Get rid of paddling Get rid of paddling
Letter to the Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) from Robert Fathman, Ph.D.
October 8, 2004

Memphis, TN, Commercial Appeal

Dear Editor:

The Memphis School Board needs to get rid of paddling when they vote October 18th. It gives children the message that hitting others with boards, a violent assault in any other part of our society, is sometimes ok if you are bigger and stronger, and if you believe that you are right, and the other person offends you in any way. Corporal punishment has been banned now in 28 states, and by Board action or state law in 94 of the 100 largest school districts in the country. Children there are being successfully educated without learning being beaten into them. Banning corporal punishment works out just fine, and in fact research shows that test scores increase and the dropout rate goes down. Teachers will still have the right to use physical force to defend themselves, or to prevent immediate harm to person or property. Readers, including school board members, can learn more at

The School Board seems to be positioning itself to justify the continued hitting of children when they ordered the administration to survey parents and teachers. In every district considering a ban, changing the existing rules is always resisted. Surveys in other districts also show 70% of parents want to continue the paddling, and that teachers fear a loss of respect. But thousands of school boards around the nation have gone ahead with a ban anyway. And the result? No board ever feels the need to go back to using it again. Teachers find that there are better ways to discipline, student behavior actually improves, as anger is not being generated by teachers striking students with boards or threatening to do so.

The Memphis School Board needs to do the right thing. They have the research, the informed opinions, in front of them, knowledge not shared with parents during the survey, showing the harm in continued paddling, the racial disparities in its use. Good school discipline is instilled in the mind, not the behind. Get rid of physical punishment, be leaders in the community not followers stuck in the ways of the past, and ban the paddle!

Robert E. Fathman, Ph.D., President
National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools

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