In parts of the US, corporal punishment in schools is used as much as 50 percent more frequently on children who are African American or who have disabilities, a new analysis has found. Corporal punishment—typically striking a child with a wooden paddle—continues to be a widespread practice in disciplining children from pre-K through high school, according to a new study by Elizabeth Gershoff of UT Austin and Sarah Font of Penn State University.
The new report analyzes data gathered by the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education from all 36,942 public schools in the 19 states where school corporal punishment is legal. The study found that there are widespread disparities in the administration of corporal punishment by race, gender and disability status.
Some of the study’s findings include:
In Alabama and Mississippi, African American children are at least 51 percent more likely to be corporally punished than white children in over half of school districts.
In eight states, boys are five times as likely to receive corporal punishment as girls are in at least 20 percent of school districts.
Children with disabilities are more than 50 percent more likely to be corporally punished than their nondisabled peers in many southeastern states.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that school corporal punishment was constitutional. At that time, only a few states had banned corporal punishment in public schools. Today, 31 states ban it from public schools.
“Dozens of research studies have confirmed that corporal punishment does not promote better behavior in children,” says Gershoff. “A recent international study found that children subjected to school corporal punishment had lower gains in academic achievement over time.”
The paper was published in October by the Society for Research in Child Development.