Adopted by the NASP Delegate Assembly, April 18, 1998
Corporal Punishment in Schools
The use of corporal punishment has been declining in U.S. schools. Waning public acceptance, increased litigation against school boards and educators regarding its use and legislative bans have led to the decline. More than half of the states ban its use. In states where it is allowed, many school boards voluntarily prohibit it. Yet, almost a half million children are being hit yearly in public schools with a disproportionate number being minority children and children with disabilities. Corporal punishment is any intervention which is designed to or likely to cause physical pain in order to stop or change behavior. In the United States, the most typical form of school corporal punishment is the striking of a student s buttocks with a wooden paddle by a school authority because the authority believes the student has disobeyed a rule.
Discipline is important and schools have a strong role in teaching children to be self- disciplined. Self-discipline is the ability to understand a situation, to make appropriate decisions about ones behavior in that situation and to ordinarily perform the appropriate behavior when unsupervised by adults. Effective discipline is primarily a matter of instruction rather than punishment. Many means of effective and safe discipline are available. Punishment contingencies in general tend to have negative side effects including leading students to be sneaky and to lie about their behavior in order to escape punishment. Corporal punishment is a technique that can easily be abused leading to physical injuries. Evidence indicates that corporal punishment negatively effects the social, psychological and educational development of students and contributes to the cycle of child abuse and pro-violence attitudes of youth. NASP reaffirms its opposition to the use of corporal punishment in schools and will actively support removal of legal sanctions for its use. NASP resolves to educate the public about the effects of corporal punishment and alternatives to its use, and will encourage research and the dissemination of information about corporal punishment effects and alternatives.
Alternatives to Corporal Punishment
Effective discipline includes programs and strategies for changing student behavior, for changing school or classroom environments, and for educating and supporting teachers and parents. Effective discipline includes prevention and intervention programs and strategies. It is empirically based rather than relying on custom or habit. The following are alternatives which can be initiated and developed or supported by school psychologists and other educators and which help provide an atmosphere where learning can take place and where students learn to be self-disciplined:
Alternatives for changing student behavior:
- Help students achieve academic success through identification of academic and behavioral deficiencies and strengths and help get them appropriate instruction
- Use behavioral contracting Encourage positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior
- Use individual and group counseling
- Encourage disciplinary consequences which are meaningful to students and have an instructional and/or reflection component
- Provide social skills training
Alternatives for changing the school and classroom environment:
- Encourage programs that emphasize early diagnosis and intervention for school problems including problems of staff and problems of students
- Encourage programs that emphasize values, school pride and personal responsibility and support the mental health needs of children
- Encourage development of fair, reasonable and consistent rules
- Support strong parent/school and community/school communications and ties
Alternatives for educating and supporting teachers (as preventive measures):
- Provide information on effective discipline programs and resources
- Provide inservice programs on communication, classroom management, understanding of behavior and individual differences, and alternative ways for dealing with misbehavior
- Network with community groups and mental health agencies to provide programs and support for school staff
- Assist with development and monitoring of behavioral intervention programs - schoolwide, classwide or individual
Alternatives for educating and supporting parents:
- Provide parenting classes on effective discipline particularly as it relates to such issues as homework, school grades, peers, learning problems, developmental expectations and undesirable behavior
- Provide school-based consultation to parents on effectively managing child behavior
- Encourage home visitation programs for parents of babies and toddlers - programs which focus on developmental expectations, resources and discipline
- When corporal punishment is allowed, help parents to protect children by informing them about exemptions to corporal punishment that may exist such as written notification or amending the IEP as well as what actions parents should take if a child is injured (seeing a physician, contacting child protection authorities and the police, taking color photos of the injury and contacting advocacy organizations)
The Role of School Psychologists
School psychologists can take leadership roles in encouraging school districts to ban corporal punishment, if it is allowed, and in helping to develop effective discipline programs. They are trained in identifying learning and behavior problems which often lead to school discipline problems if undiagnosed and untreated. They are trained in developing appropriate programs and interventions for children with learning and behavior problems. Education programs for parents and teachers which focus on appropriate ways to deal with misbehavior and ways to foster self-discipline can be provided by school psychologists. Other direct services which can be provided by school psychologists include counseling of students and consultation with parents and school staff. School psychologists can bring to schools research about the development and evaluation of disciplinary codes, social skills training and the effectiveness of alternative discipline methods. School psychologists can bring to educators, the community, and policy makers information about the effects of corporal punishment and the need to eliminate its use.
NASP reaffirms its opposition to the use of corporal punishment in schools because of its harmful physical, educational, psychological and social effects on students. Corporal punishment contributes to the cycle of child abuse and pro-violence attitudes of youth by teaching that it is an acceptable way of controlling the behavior of others. Discipline is important and effective alternatives are available to help students develop self-discipline. These are primarily instructional in nature rather than punitive. School psychologists provide many direct services to improve discipline of individual children as well as services which improve classroom and schoolwide discipline. NASP will continue to work actively with other organizations to educate the public and policy makers about the effects of corporal punishment and alternatives to its use and will seek its complete prohibition in schools.
See Original Statement, adopted by NASP Delegate Assembly, April, 1986.