Child Abuse Is Still Permitted in Schools

Viewers around the country were shocked by cell phone video of the brutal assault one South Carolina student received at the hands of a school resource officer, Ben Fields. The video is shocking and disturbing, showing the child thrown from her chair and dragged across the room. Soon after the video went viral, the officer was fired.

Some have wondered what the student might have done to deserve such treatment. Reportedly, the student was instructed to leave the classroom and refused. But what led up to the assault is beside the point. There was no need for an officer to use that level of dangerous force, and it was surely right that he was fired.

Unfortunately, the incident is indicative of a larger pattern of abuse that is still prevalent in our schools. Across the country, 19 states still permit the abuse of students in the form of corporal punishment. Unlike Officer Ben Fields in that now infamous video, educators who purposely harm kids in these states, which are mostly in the south, are acting with the warrant of the government and will not be fired.

How bad is corporal punishment in schools in the state where it’s allowed? The data suggest that there is substantial variation.

Children’s Defense Fund reports that 838 students are corporally punished each day of school. Some states, like Mississippi and Arkansas, appear to use corporal punishment far more frequently than the other states that also allow it. Some even permit punishments severe enough to cause bruising.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch found that most of the reports of corporal punishment they received were justified on the grounds of minor infractions, like having a shirt untucked or arriving late to class. Students of racial minorities are more likely to face physical punishment than their white peers, and the punishment itself is often doled out through the archaic and brutal method of paddling. Students with mental disabilities are also punished at disproportionate rates.

Recent polls find that around 7 in 10 Americans approve of corporal punishment, or “spanking,” generally. But the language we use here is itself problematic, as many people have very different visions of what “spanking” is, and the word itself lends an air of triviality. There’s nothing trivial in the beatings that many children endure in the name of discipline, and even the milder forms of physical punishments are still unnecessary and unjustified.

It’s particularly galling that this continues in our nation’s schools. While I don’t think it’s ever appropriate for violence to be used against children, our schools are supposed to be safe spaces for children to make mistakes and learn. Even when it’s well-intentioned, hitting kids as a teaching method inevitably ends up teaching the wrong lesson.

Don’t just take my word for it. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry decries the practice, writing:

“Corporal punishment signals to the child that a way to settle interpersonal conflicts is to use physical force and inflict pain. Such children may in turn resort to such behavior themselves. They may also fail to develop trusting, secure relationships with adults and fail to evolve the necessary skills to settle disputes or wield authority in less violent ways. Supervising adults who will-fully humiliate children and punish by force and pain are often causing more harm than they prevent.”

They also point out that the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the American Medical Association, the National Education Association, the American Bar Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other groups also recommend against corporal punishment and advocate banning it.

Substantial scientific evidence supports the view that corporal punishment is harmful and ineffective. While it may prevent problematic behaviors in the short term, it may end up causing kids to be more aggressive down the line, which can lead to intensified physical punishments. But we hardly need evidence to show that corporal punishment is harming kids; if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not corporal punishment.

We know that students can do very well without ever being subjected to corporal punishment. Most states don’t allow it in schools, and generations of parents have raised children nonviolently. Since we know children can grow up well without being intentionally harmed, there’s no reason for us to tolerate the mistreatment of vulnerable members of our society.

Some might object that maybe most kids don’t need physical punishments, but the really “bad” kids do. This, in my experience, is completely wrong. I worked for three years in a school for students with violent and aggressive behaviors. In these cases, a nonviolent teaching method is of paramount importance because these students most need to be shown we can solve problems without violence.

While it’s a good sign that most people were rightly horrified at the shocking video of officer Ben Field, it’s important that we realize how frequently children are unnecessarily harmed in our schools. It’s time we recognize that this harmful practice is doing no one any good.

Photo Credit: Sam

102 comments

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Past Member about a year ago

Hey to everyone, it’s my first visit of the blog site; this blog includes awesome and actually best info for the visitors.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member about a year ago

It's a good thing for my daughter's school that she is graduated and out of school, given this fact! All Hell would break loose if such was "applied" to her! Thanks for sharing.

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Ullrich Mueller
Ullrich Muellerabout a year ago

Surprised? Hell, no. What would you expect in a society that has never stopped using violence as the number one problem solving strategy from the very top at state level (the President sanctioned the killing of terror suspects, even a 16-year-old - Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki) down to the family where violence against each other is no exception at all. Why should schools be different?

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Karen H.
Karen H1 years ago

Kyle, I disagree with you and you disagree with me. Impasse.

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Kyle Ness
Kyle Ness1 years ago

Karen, the teacher tried that and so did the Superintendent. Do I see anything wrong with school personelle with guns, no, as long as they have the training associated with it. Heck, most students carried pocket knives in school when I went to school and never had any issues. Once again, Students do NOT need cell phones at all during school hours. Cell phones are NOT a necessity of school.

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Karen H.
Karen H1 years ago

Kyle N, there are schools where GUNS are permitted. So guns are permitted but cell phones (which might alert authorities to someone using one of those guns) are not. How ridiculous is that?
I see that your belief is that, should someone not follow your orders, you feel it’s your God-given right to beat them into submission.
Sadly, today few people seek alternative means to dealing with problem situations. Their first—and only—reaction is violence. The teacher could have handled this matter very easily, but let it get out of hand to the point that not only was the principal called, the cops were brought in.

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Kyle Ness
Kyle Ness1 years ago

Karen, Cell phones do NOT belong in class, they do NOT even belong in school with the exception of school personnel.
Some kids just don't respond to a talking... Or warnings. Sometimes ya just have to do more. Plus, what do you expect security to do when hit by someone? You will get arrested which is what happened here.
The bible verse is quite interesting isn't it? That is one of the milder ones.

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell1 years ago

Thanks

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Janet B.
Janet B1 years ago

Thanks

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