Guest Blog: Bill Banning Corporal Punishment in Schools To Be Introduced in Congress

Bill Banning Corporal Punishment in Schools
To Be Introduced in Congress

19 States Still Allow School Personnel to Beat Students
3 Out of 4 Americans Oppose the Practice

Contacts: McCarthy: Shams Tarek (202) 731-1978;
ACLU: Sandhya Bathija, 202-675-2312;
Center for Effective Discipline: Deb Sendek (614) 834-7946;

September 21, 2011


WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 21, 2011) — Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY4), a nurse who has put a heavy emphasis on public health and safety issues since joining Congress in 1997, will on Thursday introduce the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act,” legislation that aims to end the practice of children being struck or beaten in schools by school personnel.

The billis attached.

“There are two Americas out there for young students right now – one where they go to school knowing that they’ll be guided positively by caring adults, and one where they live in constant fear of getting beaten,” said Rep. McCarthy, a member of the Committee on Education and Workforce. “Bullying is enough of a problem among students; the teachers shouldn’t be doing it, too. There’s nothing positive or productive about corporal punishment and it should be discouraged everywhere.”

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, from the 2006-2007 school year, over 200,000 students are the victims of corporal punishment every year. African American children and children with disabilities experience corporal punishment at disproportionately high rates. In the case of the latter, many are punished simply for behaviors arising out of their disabilities, such as autism or Tourette’s syndrome.

According to polling done in all 50 states by SurveyUSA in 2005, only 23 percent of Americans believe it’s okay for teachers to hit students.

The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act enforces its ban by allowing the Education Secretary to withhold funds, either fully or partially, to any educational agency or institution that allows corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment is defined in the bill as “paddling, spanking and other forms of physical punishment, however light, imposed upon a student.” The bill provides for an exemption that allows for school personnel to use reasonable restraint if a student’s behavior poses an imminent risk of physical injury to the student, school personnel, or others.

The bill affects educational agencies or public schools that receive federal funds and private schools that serve students who are recipients of federal services. The bill does not apply to home schools, or private schools that don’t serve students who receive support from federal education programs. Currently, 19 states allow corporal punishment in their schools.

The bill includes positive reinforcement too, by providing competitive grant funds to states to help them improve school climate and culture through the use of positive behavior support approaches. States may subgrant the funds to local educational agencies to help ensure that private schools can also participate.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a long-time opponent of the practice whose organization will support Rep. McCarthy’s bill, said: “Just like we have fought against education policies being premised on sanctions and penalties, the same thing is true of the idea that threatening or administering physical punishment will motivate students. Corporal punishment—hitting children—improves neither behavior nor student performance,” said.

Deborah J. Vagins, Senior Legislative Counsel of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, said: “This important legislation would end the arcane practice of corporal punishment in schools. It is stunning to think children in some states receive greater protections against physical discipline in detention facilities than they do in classrooms. The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act will help provide the safe, supportive academic environment all students deserve and need to achieve academic success.”

Nadine Block, founder of the Ohio-based national organization Center for Effective Discipline, said: “Ohio’s legislature banned school corporal punishment in 2009. It was a struggle to win hearts and minds during that fight but we were successful because a majority of the public opposed the practice and no evidence existed that showed corporal punishment was better than other discipline strategies for changing school behavior. A nationwide ban makes sense to protect all students in America and Congress should act swiftly to pass this common-sense measure.”

The 19 states where corporal punishment in schools is currently legal are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming.

Shams M. Tarek, Communications Director
U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Office: (516) 739-3008
Cell: (202) 731-1978