Corporal punishment is the most commonly used method to discourage misconduct among students in schools (Almond, 2008). It involves physically striking or causing exercise-induced pain as a formal means of correcting mistakes and disciplining students (Almond, 2008). While it has been abolished in many parts of Europe, it still exists in the United States and other countries, albeit not as widespread as before. This form of punishment is effective because it provides immediate consequences for school errors and saves time compared to alternatives like suspensions, which can negatively impact a student’s academic performance (Almond, 2008).
Corporal punishment in schools is a highly debated and contentious issue, with approximately 19 states in the United States allowing physical discipline in both public and private schools. This means that every year, over 170,000 students are subjected to such punishments (Crotty, 2015). It should be noted that a majority of these students are boys (Crotty, 2015). Moreover, despite black students comprising only 17.15% of the total student population in the country, around 40% of them have experienced corporal punishment (Crotty, 2015).
There are pros and cons to corporal punishment in schools. On one hand, it can effectively maintain discipline without interrupting class. On the other hand, it may instill fear, alter mood, and create anxiety among students. In fact, some students resort to dropping out of school and joining street gangs due to this form of punishment. Furthermore, excessive punishment can result in injuries and health problems for those who experience it. Research indicates that corporal punishment plays a significant role in the development of addiction and domestic abuse later in the lives of students (Crotty, 2015).
While the belief in corporal punishment for school-going children exists, it is crucial to establish formal procedures and set limits on disciplinary action. Neglecting the monitoring of corporal punishment within schools can lead to issues faced by teachers. This is primarily due to the potential for excessive punishment, which may result in negligent or reckless harm inflicted upon a child (Crotty, 2015). In a Texas school incident, a teacher utilized a tree branch as a form of discipline against a six-year-old student (Crotty, 2015). Both the student and teacher acknowledged defensive wounds on the student’s hands, along with bruises covering their back, thighs, and buttocks (Crotty, 2015). Consequently, many parents opted to transfer their children to alternative schools that did not employ such disciplinary practices. Furthermore, significant sponsors withdrew support from the school’s activities in order to safeguard their company’s reputation from being tarnished by association with said institution (Crotty, 2015).
Although injuries may occur during corporal punishment, many schools and teachers argue that it is not their intended outcome. In this particular case, the school and teacher defended themselves by stating that they disciplined the student in the same manner as other students. They further explained that their intention was not to harm the student, but rather to correct his mistakes (Crotty, 2015). Therefore, any resulting injuries were unintentional. The school believes that without this form of discipline, their students’ academic performance would not be as high as it currently is. Teachers feel that this type of punishment deters students from engaging in disciplinary behaviors from a young age, thus preventing them from becoming street gangsters and criminals (Crotty, 2015).
Situated in Texas where corporal punishment is legal, despite having to compensate the student for the harm caused (Crotty, 2015), the school still has permission to use it as a means of maintaining discipline. Texas and several other states in the southern region also permit corporal punishment in schools.
Besides causing physical harm, corporal punishment in schools can also involve subjecting students to extra physical activities such as additional running, excessive kneeling, or prolonged standing. These physical exercises can be considered akin to spanking (Cook, 2015). Student athletes often experience this form of punishment which varies in intensity compared to physical spanking. For instance, an Indianapolis school enforced a punishment that required members of the athletics club to bear crawl around the track using only their hands and feet until they developed blisters and bleeding as a consequence of not attending practice (Cook, 2015).
The issue was highly controversial: during a meeting in preparation for their prom night, a significant majority of the athletics club missed practice. As a consequence, the coaches, who were also teachers at the school, decided to apply the harsh punishment known as bare crawl. By the time the coaches stopped, the students’ hands were blackened and blistered. This incident led to the resignation of all the coaches and suspension of their teaching positions. The school strongly condemned the actions of its employees and expressed their disapproval to the parents of the students.
Reporting incidents of extreme corporal punishment to the authorities can be beneficial in seeking justice or medical treatment for injuries. In the case mentioned above, the school took the initiative to report the incident to the state’s Department on Child Services. Surprisingly, the student athletes preferred this form of punishment compared to other consequences like being suspended from the team (Cook, 2015). They admitted that they were accustomed to this type of punishment and believed that changing the system would diminish the discipline levels in sports. Many students would rather endure physical drills than miss an upcoming sports tournament (Cook, 2015). Coaches argue that they favor this type of exercise because it serves two purposes simultaneously. One is correcting the mistakes of student athletes and the other is improving the fitness of undisciplined athletes. It is a situation where two objectives are accomplished with a single action (Cook, 2015).
According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health, trends in corporal punishment in schools are strongly influenced by cultural, religious, and geographic factors. The study uncovers that normative communities have the highest occurrence of corporal punishment, indicating its strong association with well-established cultural practices, ethnic traditions, and religion. Despite the potential negative effects of this disciplinary method, courts consistently uphold schools’ right to implement it (Crotty, 2015).
Recent research conducted by Crotty (2015) found that a significant number of parents and students oppose corporal punishment in schools. The study showed that only 26% of parents support this form of punishment for students, while an overwhelming majority of 80% of students themselves do not favor being subjected to it. Additionally, the public’s opinion on the matter is largely against corporal punishment, with most people advocating for either a Supreme Court ruling or federal legislation to ban the practice nationwide. Even among adults who use physical discipline at home, 68% disagree with teachers using corporal punishment as a means of correction. Thus, the issue surrounding corporal punishment in schools remains highly controversial.
I am of the opinion that corporal punishment should be permitted in schools as it helps to restore discipline and focus among students for their educational endeavors. However, it is important to exercise caution when implementing this form of penalty. The school authorities should establish guidelines and safety measures to prevent teachers from using excessive corporal punishment. This approach will foster discipline within schools and ensure that students do not suffer any physical or psychological harm that could hinder their academic progress.
Local authorities and lawmakers should assess the use of corporal punishment in schools, considering regional, cultural, and religious variations. To ensure student safety, school administrators must closely and professionally oversee the application of appropriate corporal punishment.