Impairing Education: Corporal Punishment of Students with Disabilities in US Public Schools

Students with disabilities face corporal punishment in public schools at disproportionately high rates according to a new report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. Corporal punishment — ranging from paddling to smacking to throwing children into walls — can worsen these students' medical conditions and undermine their education. Students with disabilities are entitled to appropriate, inclusive educational programs that give them the opportunity to thrive. No child should be hit, especially the most vulnerable.

Corporal punishment causes pain, humiliation, and in some cases deep bruising or other serious injury; it also can have long-lasting psychological consequences. Students with disabilities may see their underlying conditions worsened as a result. Furthermore, it creates a violent, degrading school environment in which all students – and particularly students with disabilities -- may struggle to succeed. The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch call on the federal government and US states to prohibit corporal punishment. School districts should replace corporal punishment with effective, positive forms of discipline, so that children’s human rights are protected, and so that every student throughout the United States can maximize his or her academic potential.

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Table of Contents

I Summary 1
II Recommendations 9
III Methodology 13
IV Corporal Punishment in US Public Schools 15
V Corporal Punishment by the Numbers 26
VI Behaviors Leading to Beatings 33
VII Impact of Corporal Punishment 41
VIII   Parents’ Inability to Protect Children 48
IX Best Practices: Effective Discipline for Students with Disabilities 53
X International Human Rights Law Protecting Students with Disabilities   58
XI Conclusion 68
XII Acknowledgments 69


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