While most of the nation long ago stopped striking children, Alabama principals continue to boast one of the highest batting percentages in the nation, paddling one child every four minutes.
Across Alabama public schools, nearly 19,000 students were paddled in the 2013-2014 school year, according to newly available data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The count is of individual students and does not indicate how many were paddled more than once.
Unlike in most of the developed world, Alabama law explicitly allows adults to administer corporal punishment, and education leaders in Alabama find no problem with paddling in schools.
“I don’t anticipate this being the focus of change that Alabama needs to move our student achievement higher,” said Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, chair of the Education Policy committee in the Alabama House of Representatives.
Collins said no one has brought up the subject of paddling in the legislature. “As a child paddled, and as a parent who paddled, I’ve not experienced the negative side of corporal punishment personally, only the positive side,” Collins said in a statement.
While no studies exist showing improvement of student achievement after corporal punishment is banned, many studies show the negative impact paddling has on children’s attitudes toward and achievement in school. After decades of research, all major children’s advocacy and medical groups have called for an end to corporal punishment.
But the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of public schools to administer corporal punishment to students in 1977. The new federal data shows that most states decline to use the option, as Alabama is one of just 21 states to report any paddling in any public school.
Alabama is one of just 15 states with a state law that explicitly allows for corporal punishment. Another 29 states specifically ban the practice.
In Alabama, the new data also shows disproportionate usage, as boys are far more likely to be paddled than girls, and black and multi-race students are more likely to be paddled than white students. Though black males made up only 24 percent of the population in the schools that paddle, they accounted for 35 percent of the boys who were paddled.
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