Corporal Punishment in Schools

The use of corporal punishment is mostly thought of as the act of spanking a child for doing something wrong. The problem that most parents and teachers are agreeing on is when should corporal punishment be used on a child. Some educators believe you should use corporal punishment if a student forgets their homework or does not bring necessary supplies to school. There are educators teaching in schools today that believe if students were receiving some type of punishment at home then they would not have to take discipline into their own hands. This causes a conflict between educators and parents because some parents feel that these problems could be straighten out if the parent was aware of the problem and could get involved before their child received some form of corporal punishment. While other parents believe that the schools should not rely on corporal punishment to control and discipline students it is the job of the parent to discipline their child.
Tennessee ranks fourth in the use of corporal punishment just below Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama. Jefferson County has used corporal punishment 235 times in the 2000 school year, which is far above the use compared to Hamblem, Knox, Grainger, Hancock, and Hawkins County (1999-2000 corporal punishment in Tennessee public schools, 2000). Tennessee does have the right to use corporal punishment under the Tennessee State Law TCA-49-6-4104, which gives local school districts the authority to make rules governing the administration of corporal punishment to student (Facts about corporal punishment, 2000). The question of when and how is still a cloudy subject in schools today and will probably continue until corporal punishment is banned in all states or a strict guideline is enforced.

When corporal punishment is brought up in the school system it is described as “a student discipline issue that encompasses both constitutional and tort law concerns” (Doverspike & Henry, p.5). This brings the use of corporal punishment into two issues, which include cruel and unusual punishment and the use of due process. The courts have “that corporal punishment does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment since that amendment applies only to punishments in criminal settings, not to schools” (Doverspike & Henry, p.6). The only possible hope for parents in the use of corporal punishment on their children is the due-process argument. When this was brought before the Ingraham Court it was “left unaddressed by the justices” (Doverspike & Henry, p.6). The courts have “set out several guidelines for the use of corporal punishment that if followed, ensure both constitutionality and reasonable administration” (Doverspike & Henry, p.5). The guidelines contain the following rules ” refraining from using corporal punishment as a first line of discipline, informing students ahead of time about which infractions will result in paddling, having a second school official present as a witness during paddling, and informing parents of the witness’s identity on request” (Doverspike & Henry, p.5).

When surveyed 56 percent of teachers still favor the use of corporal punishment on students that fail to follow the rules. Many teachers that were surveyed have said that they do “not plan to spank their charges, they want the right to do so as an extra means of classroom control” (Simmons). When one sits down and thinks about the use of corporal punishment in schools they can see that a”teacher use force on children in the name of discipline; when children hit teachers, however, it quickly becomes assault and battery” (Simmons). Spanking children at a young age sends that message that the best way to solve problems is by using violence.

The use of corporal punishment can lead to many under lying problems such as what will happen if the child gets injured due to the use of corporal punishment. Some teachers and principles believe that having parents’ sign a permission form to use corporal punishment on their child will save them from a lawsuit, but they are mistaken. Corporal punishment “is a form of child abuse and, as such, its use should be banned in schools” (Simmons) as it is in jails. The use of force over someone is something that is illegally in school so why are we using it to educate our children.

Banning corporal punishment in schools does not mean banning discipline. Banning discipline would cause the schools to become a place were children could not learn valuable education, because “without orderliness, learning cannot occur” (Simmons). Instead of using physical harm to teach children, some people have suggested using the reward system. Rewarding students for doing good things instead of punishing for mistakes.

President Bill Clinton is against the use of corporal punishment. He said that “parents could unintentionally leave marks on their children and avoid child abuse prosecution by showing authorities it was just corporal punishment under a bill the House has approved” (The Daily Post-Athenian, 1996, p.3). The legislation has approved a bill that “would reduce the chances of parents defending themselves on child abuse charges when their intent was just corporal punishment” (The Daily Post-Athenian, 1996, p.3). The bill has been sent to the Senate after it was passed by the legislation. The government is saying that it is not their business how parents decide to discipline their children, but when that discipline goes to far it because a case of child abuse.

There are a few recommendations for the use of corporal punishment. The first is to remember that the risk of litigation is very real if you decide to use corporal punishment. The use of corporal punishment “should be limited to paddling”(Corporal punishment and student discipline, p.9). Corporal punishment is the use of physical punishment and the courts tend to frown on other forms that are possibly used. The third recommendation is to “limit the number of swats” (Corporal punishment and student discipline, p.9) used. This is because the more swats you give a child the harder it is for you to defend yourself. The use of paddling is never to be used on a handicap child or any other child that might gain an injury due to the paddling. When paddling a student you should inform the parents of the paddling as soon as possible. The fifth recommendation is to “allow parents to request alternate forms of punishment for their children” (Corporal punishment and student discipline, p.9) and to place these in writing. The use of corporal punishment on any child should be properly documented. The final recommendations is that teachers and principles make all effects to see that corporal punishment is used fairly among the school system and consider alternatives to corporal punishment. Weather you believe in the use of corporal punishment in the school system or not you have to look at all the facts involved in disciplining children. The use of corporal punishment has been around since the 1800 century and it is going to take more time for school systems to use alternative methods of punishing students, because they have been using it for centuries.

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