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Stop Beating Children in Schools

Alice Farmer,
Human Rights Program
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April 30, 2009

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

With state legislatures back in session, we’re renewing the fight to take corporal punishment out of public schools. There’s a bill pending in Ohio to do just that. Here’s our letter supporting this crucial step to protect Ohio’s kids.

In recent months we’ve also seen bills introduced in other states limiting corporal punishment, making it harder for schools to beat children. Click here to find out if paddling is legal and prevalent in your state.

While we hope all states will follow suit, paddling can also be banned school district by school district. More and more districts are adopting discipline policies that throw out the paddle and support effective learning instead. For instance, in recent months, the school districts in Marfa and Aldine in Texas and Muskogee, Oklahoma, have debated banning or limiting corporal punishment, like many other small districts. Meanwhile, Jackson Public School (JPS) District, one of the biggest districts in Mississippi, recently upheld its ban on paddling. Click here to see our letters to JPS.

What can you do? We’ve put together a “toolkit” for parents that we published with the Our Children, the National PTA magazine. Parents and PTAs can take the lead in campaigns to change school policies. Even if you don’t live in a school district that paddles kids, you can help. Parents can write letters to their state legislatures, objecting to laws that permit schools to paddle, and advocating for safe, nonviolent discipline in schools.

New funding from the federal stimulus package can also help. The Department of Education can allocate funding to school districts that want to implement positive behavior discipline systems that teach kids why what they did was wrong and what they can do better. Positive behavior systems are much more effective than paddling; they produce safe, secure classrooms where kids can effectively learn. The Southern Poverty Law Center has more on using federal money for positive behavior.

What’s more, the right to dignity — one of the founding principles of human rights — protects children from abusive or discriminatory school discipline practices. U.S. schools should implement effective, positive discipline systems, so that children’s human rights are protected and so that every student can maximize his or her potential.

To learn more about the ACLU’s work to end corporal punishment, visit:

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