Why Is Spanking At School Still Legal In 19 States?

Spanking in schools, most often with a wooden or fiberglass paddle, is one of the most controversial methods used to discipline, but it is still allowed by law in 19 states of the U.S.

In the 2006–2007 school year, 222,517 students were paddled in U.S. public schools. That averages one child being hit in school every 23 seconds.

Here’s what you need to know about corporal punishment in the United States:

  • In all 50 states, it is illegal to hit a prisoner.
  • In all 50 states, it is illegal to hit someone in the military.
  • In all 50 states, it is illegal to hit an animal.

And yet, in these 19 states, it is perfectly legal for a teacher to hit a child: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

In these states, a student can be paddled in school for being late to class, acting out, going to the bathroom without permission, or even failing a test. And according to ABC News, up to 20,000 public school students each year seek medical treatment after they have been paddled.

One of these students is Tenika Jones’s 5-year-old son. From ABC news:

Opponents of the ban say spanking is matter of tradition and good old-fashioned discipline. But at least one Florida mom is suing to stop the practice. Tenika Jones says the principal at the Joyce Bullock Elementary School in Levy County paddled her 5-year-old so severely last April that he cried for hours, triggering an asthma attack, which in turn required a trip to the emergency room.

The boy was spanked for roughhousing with another student on a school bus. Jones said her son had welts on his buttocks, missed a week of school and still has nightmares about the incident.

“That’s child abuse to me,” the 32-year old told reporters, “If they don’t want us to hit our kids, they shouldn’t either.” Principal Jaime Handlin declined to comment, citing the on-going legislation, but she did tell the Willston Pioneer newspaper that “nothing was violated.”

She added, “I disciplined out of love, not anger.”

However, researchers at the Center for Effective Discipline, a group that advocates against corporal punishment, have found that spanking can increase aggressiveness in children and can even hurt the mental development of young children.

As an educator, I know that the issue of classroom discipline is one of the toughest for teachers. But the goal of any behavior management program should be to allow your students to learn inner discipline. Rules need to be set, with consequences that are enforced consistently and fairly. Corporal punishment should not be any part of this.

Every teacher knows that enforcing discipline and setting limits in the classroom are vital for successful teaching, but hitting children is a cowardly, weak response to behavior problems, and should never be used. Students need teachers who can take control of their class, show that they are in charge, and provide clear direction. They do not need bullies, whose message is that hitting is acceptable for teachers.

Research shows that corporal punishment is “associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children,” according to the American Psychoanalytic Association, which “strongly condemns” the use of such punishment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents and schools use other forms of punishment because “corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects.”

If you agree that corporal punishment in schools is wrong, please sign our petition asking the Iowa Department of Education to stop using corporal punishment.

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Photo Credit: thinkstock


Kelly S
Past Member 29 days ago

and parents don't care......... sick

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

The young should learn to respect rules and behave accordingly

Teresa W.
Teresa W2 years ago

well said, Karen

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

I'm thinking some of these teachers and principals get off on spanking kids.
Schools today seem to mete out discipline way too fast and way to harshly. Kids are suspended or expelled for minor infractions that in days gone by would have been treated with a reprimand or staying after school.
Whatever happened with calling the parents and having them come in for a meeting?
If any school official dared touch my kid without talking to me first, there'd be hell to pay.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege4 years ago

I quite agree with you, Bessie. I wouldn't have liked my kids' teachers to spank them - I consider this is none of their business. But a spanking at home by the parents is something different provided it's not exaggerated and provided it doesn't happen every day.

Bessie Parr
Bessie Parr4 years ago

I don't believe that it's right for principals or teachers to be spanking children in school. I think that it IS okay for parents to spank their children, And parents only. Parents and maybe other family members.
Spanking is not abuse. People who are calling it abuse are totally wrong. Spanking and beating are two totally different things, And a simple smack on the rear or hand will not hurt the child, And in the long run help them become a good well mannered person. Yes, Spanking can lead to other things and get out of hand, But do you realize you are stereotyping EVERY person that's ever spanked a child by saying things like "It will lead to more, It's abusive, It hurts the children" I was spanked as a child. Most of my friends were. And guess what? I know more well mannered and good people that were spanked as a child, Who have no problems, And more children and adults running amok and breaking rules and laws that had no discipline or very little.
You cannot judge everyone by something your parents did or from some news story on TV, Or something a friends parents did and etcetera.

Earl H.
Earl H.4 years ago

Sorry, but unruly kids must be thoroly spankt, that's the only way they'll learn!
You can't spank a grown man because it's detrimential to his dignity
But kids are rebellious spirits, they lack dignity and that makes them fair game for good old spanking.
And it depends on who will administer said spanking - a hot chick with a huge cleavage and a tight skirt or an old rusty school custodian redolent of greece and cleaning fluids.

Marc P.
Marc P5 years ago

Terri Lynn S.: I feel that your comment "This is utterly disgusting, and a primary example of how children do not inherently "misbehave"." is off base and incorrect. OF COURSE children "Inherently misbehave!" Children are untrained savages with no self control until taught such control by parents. Children are by nature ID insinuated, thinking only of their needs and putting themselves at the center of the universe. This has been true since time immemorial. All kids start out this way. Unmolded and raw. Children demand food, take other children's toys, hit, push and bully to get "What is theirs" (And to a child EVERYTHING is theirs!) at all costs. Good parents understand this and train these primal behaviors out of their kids at an early age and address these issues "On the fly" as they are occurring. THAT is what the primary job of a parent is - To civilize their children. Too many parents are failing this miserably, being "Friends" rather than mentors. Kids don't come perfect out of the box. Some assembly is required!

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

And they worry about "bullying"???

Catrina Therrien
Catrina Therrien5 years ago

by being put into time out right then and there, hollered at, or spanked. my child will respect me, fear me and have manners..while your child will disrespect you to your face/behind your back, laugh at you, tell you what they are doing(as if they control you LOL haha to you guys out there with those types of kids..mayb u should whack them on there butt on time =p) and have no manners. i am the parent and they are the child..i am in control and they are not. not every kid learns from time outs or things being taken away from them..some kids need more then that. min is one of those kids who thinks it is big joke being grounded for a week with no tv and toys..or chooses time out over cleaning up her mess. one little smack on the bottom(very lightly) and its the end of the world..she is cleaning her mess or brushing her teeth..or what have you. =)