Corporal Punishment in Schools (RE9207)

Committee on School Health

It is estimated that corporal punishment is administered between 1 and 2 million times a year in schools in the United States.1 Thirty states have statutes that allow school officials to use corporal punishment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that corporal punishment may affect adversely a student's self-image and his or her school achievement, and that it may contribute to disruptive and violent student behavior.2-4 Alternative methods of behavioral management have been shown to be more effective than corporal punishment.2-4 It is also recognized that physical force or constraint by a school official may be required in selected situations to protect students or staff from physical injury or to disarm a student. In carefully selected circumstances, the use of physical force or constraint may also be justified to prevent property damage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents, educators, school administrators, school board members, legislators, and other adults to seek (1) the legal prohibition by all states of corporal punishment in schools and (2) the employment of alternative methods of managing student behavior.

Martin C. Ushkow, MD, Chairman
John R. Asbury, MD
Bradley J. Bradford, MD
Philip R. Nader, MD
Steven R. Poole, MD
Daniel C. Worthington, MD

Penny Anderson, RN, MSN, CPNP, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates and Practitioners
Arthur B. Elster, MD, American Medical Association
Vivian Haines, RN, MA, SNP, National Association of School Nurses, Inc
Paul W. Jung, EdD, American Association of School Administrators
R. Dee Legako, MD, American Academy of Family Physicians
John Santelli, MD, American School Health Association
James H. Williams, MEd, National Education Association

1. 1986-1987 Elementary and Secondary Schools Civil Rights Survey, National Summary of Projected Data. Washington, DC: Office of Civil Rights, US Department of Education; 1987
2. Poole SR, Ushkow MC, Nader PR, et al. The role of the pediatrician in abolishing corporal punishment in schools. Pediatrics. 1991;88:162-167
3. Hyman IA, Wise JH, eds. Corporal Punishment in American Education: Readings in History, Practice and Alternatives. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press; 1979
4. Hyman IA, McDowell E, Raines B. In: Wise JH, ed. Proceedings: Conference on Corporal Punishment in the Schools: A National Debate. Washington, DC: National Institute of Education Contract N1E-P-77-0079; 1977

This statement has been approved by the Council on Child and Adolescent Health. The recommendations in this statement do not indicate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as a standard of medical care. Variations, taking into account individual circumstances, may be appropriate.

PEDIATRICS (ISSN 0031 4005). Copyright (c) 1991 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Return to Index by Author
Return to Subject Index
Return to Table of Contents