FSU Researchers Shed Light on Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools

Graphic of American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children logo in the shape of shield with the silhouette of a child smelling a flower

In a recent report published by The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), researchers shed light on the state of corporal punishment in U.S. public schools and its relationship to trauma-informed education policies.

The report is a result of a collaboration at the FSU College of Social Work, including Esaa Mohammad Samarah (Doctoral Candidate), Dr. Lisa Schelbe (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor), and Dr. Bart Klika, a research faculty member and chief research officer at Prevent Child Abuse America.

The report explains that no scientific standards or evidence supports positive developmental outcomes from corporal punishment. It also highlights extensive research documenting the negative impacts of corporal on child development.

Although the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and other notable professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, calls for the elimination of all forms of corporal punishment in all environments, including schools, many states continue to allow corporal punishment in public schools.

"Dr. Lisa Schelbe, Bart Klika and Esaa Mohammad Samarah"
Dr. Lisa Schelbe, Bart Klika and Esaa Mohammad Samarah

In addition to the review of the state of knowledge, the report includes a review of state policies related to corporal punishment in school and trauma-informed education policies. According to their review, there are at least 18 states that still allow the use of corporal punishment in public schools. Fifteen of these states explicitly permit corporal punishment, while three other states do not have any laws banning it.

In addition to reviewing state laws banning or allowing corporal punishment in public schools, this report also highlights recent efforts to expand trauma-informed education policies and the contradiction between these policies and the continued allowance of corporal punishment.

Trauma-informed education is a system of practices that aims to create safe and positive school environments by providing educational support that is responsive to the broad experiences students have faced in their past and present, including incidents of trauma. The report examines four specific components of trauma-informed education, namely trauma-informed school training, positive school environment models, multi-tiered positive behavioral systems, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline, to compare which states have mandated these strategies in public schools while also still allowing corporal punishment.

The research team found that all 18 states that continue to allow corporal punishment in public schools also mandate at least one component of trauma-informed education. Esaa Mohammad Samarah shared that this finding is significant because it creates a legal contradiction within each of these states:

"The use of corporal punishment is at odds with the principles of trauma-informed education. In each of the 18 states we identified that mandate trauma-informed education components while still allowing corporal punishment, their trauma-informed educational policies cannot be meaningfully implemented. If states are interested in expanding trauma-informed education as a strategy to improve school climate and safety, corporal punishment must be legally banned."

The report also includes an analysis of national data and describes the findings of disproportional use of corporal punishment based on a child's gender, race, and ability. Boys, Black or African American children, and American Indian or Alaska Native children are more likely to receive corporal punishment compared to their counterparts. At the same time, children with learning disabilities are also more likely to receive corporal punishment than their peers without learning disabilities.

These findings underscore the importance of addressing the use of corporal punishment in U.S. public schools and aligning educational policies with the principles of trauma-informed education. The take-home message from their work is simple:

"The continued allowance of corporal punishment in some U.S. states contradicts efforts to implement trauma-informed education policies. Corporal punishment needs to be banned in all states before trauma-informed educational policies can be effectively implemented and more work needs to be done to ensure the equitable treatment of vulnerable student populations."

Further information, references, and access to the original article are available here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023 - 09:43 AM
Last updated: Fri, 06/14/2024 - 03:28 PM