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Corporal Punishment Today

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September 1, 2016

A report was recently released by Education Week outlining the results of a study on corporal punishment currently being used in schools throughout the U.S. Surprisingly, 21 states still allow and use corporal punishment. During the 2013-2014 school year, over 109,000 students were paddled in 4,000 schools nationwide. Of those, the states with the highest incidences of corporal punishment were Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Mississippi had the most widespread use of the practice, with over half of their students attending schools that use paddling or some form of physical punishment.

The study highlighted the unequal impact of the practice based on factors such as region, economics and race. Rural schools were more likely than their urban or suburban counterparts to have students attending schools utilizing corporal punishment. Rural students accounted for 51% of enrollment in schools where at least one student was physically punished. Suburban schools used physical punishment the least, making up 41% of enrollment in schools where the practice does not occur.

White and black students were more likely than students of other races to attend a school that allows corporal punishment. However, only the black students encountered a disproportionate rate of actually being physically punished, as they made up only 22% of total enrollment in schools using corporal punishment, but 38% were recipients of it. White students made up 60% of total enrollment but only 50% were physically disciplined.

Poverty also factored into the study. Students eligible for free and reduced lunches were more likely to attend schools using corporal punishment than those not eligible. The report pointed out that this was understandable due to the higher rates of poverty in the southern states that make up the majority of states allowing corporal punishment. The study also found that within states that do allow the practice, wealthier students were less likely to attend schools that use it than were poor students.

The study and related scholarly articles may be found at the following link: Corporal Punishment Study.

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.

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