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Corporal Punishment Being Phased Out in NC

Shot of a schoolboy covering his face with hands during a talk with a head teacherDepending on how old you are (and how often you misbehaved as a kid), you may remember being spanked in school for misbehaving. However, you may also be surprised to learn that this kind of punishment is still used in North Carolina and in many other states, especially in the South. The days of corporal punishment may be coming to a close in North Carolina, however.

A recent report showed that public schools throughout the state are slowly phasing out the practice of spanking unruly students. Last year, public schools doled out corporal punishment half as often as the year before. Of the 73 paddlings that occurred last year, almost half came from Robeson County, with the rest scattered throughout the state. In addition, more than half of the paddlings were given to Native American students, with nearly all the other cases involving white students.

Even though paddling has fallen by over 90 percent since 2010, it is still legal in North Carolina. That fact has caused a fierce debate from supporters and detractors of corporal punishment in recent years.

Corporal Punishment: It’s the Law

While many states have begun explicitly outlawing paddling and other forms of corporal punishment in public schools, North Carolina still explicitly allows it. Specifically, teachers and administrators are allowed to use “reasonable force” as a form of discipline. In fact, the laws are written in such a way that local school districts are not allowed to outright ban corporal punishment in their own schools  — though they may choose to use other means of discipline instead.

There are four different passages in North Carolina’s General Statutes that refer to corporal punishment: GS 115C-288, GS 115C-390.3, GS 115C-390.4 and 115C-391.4. These define what reasonable force is, and how corporal punishment must be administered. Specifically, they dictate who can administer the discipline, who can be disciplined and who can be present. Notifications of corporal punishment must be sent to the parents, and reports must be sent to the school board.

The Case For and Against Corporal Punishment

The argument that corporal punishment is one that has been preached likely since before written word was first invented. Parents and others who administer corporal punishment see an immediate change in the child’s behavior. They stopped breaking the rules, and learned that there are consequences to their actions. In short, corporal punishment works — and countless parents can attest to that fact.

However, psychological studies may prove otherwise. While it does stop bad behavior in the short run, it does much more harm than good in the long run. Studies have shown that children who receive corporal punishment become more aggressive than their peers. When children are hit, the study shows, they are more likely to use violence to solve their own problems. In addition, it can cause long-term psychological damage, including antisocial behavior and mental health problems. However, it is important to point out that some researchers say there is not a direct correlation between corporal punishment and these long-term issues.

Whether for better or worse, North Carolina is working to eliminate corporal punishment for schools, regardless of changes to the law. ABC11, a local news station, ran a Twitter poll about the issue, and nearly a quarter of responders say children shouldn’t be spanked in school. Though this was by no means a scientific poll, it in addition to current practice seem to indicate that the public is no longer in favor of this form of discipline.

Posted In: Child Care Laws
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