Education secretary advocates for ending corporal punishment at schools

Education Sec. Miguel Cardona is calling for a complete end of the practice of corporal punishment at schools.

In a message directed toward governors, chief state school officers, school district and school leaders, Cardona pressed them to put the kibosh on the practice of corporal punishment, which involves physical discipline, such as spanking.

“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, defined by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) as the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students,” Cardona wrote. “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.”

“Schools should be safe places where all students and educators interact in positive ways that foster students’ growth, belonging, and dignity—not places that teach or exacerbate violence and fear. Let’s all work together to move away from this harmful practice and to create learning environments that are safe and supportive for all students,” Cardona wrote.

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An endnote in the letter indicates that the practice of corporal punishment is explicitly prohibited in 27 states.

According to another endnote, corporal punishment is explicitly allowed in some states, but some of the states that explicitly allow it also ban it for disabled students. “According to a review of laws and policies by the US Department of Education, depending on the state, corporal punishment remains legal because state law either expressly allows corporal punishment in at least some circumstances or does not expressly prohibit it,” the endnote states.

“Despite years of research linking corporal punishment to poorer psychological, behavioral, and academic outcomes, tens of thousands of children and youth are subjected to beating and hitting or other forms of physical harm in school every academic year, with students of color and students with disabilities disproportionately affected. Schools should be places where students and educators interact in positive, nurturing ways that foster students’ growth and development, dignity, and sense of belonging—not places that condone violence and instill fear and mistrust,” Cardona said, according to a press release.

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