AP

Missouri school district reinstates spanking if parents OK

Aug 26, 2022, 9:38 AM | Updated: 4:20 pm

A school district in southwestern Missouri decided to bring back spanking as a form of discipline for students — if their parents agree — despite warnings from many public health experts that the practice is detrimental to students.

Classes resumed Tuesday in the Cassville School District district for the first time since the school board in June approved bringing corporal punishment back to the 1,900-student district about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Springfield. The district had dropped the practice in 2001.

The policy states that corporal punishment will be used only when other forms of discipline, such as suspensions, have failed and then only with the superintendent’s permission.

Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told The Springfield News-Leader the decision came after an anonymous survey found that parents, students and school employees were concerned about student behavior and discipline.

“We’ve had people actually thank us for it,” he said. “Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I’ve run into have been supportive.”

Parent Khristina Harkey told The Associated Press on Friday that she is on the fence about Cassville’s policy. She and her husband did not opt-in because her 6-year-old son, Anakin Modine, is autistic and would hit back if he were spanked. But she said corporal punishment worked for her when she was a “troublemaker” during her school years in California.

“There are all different types of kids,” Harkey said. “Some people need a good butt-whipping. I was one of them.”

Morgan Craven, national director of policy, advocacy and community engagement with the Intercultural Development Research Association, a national educational equity nonprofit, called corporal punishment a “wildly inappropriate, ineffective practice.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that corporal punishment is constitutional and left it up to states to set their own policies. Craven said 19 states, many in the South, have laws allowing it in schools. The most current data from 2017-18 shows about 70,000 children in the U.S. were hit at least once in their schools.

Students who are hit at school do not fare as well academically as their peers and suffer physical and psychological trauma, Craven said. In some cases, children are hurt so badly that they need medical attention.

“If you have a situation where a kid goes to school and they could be slapped for, you know, some minor offense, it certainly creates a really hostile, unpredictable and violent environment,” Craven said. “And that’s not what we want for kids in schools.”

But Tess Walters, 54, the guardian of her 8-year-old granddaughter, had no qualms about signing the corporal punishment opt-in papers. She said the possibility of being spanked is a deterrent for her granddaughter, who has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

“I’ve read some some people’s responses on Facebook recently, and they’re just going over the top like, ‘Oh, this is abuse, and, oh, you’re just going to threaten them with, you know, violence.’ And I’m like, ‘What? The child is getting spanked once; it’s not beatings.’ People are just going crazy. They’re just being ridiculous,” Walters said.

Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer with American Psychological Association, said decades of research shows corporal punishment will not reduce inappropriate behavior and is likely to increase aggression, rage, hostility and could lead to depression and self-esteem problems.

Prinstein said better methods for eliminating undesirable conduct including problem-solving training; rewarding positive behavior, such as with extra recess; and providing extra attention in the classroom.

“Parents are experts on what works for their own children,” Prinstein said. “But it’s important for parents to be educated on very substantial science literature demonstrating again that corporal punishment is not a consistently effective way of changing undesirable behavior.”

Sarah Font, an associate professor of sociology and public policy at Pennsylvania State University, coauthored a 2016 study on the subject. Her research found that districts using corporal punishment are generally in poor, Republican-leaning rural areas in Southern states. Font said Black children are disproportionately subjected to it.

The disparity frustrates Ellen Reddy, of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, which advocates on issues such as corporal punishment and special education.

“Look at the history of violence against Black and brown bodies,” said Reddy, who described herself as a Black mother of sons and a grandson. “Since we’ve been in this country, there’s been violence perpetrated against our children, our families, our foreparents. So when do we stop that kind of violence?”

Disabled students also are more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment, said Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. She said that led four states — Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana — to ban using it for those students.

She noted that overall, corporal punishment is on the decline, with the numbers dropping steadily since the federal government started tracking it in the late 1970s.

“Most schools are realizing, ‘You know what, we can discipline children, we can guide their behavior without hitting them,'” said Gershoff, who authored the 2016 study with Font.

Cassville School District spokeswoman Mindi Artherton was out of the office Friday and a woman who answered the phone in her office suggested reading the policy. She said staff had already done interviews. “At this time, we will focus on educating our students,” she added, before hanging up.

The policy says a witness from the district, which is in a county that is around 93% white, must be present and that the discipline will not be used in front of other students.

“When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm,” the policy says. “Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.”

In Missouri, periodic efforts to ban corporal punishment in schools have failed to gain traction in the Legislature. The state does not track which districts allow spanking because those decisions are made at the local level, a spokeswoman for Missouri’s K-12 education department said.

U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, is pushing for a ban on the use of corporal punishment in schools that receive federal funding. He has called it a “barbaric practice” that allows teachers and administrators to physically abuse students.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

8 hours ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

1 day ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

9 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

9 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

11 days ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Missouri school district reinstates spanking if parents OK