Action #1: Tell your legislators to vote “YES” to H.R. 1234 – Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act of 2021.
(Trigger warning – violence towards a child.) Video cameras inside our smartphones are affecting justice in ways we could not have conceived of a decade or so ago. A brave teenager’s footage of the murder of George Floyd put a bad cop in jail. Now, we’re hoping that a mother’s video, who filmed the violence as proof that it happened, will be the end of this abusive and racially discriminatory practice of corporal punishment in our country. But it will need your voice to happen.
The principal may be in legal trouble, not because she beat a student, but because the school happens to be in Hendry County, one of the 20 counties out of 67 in Florida that does not permit corporal punishment. (When did your state ban corporal punishment? Here. Where does it still happen? Here.)
There is a lot of research available proving that children who have been subjected to hitting, paddling or other harsh disciplinary practices have reported subsequent problems with depression, fear and anger and frequently withdraw from school activities and disengage academically. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that “corporal punishment may adversely affect a student’s self-image and school achievement, contributing to disruptive and violent behavior.” This includes increased rates of bullying and aggression in school in the months and years following the punishment and increased aggressive conduct toward their siblings, parents, teachers, and schoolmates, and increasing the chances that a child “graduates” to our prison system. It’s illegal to flog adults in our prisons (1952) or military services (Navy – 1853, Marines – 1957). Why do we still allow this to happen to kids?
H.R. 1234 – Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act of 2021 includes the following points:
- Every 30 seconds during the school year, a public school student is corporally punished.
- Nineteen states continue to permit corporal punishment in public schools.
- According to Department of Education statistics, each year in the US, hundreds of thousands of school children are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.
- School corporal punishment is usually executed in the form of “paddling”, or striking students with a wooden paddle on their buttocks or legs, which can result in abrasions, bruising, severe muscle injury, hematomas, whiplash damage, life-threatening hemorrhages, and other medical complications that may require hospitalization.
- Gross racial disparity exists in the execution of corporal punishment of public school children, and African-American schoolchildren are disproportionately corporally punished. Recent statistics show that African-American students make up 18% of the national student population, but comprise 40% of all students subjected to physical punishment at school. Black children are nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to be corporally punished than White children, and nearly eight times more likely to be corporally punished than Hispanic children. Students with disabilities are also disproportionally subjected to corporal punishment.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep./Sen. [___] to immediately push through H.R. 1234 – Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act.
More script if you want it: I just finished watching a heartwrenching video of a 6-year old girl being physically and emotionally traumatized by her principal, and there’s no way that this kind of abuse should still be allowed in our public schools. Research has shown long term damage to children who are abused this way for over a decade. This needs to change now.
(Carbajal and Brownley have NOT signed on as cosponsors yet.)
- Rep. Julia Brownley: email, (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email.(CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
Action #2: Tell Joe Biden to use an executive order to stop corporal punishment now.
(Write Joe a letter. Add anything you want about your childhood, or your family members to personalize it.)
Today, I witnessed a traumatized little girl being paddled by her principal, an authority figure in her life with whom she should have felt safe. If you missed it, it’s here. (https://youtu.be/D-5pJC6FpSA) I’m sure most people who view this end up feeling pretty traumatized as well.
19 states still allow children to be beaten in schools in this manner, a painful and degrading punishment suffered disproporationately by disabled kids and children of color. This has got to stop.
Your wife, a professional educator, knows the profoundly negative effects this abuse causes. The evidence has been in for a long time. A 2005 UNESCO study notes that “corporal punishment has been found to be consistently related to poor mental health; including depression, unhappiness, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness in children and youth.” It is a known cause of violent behavior. Human Rights Watch has put together an exhaustive report on corporal violence in our schools in 2008.(https://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/us0808/index.htm)The ACLU has issued a report on issues with disabled students here. (https://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/humanrights/impairingeducation.pdf)
Please issue an executive order for an immediate moratorium on corporal punishment of children in our public schools while we’re waiting for H.R. 1234 – Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act of 2021 to get to your desk. Issue immediate funding to help states and school districts provide training on effective methods of creating school discipline plans and for additional behavior analysts and counseling staff to improve the delivery of appropriate discipline to special education students.
It is also way past time for the US to finally ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires “all state parties to move quickly to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children”. Every member of the United Nations has signed it except us, the Cook Islands, Niue, the State of Palestine and the Holy See.
This little girl isn’t my kid, but she is entrusted to our schools. Please help her and all the other kids who should have a right to be safe and happy there.
Articles to Read:
- (ScienceDaily) Spanking children slows cognitive development and increases risk of criminal behavior, expert says (2013)
- (CenterforParenting) A CASE AGAINST CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
- (Human Rights Watch) A Violent Education of Children in US Public Schools.
- I. Summary and Key Recommendations
- II. Methodology
- III. Corporal Punishment in US Public Schools
- IV. Offenses Leading to Corporal Punishment
- V. Prevalence of Corporal Punishment in US Public Schools
- VI. Impact of Corporal Punishment
- VII. Best Practices in School Discipline
- VIII. The Use of Corporal Punishment against Specific Groups
- IX. Regulating Discipline in Schools
- X. Seeking Redress for Corporal Punishment
- XI. Banning Corporal Punishment: International Human Rights Law and US Constitutional Standards
- XII. Conclusion and Recommendations
- To Legislatures in States with Corporal Punishment
- To Governors and Departments of Education in States with Corporal Punishment
- To Police, District Attorneys, and State Courts
- To the President of the United States
- To the United States Congress
- To the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
- To School Boards, Superintendents, Principals, and Teachers
- To Teachers’ Colleges and Teacher Training Programs
- To Professional Bodies Working in Education
- To Private and Non-Profit Foundations that Fund US Public Education or Advocate for Improvements in Education
- (ACLU) IMPAIRING EDUCATION: CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN US PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Table of Contents
- (The Natural Child Project) The Influence of Corporal Punishment on Crime – 1987