Legislation Introduced – Ending Corporal Punishment in School Nationwide

New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy introduced legislation on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, that would end corporal punishment in ALL American schools (HB 5628 “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act”).

Several caring and responsible congressional leaders have already taken immediate and necessary action in protecting our American School Children from the harmful and legal acts of beating them with wooden boards and leather straps, by sponsoring/cosponsoring this extremely important bill.

As an advocate of peace in the home and non-violence, I am absolutely certain this bill deserves your strong support.  It is, no doubt a small oversight as to why your state representative  is currently not amongst the other congressional leader’s signatures, who are in strong support of this bill.

If the United States passes an anti-corporal-punishment ban, it would join eighteen countries that make spanking in school a criminal offense.

Sweden (1979), Finland (1983), Norway (1987), Austria (1989), Cyprus (1994), Denmark (1997), Latvia (1998), Croatia (1999), Bulgaria (2000), Italy (1996), Israel (2000), Germany (2000), Iceland (2003), Romania (2004), Ukraine (2004) Hungary (2005) Greece (2007) and Australia (2007); prohibit corporal-punishment in both the home and schools.  South Africa and India recently proposed legislation explicitly prohibiting all corporal punishment of children, including in the home setting.

Corporal punishment of children in school is legal in twenty states, and “reasonable” corporal punishment of children by their parents/caretakers is legal in every state except Minnesota (Bitensky, 1998). Prohibition of corporal punishment in family day care, group homes/institutions, child care centers, and family foster care varies according to state laws (EPOCH-USA, 1999b).

The twenty states which allow corporal punishment in school include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming.

You may be led to believe that although, the statue for legal corporal punishment is in effect in your school, corporal punishment is seldom used or as a last resort is sadly incorrect. A study done on corporal punishment in those states, which allow it, reveal that accurate reporting of corporal punishment is not guaranteed and that corporal punishment is a last resort punishment is also incorrect.

U.S. laws and cultural values are unambiguous concerning adults who physically hit or verbally threaten adults. Such behavior is recognized as criminal, and we hold the perpetrators accountable. Why then when so much is at stake for society, do we accept the physical attack of children? The answer is not complicated. We cannot have empathy toward children until we can honestly acknowledge the mistreatment from our own childhood experiences and examine the shortcomings of our own parents. To the extent we feel compelled to defend our parents and guard their secrets, we will do the same for others. We will condone corporal punishment and look the other way. By continually insisting that we “turned out okay,” we are reassuring ourselves and diverting our attention from deeply hidden unpleasant memories.

The repercussions of corporal punishment are well documented in such research as:

• Dr. Frank Putnam of the National Institute of Mental Health and Dr. Martin Teicher of Harvard Medical School studied 170 girls, 6-15 years old-half had experienced corporal punishment, half had not-for seven years. The girls who experienced corporal punishment had symptoms such as abnormally high stress hormones, which can kill neurons in brain areas crucial for thinking and memory, and high levels of an antibody that weakens the immune system.

• Teicher completed a series of brain studies on 402 children and adults, many of whom experienced corporal punishment. His findings revealed that corporal punishment creates arrested growth of the left hemisphere of the brain which can hamper development of language and logic and arrested growth of the right hemisphere of the brain (the site for emotions) at an abnormally early age.

Alice Miller, PhD “For Your Own Good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence,” she addresses the prevailing abusive child-rearing practices we have grown accustomed to accept as ‘responsible parenting.’ An abused child does not know it is being abused, and in order to survive and avoid the unbearable pain, the mind is provided with a remarkable mechanism, the “gift” of “repression,” which stores these experiences in a place outside of consciousness, as she elaborates in, “The Drama of the Gifted Child.” There is double meaning, for gifted children are often the products of abuse, with one flaw – if the overriding need for admiration – for their looks, brilliance, or achievements is not met, then there is severe depression.

The AMA and APA ignore these studies. Why do the AMA and APA ignore these studies and other noted researchers’ work-for example: Judith Herman, M.D? The answer lies within the denial theory-if we don’t believe it, it can’t hurt us. The irony is “Facts do no cease to exist because they are ignored,” and the tragic results follow.

The results of corporal punishment include, but are not limited to:

• Children whose parents use corporal punishment to correct unacceptable behavior show more antisocial behavior over a long period of time, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, and regardless of whether the mother provides cognitive stimulation and emotional support (Gunnoe & Mariner, 1997; Kazdin, 1987; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).

• Adults who were hit as children are more likely to be depressed or violent themselves (Berkowitz, 1993; Strassberg, Dodge, Pettit, & Bates, 1994; Straus, 1994; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus & Kantor, 1992).

• The more a child is hit, the more likely the child, when an adult, will hit his or her children, spouse, or friends (Julian & McKenry, 1993; Straus, 1991; Straus, 1994; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus & Kantor, 1992; Widom, 1989; Wolfe, 1987).

• Corporal punishment increases the probability of children assaulting the parent in retaliation, when they are older (Brezina, 1998).

• Corporal punishment sends a message that violence is a viable option for solving problems (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980; Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).

• Corporal punishment is degrading, contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, robs a child of self-worth and self-respect, and can lead to withdrawal, aggression, mental and physical dysfunctions (Sternberg et al., 1993; Straus, 1994).

• Corporal punishment destroys trust between parent and child, and increases the risk of child abuse; as a discipline measure, it simply does not decrease children’s aggressive or delinquent behaviors (Straus, 1994).

• Children who are spanked regularly are more likely over time to cheat or lie, be disobedient at school, bully others, and show less remorse for wrongdoing (Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).

• Corporal punishment adversely affects children’s cognitive development. Children who are spanked perform poorly on school tasks compared to other children (Straus & Mathur, 1995; Straus & Paschall, 1998).


Berkowitz, L. (1993). Aggression: Its causes, consequences, and control. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Bitensky, S. H. (1998). Spare the rod, embrace our humanity: Toward a new legal regime prohibiting corporal punishment of children. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 31(2), 354-391. Brezina, T. (1998). Adolescent-to-parent violence as an adaptation to family strain: An empirical examination. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, author, “If I’d Only Known…Sexual Abuse in or Out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention, specializes in: Mind, Body, Spirit healing and Physical/Sexual Abuse Prevention and Recovery. As an inspirational leader, Dr. Neddermeyer empowers people to view life’s challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening. http://www.gen-assist.com

Leave a Comment