It’s the 21st Century, and we have made such incredible progress – from splitting the atom to landing on the moon. We believe that we are wise and enlightened. We have conducted research on all manner of things from medicine to music. So why is it that corporal punishment is still allowed in some public schools — even in light of numerous studies that show it to be neither effective in changing overall behavior nor in improving educational outcomes such as test scores and graduation rates? If you find that shocking, here are some other facts you may not know:
- 38 counties in North Carolina allow corporal punishment (a complete list is below)
- 16 of these actually used corporal punishment during the 2009-10 school year
- Children with disabilities should be excluded from corporal punishment, but some may still experience it.
But take heart! Something good happened at the General Assembly this year: Bill 498. The General Assembly enacted a law to require the involvement of a parent or guardian before school officials may administer corporal punishment on a student. Here’s what that law says:
“Corporal punishment shall not be administered on a student whose parent or guardian has stated in writing that corporal punishment shall not be administered to that student. Parents and guardians shall be given a form to make such an election at the beginning of the school year or when the student first enters the school during the year. The form shall advise the parent or guardian that the student may be subject to suspension, among other possible punishments for offenses that would otherwise not require suspension if corporal punishment were available. If the parent or guardian does not return the form, corporal punishment may be administered on the student. This act is effective when it becomes law and applies beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.”
This means that schools are now required to give parents the option to opt-out of corporal punishment. Schools should be sending a letter and a form at the beginning of the school year to parents in the 39 counties where they still allow its use. Parents will need to fill out and return the form to the school in order to opt-out of corporal punishment.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Schools need to have current addresses for parents – if they have moved, the parents need to make sure the school has their new mailing address.
- If parents do not receive a form, they should request one from the school as soon as school starts.
- The forms are not standardized. However, child advocacy groups will be sending information to school systems with suggested language for the letter/form.
- The letter and form may have language to this effect: “If corporal punishment is not used, the child may be subject to other punishment including suspension.” Be aware and request information about what violations are punishable by suspension and of the child’s rights if suspended.
- For children who have an IEP in place, if consequences for violations are spelled out in the plan, the school should be following the plan regardless of what is stated in the opt-out form about suspensions.
- Parents should keep a copy of all information, including the opt-out form.
If you have questions or concerns about school issues, contact the Parent Advocate in your area.
School Districts that Allow Corporal Punishment
Caldwell*(will vote on ban in September 2011)
Gates (banned in August 2011)
Greene (banned in July 2011)
Jones (banned in July 2011)
Tyrrell (banned in August 2011)
Yadkin*(banned in August 2011)
* Schools in these counties administered corporal punishment in the 2009-2010 school year.
Linda Griffin works out of the ASNC Raleigh office and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.