In next legislative session, lawmakers should ban corporal punishment in schools

The next session of the state Legislature will undoubtedly regurgitate many uncomfortable and divisive issues, the future of educational policy being chief among them. But for one issue under that umbrella, the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools, there should be little debate.

Corporal punishment — hitting, beating, striking and otherwise abusing a pupil at the hands of a teacher or administrator — has been unanimously castigated by pertinent professionals as ineffective in correcting bad behavior. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that — even for discipline as innocuous as spankings from parents — such physical punishments have a lasting, deleterious impact on the child. But while the relationship between a child and a parent is rather complex, the physical interaction between students and their educators should be kept to a strict minimum.

In a recent bombshell report, the Houston Chronicle reported that almost 30,000 students were struck at school over the course of the most recent academic year. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia already ban these laceration-causing inflictions under the schoolhouse roof. Additionally, because Texas gives broad discretion for local school districts to implement their own regulations, a majority of districts within the state have independently banned the practice, including every major city (such as Austin).

But most of the state’s rural regions, particularly in the eastern portion, have soldiered on nonetheless with the outdated tradition. Smaller cities such as Amarillo, Beaumont and Lubbock perpetuate it as well. As the Chronicle report suggested, with deeply ingrained local and religious values largely driving support for these reprehensible acts, only an act of the state Legislature could totally cure Texas of this ailment literally afflicting our schoolchildren.

State Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, has fought tirelessly during her many years in the Legislature to ban the practice, but hers and others’ bills have never made it out of committee. We hope that next year, in light of even more indisputable research showing the damage of corporal punishment and crystallizing events such as the Adrian Peterson incident, in which an NFL star spanked his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, the Legislature takes needed steps to ban this practice once and for all.

Proponents of this practice often point to biblical inspiration. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” a passage from Proverbs, is ubiquitous among defenses of corporal punishment. Other forms of discipline are tried and true; the same studies that discredit the effectiveness of hitting have shown non-violent strategies to be far more successful. It’s time for school districts to exclusively implement them.