Jared M. Tennessee

Corporal Punishment in Schools

An explanation of why it is irrational, immoral, and unconstitutional to physically harm children in school.

November 3, 2016

Mr./Madam President,

The American education system is a fragile body made up of hundreds of ideas, standards, and regulations that the American people rely on to prepare students, not only for their future career, but also future relationships, experiences, and adulthood. In order to best prepare students for a healthy future, it is the belief of many, including myself, that students should be taught in an environment safe from fear of physical harm. Corporal punishment (which is still legal in 19 states across the country) will not make a student perform or pay attention better. It will however, make a student feel like less of a person. Furthermore, I feel strongly that corporal punishment is unconstitutional because of its violation of the 8th amendment. I can only hope that after hearing these thoughts, we will share the belief that physical punishment such as paddling is absolutely wrong morally, constitutionally, and logically.

Many pro-punishment people believe that physically harming a student will correct behavior and prevent the student from causing anymore distractions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Dr. James Dobson, a child development expert, says that routine beatings from an angry adult can teach a child aggressive behavior and in turn cause the child to grow into an angry adult who does not know how to maintain healthy relationships. It is also common to see aggressive children turn into criminals, who express the opposite behavior of the what is expected. Instead of learning good behavior, they live in the darkness of crime. Furthermore, just like any other instance of child abuse, the child’s attention can be taken away from all other aspects of a child’s life including school. So instead of focusing on their lessons, they are focused on the possibility of another beating. But negative effects can also be inflicted on a student’s social and personal life.

The act of paddling a student is incredibly embarrassing and can dehumanize a student. In the same way African-American slaves were flogged and beaten in front of their peers to set an example and make them appear to be less than a person, paddling a student embarrasses them in front of their classmates and makes them feel as if they are unworthy of the natural rights of every human. In addition to having the ability to dehumanize any student, many districts that paddle racially discriminate against students. As stated in a news article in USA Today, African American students are 51-500% more likely to face being paddled than another student of a different skin color. Another article from USA Today explains how the effects of a spanking on a child can have negative effects on a child’s mental health in their adult life. If a spanking can have negative effects, how negative do you think regular paddling by someone who isn’t even family can be for a student? It is unreasonable to physically harm a student because of a misbehavior in the classroom.

Finally, the use of corporal punishment in schools is not only cruel and unusual punishment (a violation of the 8th amendment), but it also violates the 14th amendment because it denies a student their right to due process. Although a court might rule that the 8th amendment was only meant for those who break the law and therefore is only meant for protecting criminals (like the case Ingraham v. Wright), many people disagree, saying that the public school is a government establishment. Therefore rule breaking students can be compared to law breaking criminals, giving them all the same rights. If a criminal cannot be beaten by an officer of the state or federal law, how can a student be beaten by a teacher, an informal officer of the school law? Furthermore, many believe that like a criminal case, students should be given due process with a discussion of the severity of their transgression and its consequences instead of going right to the consequences and being paddled. The right for due process is denied to students, and it is another example of how criminals have more rights than a student at public schools.

As a student living in a state where corporal punishment is legal, I believe it is in every way wrong for a student to be physically harmed by a teacher or administrator. I believe it is one thing for a parent to physically punish a child occasionally to teach a child respect for their parents and other adults, but when a person outside of the child’s family physically harms the child, the action is inappropriate, immoral, and unlawful. Children have the right to grow up and learn in a safe environment without fear. I believe it is your responsibility to make corporal punishment unlawful in schools, and I know every student in United States public schools would agree with me. I send my best wishes. God bless America.

Yours truly,

Jared M.

Works Cited

"Corporal Punishment." Gale Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Donna Batten. 3rd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 221-24. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

Dobson, James. "Corporal Punishment Is Effective." Parenting. Ed. Roman Espejo. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. of "Corporal Punishment & the Strong-Willed Child." The New Strong-Willed Child. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: n.p., 2007. N. pag. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.