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Paddling In Schools Still Continues Today

Wooden spanking paddle Credit: Wikipedia

It is surprising that even now 15 states in the US allow corporal punishment (e.g., "paddling") as a form of discipline in schools. For even such minor offenses as being late or not having homework done. Yikes!

Paddling means hitting a child with a long wooden paddle. Mississippi is the number one state in the frequency of hitting (corporal punishment) children in schools - more than 3800 incidents of corporal punishment were reported in 2022-2023. Boys and black children are hit more than others.

So... these states think that hitting or beating a child by a person in authority is the way to "teach" them how to behave? Violence and aggression as a teaching tool? It's no surprise that studies find all sorts of negative outcomes from corporal punishment of children.

Excerpts from Washington Post: In over 15 states, schools can still paddle students as punishment

More than 15 states, mainly in the South, allow paddling or other physical discipline in schools. Among them, Mississippi has long topped the list, relying on the practice more than any other, according to federal data. Most schools in America — more than 90 percent — do not use corporal punishment.

Scott County, a central-Mississippi school district with 4,000 students, recorded more than 630 incidents during the school year that ended in June, according to state data provided to The Washington Post. Brady’s district — Prentiss County, with more than 2,200 students — used it 34 times, about once a school week.

Critics say the practice is underreported. It also varies by race and gender, with boys far more likely to get hit than girls. Black boys, in particular, were twice as likely to be paddled or struck at school as White boys across the United States, according to federal officials. Students with disabilities were also at greater risk.

Children are physically punished for a range of behaviors — talking too much, disrupting class, breaking rules, tardiness. Some Mississippi districts say it’s not their first option to correct behavior but a tool to use after other measures fail. Typically another person must be present, and the punisher’s approach must be “reasonable,” not malicious or vengeful.

Yet psychologists and scholars say the practice is not just outlandish in 2023 but also ineffective in changing behavior and at odds with modern approaches geared toward preventing problems, learning from mistakes and understanding childhood trauma. For years, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have weighed in against corporal punishment in schools.

Adults who were spanked as children exhibited more antisocial behavior and had more mental health problems, according to a study co-authored by Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies corporal punishment. Two more recent studies show that the outcomes linked with corporal punishment at home are also associated with its use at school, she said.

In other work, Gershoff and fellow researchers found that a history of spankings was linked to more depressive symptoms, more suicide attempts, more moderate to heavy drinking, and more drug use.

Defenders of corporal punishment see important lessons in delivering firm consequences when children break the rules.

Schools often use long, hardwood paddles to physically punish students. They have also used their hands, rulers and other objectsoften striking the buttocks after a child is told to bend over.

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