Corporal punishment is legal in 22 states. Would you support its use in your school?

Corporal punishment is legal in 22 states. Would you support its use in your school?

Mason, David


Defiance, chaos, threats, cursing, assault. All these behaviors have risen from rare to frequent in many schools since the elimination of corporal punishment. I began teaching 29 years ago very opposed to corporal punishment. But I have come to see that caring parents and teachers set limits and should be able to back them with corporal punishment if necessary.

Once, parents held schools in such high esteem that children knew if they were in trouble at school they would be in even more trouble at home. Today, it is more common for a student to use his cell phone on his way to the office to call a parent to “bail him out.”

A growing number of parents are so protective that they yell at teachers who dare to discipline their children, complain to administrators and school boards, and even threaten lawsuits. Few teachers and administrators can withstand such bullying. Paddling is legal in Missouri, but no administrator in my district will allow it.

Misbehaving children have come to believe no one can stop them. Each year, when I tell students that state law allows spanking, they are incredulous. Their common taunt has become, “You can’t touch me.” Detention and suspension have no effect. Students carry these “punishments” as badges of honor in their negative peer group.

In a perfect world, parents would teach their children how to behave at home. Unfortunately, that often doesn’t happen. If the nation wants orderly schools and higher test scores, it must allow educators a big toolbox of discipline methods in which corporal punishment continues to be an option. The occasional spanking of a boy or girl for bad behavior provides an immediate, painful consequence that can convince them and their friends to pay attention.

Even the threat of corporal punishment could be the one thing that keeps a boy or girl out of prison.

DAVID MASON teaches eighthgrade U.S. history at Spring Garden Middle School in St. Joseph, Missouri.


Corporal punishment is violence against children and has no place in a public school.

Middle school students often feel that a hit here, pull of hair there, stone thrown now and then are perfectly OK. As educators, we should be good role models and not add to the violence.

Corporal punishment is legal in Texas but in my district, we don’t use it. So how do we keep unruly students from disrupting classes? Our school has an “In-School Suspension Room.” If a student is out of control, an aide takes the student there for a “Time Out.” Often, the student reflects and writes about why he or she acted inappropriately.

If that’s not enough, we use a discipline plan with step-by-step, increasing consecjuences for misbehavior. For the most serious cases, we have an Alternative School where the student-teacher ratio is small and the primary focus is anger management and citizenship. There is a tradeoff: Academics take a back seat-although they are still present.

On our campus, one boy started out the sixth grade with a noisy argument in the hall. He quickly progressed to disruptive classroom behavior and, ultimately, membership in a gang. We had to assign him to our Alternative School.

Several months later, he returned. He realized he had missed quite a bit of work. He said he had made very bad choices and was now determined to be a successful student. At his first award night he told me, “I never knew that if I gave of myself and really worked hard, I would receive far more back than I could ever expect!” What a beautiful smile he had, clutching his certificates for most improved student!

Not all students respond so well. But our Alternative School gave him a stronger and longer-lasting boost in the right direction than a paddle could have done.

NOEL ROSENBAUM is a technology teacher at the William D. Slider Middle School in El Paso, Texas.

Copyright National Education Association Sep 2005

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