BOULDER, CO (April 28, 2022) – April 30th is the International Day to End Corporal Punishment of Children. In this episode of NEPC Talks Education, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña discusses the use of corporal punishment in schools with Morgan Craven, National Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Community Engagement for IDRA (Intercultural Development Research Association), Ellen Reddy, executive director of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center (NJFC), and Kameisha Smith, the youth programs coordinator at NJFC.
Reddy explains that the use of corporal punishment in schools is protected by law in 19 states. Mississippi state law, for example, allows for the “reasonable” use of force against students by school personnel to discipline students, promote school safety, or prevent classroom or school disruptions. Reddy and Smith describe how through their work with NJFC they have encountered students with bruises on their buttocks, hands, and back from corporal punishment. They describe how in addition to physical violence, students are also subjected to verbal abuse that leaves them emotionally traumatized.
Reddy argues it is immoral that the legacy of corporal punishment continues terrorizing children, especially children of color and children with disabilities. She explains that the practice of corporal punishment is one intertwined with the legacies of racism and white supremacy in the United States. For instance, she notes that corporal punishment is more likely to be used in schools where surrounding communities have a history of lynching Black Americans. Craven adds that several scholars have noted the deleterious effects of corporal punishment on individual and school-level student outcomes, student emotional and social well-being, and school climate. She explains that no researcher has found corporal punishment to be beneficial for children.
Craven, Reddy, and Smith explain that national and state-level coalitions are advocating for both federal and state legislation that outlaws the use of corporal punishment in schools, and supports schools in pursuing research-based alternatives. For example, the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act is a federal proposal to prohibit the use of corporal punishment in any school in receipt of federal funds, provide a right of action to the families of children who experience corporal punishment in a school, and allocate grants to schools seeking to implement research-based strategies to discipline and school safety. The Nollie Jenkins Family Center is also involved in state-level and local advocacy. They have several initiatives underway to educate and lobby policymakers to end the use of corporal punishment in schools, including a petition to end corporal punishment in Mississippi’s K-12 schools. Craven, Reddy, and Smith argue, however, that immediate federal intervention is critical to ending corporal punishment, given the persistent use of the practice against children in more than 19 states.
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