A new study released on Oct. 5 said that between 10,000 and 20,000 children required medical care after being subjected to corporal punishment in U.S. schools.
According to the study published by the Society for Research in Child Development, there were about 270,000 incidents in which children were physically punished (usually hit by a wooden paddle) by school officials in 2003. The Society for Adolescent Medicine estimates that each year, about 10,000 to 20,000 students need medical attention as a result, a University of Texas press release reports.
The children suffered such injuries as bruises, hematomas, nerve damage, muscle damage, and broken bones.
One of the study's authors, Elizabeth Gershoff, who works at the university, voiced some other disturbing findings in the news release:
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Some Americans may think corporal punishment is as obsolete as the one-room schoolhouse. Yet public school personnel in 19 states -- and private school personnel in 48 states -- can legally hit children in the name of discipline. ...
We documented that African American children, children with disabilities and boys are much more likely to be corporally punished. These disparities violate several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination and suggest hidden biases may factor into which children get paddled at school.
The study gathered data from the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, which drew their numbers from 36,942 public schools in 19 states where corporal punishment is legal (the red states on the map).
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School corporal punishment was ruled legal by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, but 31 states have banned it. The paper found that juvenile crime did not increase in those states.
The study notes other reports have shown that kids are physically struck by school officials for both large and minor offenses:
Children have been corporally punished in school for being late to class, failing to turn in homework, violating dress codes, running in the hallway, laughing in the hallway, sleeping in class, talking back to teachers, going to the bathroom without permission, mispronouncing words, and receiving bad grades.
The study says that striking an animal to the point of injury is considered a felony in most states, but those protections do not extend to children in the corporal punishment states, which get an exception from child maltreatment laws.
Even in cases that could be considered abuse if a parent hit the child, a school employee is legally allowed to inflict the same degree of injury without fear of being prosecuted in corporal punishment states.
"Dozens of research studies have confirmed that corporal punishment does not promote better behavior in children," Gershoff added. "A recent international study found that children subjected to school corporal punishment had lower gains in academic achievement over time."