NASSP affirms its opposition to the practice of corporal punishment in schools and its support for alternative forms of discipline.
Corporal punishment is a discipline method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a student (typically using a paddle) in response to a student's unacceptable behavior and/or inappropriate language. One hundred years after its abolition in most industrialized countries, corporal punishment is still used in many U.S. schools as a disciplinary method against disobedient or noncompliant students. Although corporal punishment is no longer tolerated in the military, prisons, or mental institutions, 21 states still allow corporal punishment in full or in part according to the U.S. Department of Education (2008).
Every year, more than 223,190 students are being subjected to this particular form of punishment in public schools, and a disproportionate number are minority students, male students, and students with disabilities. Black students receive such punishment at a rate that is more than twice their makeup in the population. Black students represent 17% of the total student population, but receive 36% of the corporal punishment, more than twice the rate of White students (U.S. Department, 2008).
Research indicates that corporal punishment may adversely affect a student's self-image and his or her school achievement (Society for Adolescent, 2003). Research has also shown a correlation between the use of corporal punishment and increased school truancy, drop-out rates, violence, and vandalism (Strauss, 2000). Corporal punishment can easily be abused (i.e., lead to physical injuries) or misused. The practice of corporal punishment is inconsistent with legislative policies on child abuse and on racial, economic, and gender equity. Corporal punishment increases liability for school administrators and school boards. Educators and school boards are sometimes sued when corporal punishment is used in their schools.
NASSP Guiding Principles
- NASSP supports the federal goal of violence-free schools stated in Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994). Every school in the United States should be free of drugs, violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol.
- The fundamental need of U.S. education is to find ways of engaging today's students in the excitement of learning. Fear of pain or embarrassment has no place in that process.
- Students have the right to learn in a safe and secure environment. Schools have a responsibility to model for and teach our youth methods of exerting authority and modifying behavior that are constructive, humane, and provide opportunities for growth.
- Many proven means of discipline promote self-control and the development of appropriate socially adaptive behaviors in constructive, nonharmful ways.
- Discipline and corporal punishment are not synonymous.
- Discipline should be applied consistently and fairly.
NASSP joins with the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the National Education Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Bar Association, and many other groups calling for an end to this form of punishment.
NASSP believes that the practice of corporal punishment in schools should be abolished and that principals should use alternative forms of discipline. There are numerous solutions that can be initiated and supported by principals, classroom teachers, and other educators and can help provide an atmosphere conducive to learning and self-discipline. Faculty members and principals should engage in professional development programs to address the following alternatives:
- Help students achieve academic success through the identification of academic and behavioral deficiencies and strengths and help get them appropriate instruction
- Adopt behavioral contracts among students, teachers, and parents
- Encourage positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior
- Use individual and group counseling
- Encourage disciplinary consequences that are meaningful to students and have an instructional or reflective component
- Provide social skills training
- Encourage programs that emphasize early diagnosis and intervention for school problems for both students and staff members
- Encourage programs that emphasize values, citizenship, school pride, and personal responsibility and support the mental health needs of children
- Encourage development of fair, reasonable and consistent rules
- Support strong parent/school and community/school communications and ties.
Goals 2000: Educate America Act, H.R. 1804. (1994). Retrieved from www.ed.gov/legislation/GOALS2000/TheAct/index.html
Society for Adolescent Medicine, Ad Hoc Corporal Punishment Committee. (2003). Corporal punishment in schools: Position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32, 385–393.
Straus, M. A. (2000). Beating the devil out of them: Corporal punishment in American families and its effects on children. (2nd ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
U.S. Department of Education. (2008). Civil Rights Data Collection 2006. Retrieved from http://ocrdata.ed.gov/ocr2006rv30/wdsdata.html.
Adopted May 7, 2004
Revised February 2009