Corporal Punishment Ineffective, Administrators Say
Most Districts Allow Paddling But Don't Use It

By Matt McGowan
The Morning News, April 2, 2005

ROGERS -- Local educators say corporal punishment doesn't work because it fails to demonstrate why a student's behavior is irresponsible or unacceptable.

"The very word 'discipline' means to teach," said Louise Standridge, Rogers School District's assistant superintendent for elementary schools. "We think corporal punishment is not an appropriate role model to teach."

"We," in this case, is the district administration, which has recommended removing corporal punishment from the student discipline policy. The Rogers School Board will consider the recommendation this month.

Rogers teachers and principals have not paddled students for many years. Administrators, including Superintendent Janie Darr, have said they do not support corporal punishment and therefore think it is time to align rhetoric with deeds.

Physical punishment is ineffective, Standridge said, because it does not help students understand the connection between behavior that violates school rules and the natural consequences of that behavior.

In other words, students view physical punishment as something done to them rather than the logical effect of their chosen behavior.

Standridge said other methods are more effective at modifying behavior positively. For example, requiring students to write about behavior or reducing free time as punishment for wasting teachers' time causes students to think about what they did wrong and how their behavior affects others.

"We're trying to make that connection for them, get them to think about what they've done," Standridge said.

For serious violations, such as fighting, teachers ask students to write an essay about what they did and what they would do differently the next time they face a similar situation. Standridge said this exercise shows students that they have the power to make good choices.

Use of corporal punishment has waned nationwide over several years, said Joshua Barnett, research assistant at the University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy. There are a combination of reasons for this, even though educational research has not produced conclusive evidence that corporal punishment is or is not effective.

Barnett said many school districts have eliminated it or allowed it only as a last resort because there is no authoritative research saying it is effective. Secondly, many districts regard it as a legal liability.

"Teachers and administrators don't want to fear a lawsuit when they administer corporal punishment," Barnett said.

Finally, many school officials think corporal punishment is inconsistent policy in light of governments banning physical punishment in prisons, mental hospitals and other institutions.

Most Northwest Arkansas school districts allow corporal punishment but discourage it or do not use it.

The Fayetteville School District removed corporal punishment from its student discipline policy in the late 1990s, said Alan Wilbourn, the district's director of school/community relations.

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