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School CP - September 1993

Corpun file 7384 at


St Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri, 19 September 1993

Illinois Part Of Trend Against Spanking Pupils

For many years, it has been against the law in this country to punish prison inmates or members of the military by inflicting physical pain. But the use of corporal punishment to discipline school children has been a different matter: Only recently have states begun to make it illegal. Illinois is the latest to do so; this summer, the Legislature passed and sent to Gov. Jim Edgar a bill barring the use of corporal punishment in public schools.

A decade ago, paddling was legal in all but four states. Since then, 20 more states have abolished it. Another 20 have implemented some kind of restrictions: parental permission, witnesses, written rules or reports. During the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of students struck each year in public schools declined from 1.4 million to about half a million. Most paddling is done in the South and Midwest. Despite the trend away from spanking, the debate over the practice shows no sign of abating. "Punishment in general is an ineffective, and, in fact, counterproductive form of discipline," argues Irwin Hyman, director of the Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives at Temple University.

Focus on the Family, a Christian organization, supports the use of corporal punishment to maintain a teacher's control. "Used consistently and fairly, a spanking can let a child know what is wrong behavior, " says spokesman John Perrodin. But something more practical may be driving the current trend: In states where paddling is still legal, teachers and administrators who use it are facing an increasing number of civil lawsuits and criminal cases charging physical abuse, and those have caused policy makers and educators alike to reassess their positions. Last year, the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, which opposes a ban on spanking, nevertheless warned its members to discontinue the use of corporal punishment for their own protection.

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