Paddling in schools: Which states allow it; can you opt your child out?

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Paddling in schools: Which states allow it; can you opt your child out?
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A new debate over corporal punishment in public schools has been brewing since a video of a Georgia 6-year-old being paddled went viral.

The video below, shows Shana Perez’s son begin taken to the principal’s office in Covington, Ga., to be padddled after he spit on another child. Perez said she  did not want her son paddled by the principal, but  was told that her son would be suspended if he  was not paddled and that she would be arrested if son missed school. Perez had been arrested two weeks before because her son had missed 18 days of school.

The video has been shared tens of thousands of times, sparking the debate on social media over the practice of corporal punishment in public schools.

Here’s a quick look at corporal punishment in American public schools.

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How many states allow corporal punishment?

Nineteen states have laws permitting corporal punishment in schools. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wyoming

How is it legal?

Corporal punishment in education dates back thousands of years. While nearly two-thirds of the states in America have passed legislation outlawing paddling and other forms of corporal punishment, the U.S. Supreme Court has held the schools have a right to discipline students on school grounds.

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Here are two Supreme Court cases that addressed corporal punishment:

In a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court ruling – Baker v. Owen – the court held that public schools could use corporal punishment against the wishes of the student’s parents.

Two years later, the Court ruled in Ingraham v. Wright, that corporal punishment in public schools does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment, and that it is legal unless explicitly outlawed by local authorities.  The Court also held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not require notification of charges nor an informal hearing for public school students prior to a paddling.

Can you opt out of having your child paddled?

Several states that still allow corporal punishment in schools are allowing parents to exempt their children from paddling. Texas and North Carolina both allow parents to opt out of coporal punishment as a form of discipline at school.

Often, school districts give  parents and/or students the choice of paddling or suspension from school as forms of punishment.

How many times does it happen?

In the 2011-2012 school year, an estimated 156,000 students were paddled in America’s public schools, according to federal data. On average, one child is hit in public school every 30 seconds somewhere in the United States.

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Who is most likely to be paddled?

Male students make up 75 percent of the cases of corporal punishment in public schools. In the 2009-2010 school year, 838 public school students were corporally punished each school day across America — 404 were white students; 336 were black students; 56 were Hispanic students, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.

In 2009-2010, black children were 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, according to the CDF. 

Some statistics

Numbers from the 2011-2012 school year showed:

  • Mississippi had the highest number of reported cases of students paddled – 31,236; followed by Texas at 28,569; Arkansas at 20,083 and Georgia at 12,282.
  • Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia  and Texas account for nearly half of all paddlings at schools.
  • School corporal punishment is more widely used in states in the south and southwest.
  • 81% of parents say that spanking their children is sometimes appropriate, according to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment for Children.

Paddling in private schools is allowed in all but two states. Private schools are not required to report incidences of corporal punishment.

Want to find the number of students paddled in your school district?

Data on school discipline, corporal punishment and more can be found at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights website.

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