Feds want schools to end corporal punishment

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

About 1,500 Georgia students were disciplined that way last school year

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote a letter Friday to the nation’s governors, public school administrators and leaders urging them to end corporal punishment in schools.

Corporal punishment, as defined by the department, is the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students as a form of disciplinary action.

“Schools should be safe places where all students and educators interact in positive ways that foster students’ growth, belonging, and dignity — not places that teach or exacerbate violence and fear,” Cardona wrote. “Let’s all work together to move away from this harmful practice and to create learning environments that are safe and supportive for all students.”

Federal education officials made a similar request in 2016 to end corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment in school is either expressly allowed or not expressly prohibited in 23 states, according to the letter. Georgia law allows corporal punishment.

More than 1,500 Georgia students were disciplined by corporal punishment during the 2021-22 school year, according to state data. Georgia has about 1.7 million public school students. Most of those disciplinary actions took place in smaller, rural school districts. None occurred in metro Atlanta districts.

A Georgia Department of Education spokeswoman said any changes to state law must be approved by the state Legislature.

Cardona’s letter said corporal punishment is associated with higher rates of mental health issues, drug and alcohol use disorders, antisocial behavior, and lower academic achievement. The letter also says Black students were twice as likely to receive corporal punishment as white students.

A 2016 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report on corporal punishment found about 12% of Georgia schools used corporal punishment. Some high school students, when given the option, chose corporal punishment over an in-school suspension.