House Of Representatives Holds Hearing On Corporal Punishment In Public Schools

April 15, 2010 12:00 am

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Congress Should Ban Physical Discipline In Schools, Says ACLU

April 15, 2010

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WASHINGTON – The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities held a hearing today examining the role of corporal punishment in public schools and its effect on student achievement. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes the use of physical discipline in public schools and, in conjunction with Human Rights Watch, submitted a statement to the subcommittee urging Congress to prohibit corporal punishment in public schools. Linda Pee, the mother of a student who was severely paddled in a public school despite her explicit objection, testified at the hearing. Pee’s story is featured in A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in U.S. Public Schools, a report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.

Corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states, with African-American students and students with disabilities disproportionately subjected to physical discipline. There is currently no federal ban on the use of corporal punishment against students in public schools, despite evidence that the practice hinders achievement in the classroom.

“Corporal punishment in public schools is simply unacceptable. It harms students physically and psychologically and stands in the way of academic success, especially for African-American students and students with disabilities,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress must ban this arcane form of discipline in all public schools so that children can learn in safety and without fear.”

The ACLU commends Chairperson Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and the subcommittee for examining an issue which impacts the lives of millions of children and parents, and urges the introduction of federal legislation banning corporal punishment in all public schools. In addition, the ACLU urges Congress to assist schools in finding alternatives to harsh disciplinary methods by passing the Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 2597). This bill would enable schools to use federal funds to implement positive behavior supports (PBS), an evidence-based approach proven to reduce discipline referrals, support improved academic outcomes and improve school safety.

“Hitting children in schools is a destructive form of discipline that is ineffective in producing educational environments in which students can thrive. It is stunning to think children in some states receive greater protections in detention facilities than they do in their public schools,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “By abandoning ineffective and brutal discipline, and by adopting positive behavior supports, schools can provide opportunities for all students to achieve academic success in a supportive, safe environment.”

The statement submitted by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch for the hearing is available at:

Linda Pee’s written testimony submitted for the hearing is available at:

A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in U.S. Public Schools, a report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, is available at:

Impairing Education: Corporal Punishment of Students with Disabilities in US Public Schools, a report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, is available at:

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