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Editorial: It’s time to throw away the rod, Tennessee

Editorial Board • Oct 22, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Slowly but surely, school systems in the U.S. are outlawing government-sanctioned assaults on children. Hawkins County is the latest system in the region to not just spare, but throw away the rod, joining Rogersville, Kingsport, Sullivan County and Johnson City schools, among others, which have banned corporal punishment in public schools.

But there remain too many Tennessee school districts, including Washington, Hancock and Greene counties, which continue to allow teachers and administrators to physically punish children, which is why the state legislature should enact a statewide ban.

Time was when it was a routine matter for children to be spanked in school, but society has evolved as studies have shown that corporal punishment is ineffective and harmful to students. Psychology Today sees it as a “major public health problem. Children who are hit identify with the aggressor and are more likely to become hitters themselves, i.e. bullies and future abusers of their children and spouses. They tend to learn to use violent behavior as a way to deal with disputes.”

The organization notes that “spanking is a euphemism for hitting. One is not permitted to hit one’s spouse or a stranger; these actions are considered assault and battery. Why in the world should one be permitted to hit a smaller and even more vulnerable child? If hitting a child is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.”

The U.S. is one of only three industrialized countries that still allow corporal punishment in schools, the others being Australia and South Korea. It is banned in all of Europe. But according to the U.S. Department of Education, it remains legal in public schools in 19 states and in private schools in 48 states. More than 160,000 children from preschool through 12th grade were subjected to corporal punishment in public schools in just the 2013-2014 school year.

What’s the alternative? According to the University of Texas, “Many schools have successfully implemented programs known as school-wide positive behavior supports, which have been shown to decrease misbehavior by actively teaching behavioral expectations, rewarding appropriate behavior and implementing non-punitive consequences. But despite these better methods, corporal punishment persists.”

It is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of State Departments of Education, among other institutions and organizations. As of 2016, 31 states have banned the practice.

It’s time to make it 50 states, and Tennessee should be state No. 32.

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