Intelligencer Journal, Wednesday, September [date unknown], 1999
Don't spank at schools
By Linda Espenshade, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Memories of school spankings may make for dramatic storytelling at parties, but corporal punishment is nothing to laugh at, according to experts who link paddling to everything from increased belligerence to suicide.
Opposition to the paddling of students in school even unites religious and conservative child-rearing specialists with mainstream educators and psychologists, groups that oftentimes disagree on family-related issues.
"Spankings have absolutely no place in a school _ public or private," writes conservative child-rearing specialist John Rosemond in his book "To Spank or Not to Spank: A Parent's Handbook."
Although Rosemond believes parents are entitled to paddle their own children, he writes, "A teacher who spanks runs the risk of instilling not respect, but disrespect; not willingness to comply, but resentment and determination to get even."
Rosemond's opinion matches those held by the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Medical Association, The American Bar Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the National Association of Social Workers.
The problem with paddling is that it can become abusive, said psychologist Irwin Hyman, director of Temple University's National Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives.
"The act of hitting kids is not a cool, calm act," Hyman said. Almost three decades of his own research have shown that, too frequently, students are not punished in moderation.
"School children, especially those with emotional and academic disabilities, have suffered injuries ranging from welts to death," he writes in his book, "The Case Against Spanking."
Even Aminifu Harvey, a social work professor at University of Maryland-Baltimore, who recently spoke out nationally in favor of parental use of corporal punishment, said he doesn't recommend it in school because there's no control over the severity of the punishment.
A recent study by Murray Strauss, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, indicates that states that do not allow corporal punishment in schools, day care centers, group homes and foster care homes have fewer murders committed by children than states that allow corporal punishment in at least two of those institutions.
In "spank-free" states, the rate of murders by children was 13 per million compared to 24 per million in states that allow spanking, the survey said.
"It seems that, instead of being a deterrent, corporal punishment provides an example for children," Strauss writes in his summary. "When parents and teachers hit children for misbehaving, it teaches the child that if someone misbehaves toward them . . . hitting is a way to correct the problem."
"Spanking does teach a lesson, but study after study in the past 40 years provides evidence suggesting, but not proving, that children also learn violence and other antisocial behavior," he said.
Although individual studies like Strauss' are not conclusive, they show that corporal punishment in schools produces negative results, he said. However, the large number of studies and the similarity of their results become conclusive, Hyman said.
Researchers are forced to rely on correlative studies because it is not ethical to conduct studies that conclusively prove the lasting, harmful effects of spanking on children, Hyman said. Such a study would require spanking children, he said.
The only national organizations that sometimes support corporal punishment in schools are conservative, religious ones that teach the proverb "spare the rod and spoil the child," he said.
Psychologist James Dobson of Focus on the Family, an organization revered in evangelical Christian circles, approves of corporal punishment in schools. And even he limits its use.
"Corporal punishment is not effective at the junior and senior high school levels, and I do not recommend its application," writes Dobson in his book, "The New Dare to Discipline." He adds, "It can be useful for elementary students, especially with amateur clowns (as opposed to hard-core troublemakers)."
He said he supports schools keeping the spanking option open because there are few other effective methods of disciplining students.
"Spanking does work in the short run," Strauss said. "However, the research which shows that spanking works also shows that nonviolent methods of discipline work just as well. So there is no need to use corporal punishment."
Hyman goes even further, citing his own research that shows eliminating corporal punishment and implementing a positive reinforcement system reduces behavioral problems in a school district.