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Education Secretary calls for an end to corporal punishment

Earlier this week, Education Secretary John King released a letter addressed to school officials across the country asking them to end a practice that he described as being not only "harmful" and "ineffective," but which would also be treated as "criminal assault or battery" if committed against an adult.

The practice in question is none other than corporate punishment, meaning where students are struck, paddled or otherwise physically disciplined for seemingly subjective or trivial matters, such as using a smartphone, showing staff a lack of respect or even violating the dress code.

If it seems hard to believe that schools still utilize corporal punishment, consider the following statistics compiled by various researchers:

  • Over 110,000 students were subjected to some form of corporal punishment during the 2013-14 school year
  • On average, over 160,000 students are victimized by corporal punishment each year
  • Corporal punishment is often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities

While the majority of the states officially banned corporal punishment between the mid 70s and the mid 90s, it is still legal in 22 states. Indeed, 15 states expressly allow the practice, including Florida and its neighbors, while seven others are silent on the matter.

"The use of corporal punishment can hinder the creation of a positive school climate by focusing on punitive measures to address student misbehavior rather than positive behavioral interventions and supports,” wrote King. "There are better, smarter ways to achieve safe and supportive school environment.”

It remains to be seen whether such outside influences as the U.S Department of Education and the 80 organizations that recently expressed their outrage by signing a protest letter drafted by the National Women's Law Center carry enough influence to cause these 22 states to change their stance.

Stay tuned for updates ...

If you are a teacher or school staff member who has been unjustly accused of assaulting a student, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can protect your reputation and your livelihood. 

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