Cases of Corporal Punishment

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Fourteen-year-old James Ingraham was held down and paddled twenty times, against his will, by three teachers, for allegedly not leaving the auditorium stage when directed. The punishment was so harsh, he required medical attention and missed eleven days of school. When taken to court, the court stated that "cruel and unusual punishment does not apply to the corporal punishment of children in public schools" (Wikipedia, 2018, n.p.). While many countries have banned corporal punishment completely, the United States has not.

In 2017, a bill was brought about to Congress to ban all corporal punishment in schools but failed. Thirty-one states in America have banned corporal punishment in schools but it is still legal in homes in all fifty states. Corporal punishment should be banned in schools because it negatively affects learning, has adverse psychological effects and promotes violence. Corporal punishment is not only canning, flogging and branding a person but also spanking, whipping and paddling; any punishment meant to cause pain is considered corporal punishment. These types of punishments are still allowed in schools in nineteen of the fifty states in our country. Multiple cases have been brought to court due to the severity of some of these punishments, most have been thrown out. Students do not even get a chance for a hearing before receiving their punishment (Wikipedia, 2018).

In 2014, Trey Clayton was paddled after sitting in the wrong seat in class. The principal administered three swats to the buttocks with such force that the student passed out, fell face first to the floor busting open his chin, fracturing five teeth and his jaw bone (Menon, 2017). Even though studies show that corporal punishment is not good for a child's mental health and physical health, it is still widely accepted in the United States (Taylor, et al., 2017). It is time we put an end to these kinds of punishments, punishments that do more harm than good. Corporal punishment causes students to think about school skeptically and relate school to punishment. Corporal punishment can cause many negative factors at a school level (Ali, et al., 2015). When students are corporally punished by teachers and/or principles, they feel that school is an unsafe place, deterring them from even going. When children do go to school, they are learning under the notion of fear, leading to a lack of motivation to learn (Nyarko, 2017) and less retention of knowledge. Fearful students are anxious students which tends to lead to a loss in concentration, loss of interest in studies, poor learning, poor performances on tests and worse overall academically (Ali, et al., 2015).

Moreover, students do not participate enthusiastically in their studies and will not take risks even when being creative (Ali, et al., 2015). Students lose confidence, have lower self-esteem and have increased stress levels (Ali, et al.. 2015). Children in this type of situation tend to get into more trouble, leading to further punishment and continue in an unbreakable cycle. Save the Children and UNICEF state "the more a child is punished, the more his performance will worsen" (Ali, et al., 2015, p.183). Students need to have the opportunity to learn in a safe, peaceful, comfortable, inviting environment, relieved of undue stresses. Many parents argue that corporal punishment is okay though because it quickly rectifies the situation, allowing their child to return to class, missing minimal amounts of studies. There might be some truth to this, but students are often paddled too harshly causing a loss in school time for needed medical treatments. Also, corporal punishment habitually results in recurring behavior issues in students, leading to more missed class time. Graham-Berman states "physical punishment can work momentarily to stop problematic behavior because children are afraid of being hit, but it doesn't work in the long term" (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.).

 A district in Florida offers other alternatives to spanking or suspension. Instead of swatting or paddling, students are sent to one of four off-school sites where students can complete their homework with a teacher and get behavioral support from a program created by a behavior specialist. School officials state that parents are turning more to this alternative method over spanking and the number of office referrals has cut way down. Students often return reformed and good students (Morones, 2013). Another reaction of corporal punishment is the negative psychological effects that go with it. Psychologically, corporal punishment has been proven to be the cause of many mental health problems. Children that receive corporal punishment often become anti-social (Smith, B.L., 2012), have feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, self-doubt, guilt, inferiority, anxiety, depression (Nyarko, 2017), lower self-esteem and depression. Commonly, children show symptoms of post-traumatic stress that "can be crippling to children in the formative years" (Nyarko, 2017, p.121). Effects like these can and will take a toll on a child's creativity, psyche and personal development (Nyarko, 2017).

With so many negative factors on the overall mental health of a child, it is hard to imagine why it is still used. Regardless of the hazard, corporal punishment continues to be exceedingly common in the United States. But parents that agree with corporal punishment argue that it works stating that it corrects the problem. Scholars say differently. Graham- Bermann says "Physical punishment can work momentarily to stop problematic behavior because children are afraid of being hit, but it doesn't work in the long term and can make children more aggressive" (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.). Many others say it is abusive, only lasts a short time and "even predictive of future violence" (Adelson, 2009, p.283). Nadine Block, executive director of the Center for Effective Discipline in Ohio says, "over time, it does not work" (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.). Gershoff and Graham-Bermann state that corporal punishment is not "consistently effective" (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.).

Parents are wrong. It does not work. Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., a Yale University psychology professor, director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic and 2008 president of the American Psychological Association states "You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want. There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work." (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.). Arguably the most important negative fact, corporal punishment promotes violence. Repeatedly, parents get frustrated and immediately hit their child without considering other options (Smith, B.L., 2012). Many times, the parent strikes the child without explaining the why behind it, therefore, children do not quit or correct their behavior and the parent continues to heighten the punishment. Children become literal whipping posts (Godsoe, 2017). Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph.D., a leading researcher on physical punishment at the University of Texas at Austin says Physical punishment doesn't work to get kids to comply, so parents think they have to keep escalating it. That is why it is so dangerous" (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.).

Another study states "the unintentional escalation of corporal punishment accounts for the majority of substantiated cases of child physical abuse" (Taylor, et al., 2017, p.652). A study published in 2011 conceded that homes, where physical punishment is used, is more likely to have violence. Mothers that are physically abused by their partners are more inclined to think that corporal punishment is necessary (Taylor, et al., 2017). Their children are more likely to use violence as an instrument for dealing with other children (Smith, B.L., 2012) and acting out negatively (Xing, 2017). In a resolution from 1975, against corporal punishment, the American Psychological Association stated that "corporal punishment can instill hostility, rage and a sense of powerlessness without reducing the undesirable behavior. (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.) Multiple studies have concluded with the same results; adolescences that are corporally punished are more inclined to use violence (Nyarko, 2017), have heightened aggression (Nyarko, 2017) (Smith, B.L., 2012) and to "engage in violent behavior during adulthood" (Cheruvalath, et al., 2015, p.128) (Nyarko, 2017). This violence may not become immediately visible but affects the perception of a child (Smith, B.L., 2012) in turn causing adult aggression (Nyarko, 2017) and a lifetime of delinquent behavior (Cheruvalath, et al., 2015).

Americans that are for corporal punishment state that corporal punishment teaches consequences for actions, they want their child to know if they do wrong, there will be punishment and feel that without corporal punishment there is nothing left. But parents are choosing to look past the effectiveness of counseling, restrictions and taking away activities and physical items the kids enjoy because it is too much of an effort on their part. Adolescents today are extremely attached to their phones. Parents are too because their child is always at immediate reach. Taking a child's phone away is detrimental to the child but a parent does not want themselves to have any burden. Parents of younger children do not take away tablets and Xboxes, because then the parent must spend more time tending to the child. If more parents spent more time with their children to begin with, actions would not get so far out of control. There are other options, parents just choose to use corporal punishment arguing that it does not hurt anything and that it is still "an effective disciplinary tool" (Smith, P., 2018, p.284). Gershoff says I can just about count on one hand the studies that have found anything positive about physical punishment and hundreds that have been negative. (Smith, B.L., 2012, n.p.).

Additionally, she recommends being consistent with disciple and proactive by praising good behavior. Overall, corporal punishment has been proven to have more negative effects than positive ones when it comes to our children. From negatively effecting studies, causing psychological issues to turning into adult violence, corporal punishment is overall a poor punishment for adolescents and the pros do not outweigh the cons. Victor Vieth of the Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline in Wisconsin says "We have 50 years of research saying corporal punishment is risky and associated with negative outcomes later in life. And we know there are alternative forms of discipline." (Smith, P., 2018, n.p.). Multiple different researches have stated that physical punishment can have severe risks, yet we are not listening (Smith, B.L., 2012).

Despite all the studies and negative factors, the recommendation and practice of corporal punishment remains high in our country (Taylor, et al., 2017). Studies have shown that where you live, your ethnicity, your education level, your socioeconomic status, your religion and if your parents used corporal punishment, all have an influence on how you feel about corporal punishment. Generally, if your religion supports corporal punishment, the stronger you feel about your religion, the more you typically favor the use of corporal punishment (Taylor, et al., 2017). When corporal punishment is taken too far and the case ends up in court, it's the discretion of the judge that decides the fate. Running back Adrian Peterson was convicted in 2014 for using a switch on his child and consequently lost his career. Another judge acquitted a father that choked his teenage daughter stating in her opinion children need to be punished (Godsoe, 2017).

Studies have proved time and time again that corporal punishment is a terrible decision for our youth. Six months ago, after much research on how to deal with my child's strong personality, I reluctantly took spanking out of the equation and replaced it with encouragement and incentive to do things as ask. When she gets a bad attitude or refuses to do as told, we remove ourselves from the situation, we discuss it, we find a solution that works for both of us and move forward. The results have been astounding. Instead of having a crying, angry child that still will not do as she is told, I now have a child that understands, is happy and cooperative. Last week, she asked me to give her and her sister more chores, because I already do enough. I call that success.

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Cases Of Corporal Punishment. (2019, Dec 11). Retrieved December 9, 2023 , from

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