportive,” Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told the Springfield News-Leader.

One thing is certain: Students are against it.

“Most students are scared,” the News-Leader quoted one student as saying. “The fact that they’ll be hit by a 30- or 40-year-old man, and mostly women are scared that they’ll be spanked or hit by a man with another guy in the room and they would feel embarrassed or see it as a call-back to trauma.”

Never mind that black and disabled students are spanked at disproportionately higher rates than other students. Never mind that Cassville doesn’t allow spanking without the express consent of primary caregivers. The fact is, it’s just not an effective way to reduce misbehavior on the part of problem students.

“Physical punishment can work momentarily to stop problematic behavior because children are afraid of being hit, but it doesn’t work in the long term and can make children more aggressive,” the American Psychological Association wrote, citing Sandra Graham-Bermann, a psychology professor and principal investigator for the Child Violence and Trauma Laboratory at the University of Michigan.


And, since spanking doesn’t work to get kids to comply in the long term, the punishers—those in our schools with the paddles—tend to think they have to keep escalating the severity of the punishment by hitting kids harder or something. That’s where the real danger of physical and psychological trauma comes in.

19 states that allow teachers to physically punish students

The following states allow the use of corporal punishment in schools by teachers:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Colorado
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Illinois
  8. Idaho
  9. Indiana
  10. Kansas
  11. Kentucky
  12. Louisiana
  13. Mississippi
  14. Missouri
  15. Oklahoma
  16. South Carolina
  17. Tennessee
  18. Texas
  19. Wyoming

Although corporal punishment is legal in these states, one can be sure many districts, under local control, don’t use corporal punishment at all. The converse is also true, though: Some districts or counties may use corporal punishment on occasion, even if state laws don’t technically authorize the practice.

Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer with APA, told the AP that there are better ways to stop misbehavior, including problem-solving training and rewards for positive behavior, such as by giving the rewarded kids extra recess.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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