NC lawmakers should catch up with the times on corporal punishment

September 6, 2023 11:45 am
The North Carolina Education Building

The North Carolina Education Building in Raleigh. (Photo: Clayton Henkel)

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed its policy statement on corporal punishment in the public schools, calling for the practice to be abolished in all states by law and replaced by alternative forms of student behavior management.

In North Carolina, parents and local school boards have spoken on this issue: corporal punishment is prohibited in all 115 local school districts, and has been for five years. This universal consensus is a response to dozens of research studies that show that physical punishment is an ineffective and harmful practice that increases children’s aggression and disobedience. It also lowers their school performance. Finally, other forms of behavioral intervention have been shown to be effective both in terms of behavior and academic performance.

Ironically, North Carolina remains on the list of 18 states with statutes that allow corporal punishment in the public schools, even though its practice is a thing of the past. In fact, it is the only state where this is the case. This leads to the question: Why does the General Assembly remain out of step with parents and educators by retaining the statutes that allow corporal punishment in the public schools?

Also ironically, corporal punishment is prohibited in childcare, mental health settings, juvenile justice centers, as well as for children in foster care. In fact, violence against children would be considered assault/child abuse in all public settings except schools. So, why does the General Assembly continue to sanction violence against children by educators in public school settings?

Our statutes provide a reflection of who we are. Parents and local school boards uniformly indicate that corporal punishment in the public schools no longer reflects who we are. It is long past time for the General Assembly to catch up.

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Tom Vitaglione
Tom Vitaglione

Tom Vitaglione has worked as an advocate for children and children's rights in state government and the nonprofit sector for more than 50 years.