Our nation's schools should make every effort to provide children and youth with safe and supportive environments that protect and enhance their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Unfortunately, some schools continue to put the mental and physical well-being of students at risk by implementing the practice of corporal punishment,1 defined by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) as the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students.2 Therefore, if the use of corporal punishment is permitted or practiced in schools and educational settings within your state or district, I urge you to move swiftly toward condemning and eliminating it.
Laws in a majority of states and the District of Columbia ban the use of corporal punishment in public schools,3 and other states have prohibited the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities.4 According to the Department's Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the number of public school students subjected to corporal punishment declined between the 2013-14 to the 2017-18 school years.5 However, the use of corporal punishment in school is either expressly allowed or not expressly prohibited in 23 states.6 Furthermore, researchers have determined that the use of corporal punishment in schools is likely underreported.7
The CRDC data also reflects that students of color, boys, and students with disabilities are reported to be disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment.17 In the 2017-2018 school year, nearly 900 preschool students were subjected to corporal punishment.18 Boys represented about 81 percent of all students subjected to corporal punishment, but only account for about 50 percent of the total public school student population. As captured in this Office for Civil Rights infographic [PDF, 984KB], Black students were 2.3 times more likely than white students to receive corporal punishment.19 These disparities are particularly acute for Black students and students who represent more than one of these groups. In states that reported instances of corporal punishment, Black boys were twice as likely as white boys to be subjected to corporal punishment, and Black girls were 4 times as likely as white girls to be subjected to corporal punishment.20 In some states, other student subgroups, such as Native American students, are subject to corporal punishment at disparate rates.21