Advocates, Department of Education Push for Corporal Punishment Ban

Red stamp "Corporal Punishment"

by Andy Jones
December 21, 2016

Department of Education Secretary John King called for a nationwide corporal punishment ban November 28, mere days after a similar push from disability rights and civil rights advocates.

In a letter to local and state educational agencies and policymakers [PDF], the National Disability Rights Network and dozens of other advocates argued that the practice disproportionately harms students with disabilities and other marginalized communities.

“Evidence indicates that corporal punishment is disproportionately applied against certain groups of students… in several states in the 2011-12 school year, students with disabilities were over five times more likely to experience corporal punishment than students without disabilities,” the letter states, dated November 21. “These students are often punished simply for behaviors related to their disabilities, such as autism or Tourette’s syndrome.

“Hitting any student should be an unacceptable practice, but the disproportionate application of corporal punishment against these populations further undermines their educational environment.”

Corporal punishment is banned in 28 states. Nonetheless, an estimated 110,000 students were still inflicted with corporal punishment during the 2013-14 school year. 

“While some may argue that corporal punishment is a tradition in some school communities, past practice alone cannot be a sufficient rationalization for continuing to engage in actions that have been proven to have short- and long-term detrimental effects,” the DOE letter states [PDF]. “Indeed, there are many practices which were previously legal in the United States but which we would not tolerate today.

“There is a growing consensus that we simply cannot condone state-sanctioned violence against children in school.”

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.