Pediatricians on Corporal Punishment in Schools: Stop It

Think it achieves behavioral improvement? Think again, AAP says
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2023 2:20 PM CDT
Pediatricians Urge End to Corporal Punishment in Schools
A teacher uses a ruler to physically punish a student.   (Getty Images/spukkato)

More than three decades after it first called for the end of corporal punishment in schools, the American Academy of Pediatrics is having to repeat itself amid the ongoing hitting of students. Corporal punishment, defined as "the infliction of pain upon a person's body as punishment," should be "abolished in all states by law," according to updated policy from the group of 67,000 pediatricians, per the Messenger. School corporal punishment is banned in at least 128 countries, according to a 2017 study, which named the US, Australia, and South Korea as outliers among industrialized countries. (South Korea has since outlawed the practice.) The AAP says the practice remains legal in public schools in 18 US states and "in private schools in all states except Iowa and New Jersey."

"While 96% of public schools in the US report they do not use corporal punishment, schools that do employ this discipline method account for nearly 70,000 children being struck by school personnel each year," the AAP says. Black children and those with disabilities are disproportionally affected, it adds, noting Black girls are more than three times as likely to be hit than white girls, while Black boys are almost twice as likely to be hit than white boys. According to the 2017 study, children report receiving physical punishment for things like "running in the hallway, sleeping in class, answering questions incorrectly ... [and] failing to pay school fees."

Studies have found "no evidence corporal punishment is effective for achieving behavior improvements," Dr. Mandy Allison, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a co-author of the policy statement, tells CNN. "In fact, we can show a strong association between corporal punishment in school and lower academic achievement, standardized test scores and higher rates of dropout." The AAP says "spanking, hitting, slapping, threatening, insulting, humiliating, or shaming" shouldn't be used at home, either. The updated policy encourages alternative "healthy forms of discipline, such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits, redirecting, and setting future expectations." (More corporal punishment stories.)

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