There are 19 school districts in Florida that still use corporal punishment as a means of disciplining students.
That is 19 too many.
Let us be clear about this: “Corporal punishment,” “whipping,” “spanking,” “paddling” or whatever other phrase that is conjured up as a handy, deceptive euphemism for “physically beating and humiliating children” should have no place in modern-day Florida.
There should be no reason to countenance its use in any school environment in modern-day Florida.
Not in any fashion. Not in any form. Period.
Why is corporal punishment still around?
Corporal punishment in schools has been deemed by educators and medical professionals alike to be detrimental to students. (NBC video from 2016)
And if the administrators in the 19 Florida school districts that still embrace corporal punishment won’t change their backward policies and views, it’s time for enlightened parents in those 19 communities to bring common decency and common sense to bear. It’s time for them to speak up and demand an end to the archaic and dehumanizing practice of physically punishing school children.
There is no other conclusion worth reaching from an exhaustive USA TODAY Network-Florida investigation that revealed that nearly one-third of Florida’s 67 school districts – the majority of them in rural counties across North and Central Florida – use paddling to punish and discipline students.
Here are just some of the disturbing things unearthed in the Florida-USA TODAY investigation:
- More than 1,000 corporal punishments were inflicted on students during the 2019-20 school year – an alarming number given that the academic term was disrupted and shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- While five of the 19 districts resorted to using corporal punishment on 10 or fewer occasions, others were so feverishly addicted to physically punishing children that they did so on a near-daily basis – in fact, administrators in four districts struck children more than 100 times over several months.
- One school district – Columbia County – carried out 201 spankings, nearly all of them inflicted on elementary school pupils.
- In several school districts, Black or mixed-race children were far more likely than others to be singled out for physical punishment; for example, while Jackson County’s population is 65% white, 27% Black and 4% Hispanic, nearly 62% of the students who were physically disciplined in its school district were Black, mixed-race or Hispanic.
These are the quantifiable results of corporal punishment in the 19 Florida school districts that are on this shameful list. What’s troubling – no, actually, what’s cruel – is that there’s no way to fully measure the adverse psychological effects on the children who are subjected to such sanctioned, demeaning treatment.
In all likelihood, the emotional toll on these children – with every blow they receive – is an immense one.
In 2018, for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics found it necessary to reaffirm its longtime belief that “corporal punishment in schools (should) be abolished” and that “corporal punishment may affect adversely a student’s self-image and school achievement and . . . may contribute to disruptive and violent student behavior.”
And a 2016 study by University of Texas and University of Michigan researchers – who examined data from over a five-decade period involving more than 160,000 children – found that the more youths were spanked, the more likely they were to later develop increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.
This is the type of long-term damage that misguided administrators risk imposing on their school children – all in the name of clinging to a reckless delusion that there is some legitimate value in using corporal punishment.
They’re wrong. There isn’t. At all. Period.
It’s time to rip the paddles away from the 19 school districts in Florida still wedded to the antiquated approach of thrashing children through corporal punishment.
That’s 19 more than should ever be tolerated in a 21st-century Florida.
Editorial written by the Sarasota Herald Tribune Editorial Board on behalf of the USA TODAY Network-Florida.
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