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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Schools should end spanking

By John Rosemond

A group has formed in North Carolina to lobby for the prohibition of corporal punishment in public schools. They asked me to sign a petition to that effect, which put me in somewhat of a bind.

I was concerned that my endorsement would create the impression that I am anti-spanking, which I am not. Nor, however, am I pro-spanking. I feel there are exceptional times when a spanking is warranted and is arguably the best of all possible disciplinary responses. (However, I think most spankings delivered by most parents are delivered stupidly and accomplish nothing.)

I simply believe that the government should not be the arbiter of parent discipline, and that existing child-abuse law is sufficient to deal with parent behavior that goes over the line.

I do, however, believe that if individual school districts will not prohibit the use of corporal punishment which is often the case in North Carolina and a number of other states, mostly Southern then it's high time state government stepped in and put the ban in place for them. School officials have no business spanking students, period.

In the first place, there is no evidence that students in school districts that allow corporal punishment are any better behaved than students in others. Teachers in Texas, for example, administer nearly one of every four school spankings in the United States. In Mississippi, one out of every 10 students is eventually paddled. Neither state can claim the prize for "Best-Behaved Students."

Second, it is obvious to students that a school-administered spanking is a last-ditch, desperate measure. Effective discipline is never administered in desperation. Desperation and discipline are incompatible. In that context, the person who is spanking is admitting defeat.

Third, statistics concerning school spankings suggest an underlying racism. Consider that black students make up 17 percent of the public-school population yet receive 39 percent of school-based spankings. It could be that black parents are more likely than white parents to give schools permission to spank, but that is no excuse for abiding an outcome that can be used to claim racism.

Last, but by no means least, for a spanking to be effective, an intimate, trusting relationship must pre-exist between the spanker and spankee. Without that relationship, a spanking is likely to produce resentment and more rebellion. Needless to say, principals and teachers don't qualify. Neither do some parents, but they'd be the last to realize that about themselves.

Unfortunately, the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools is allied with End Physical Punishment of Children and The Center for Effective Discipline, groups that want the federal government to disallow parental spanking law that would inevitably lead to the government assuming an increasingly totalitarian role in matters of child discipline. On their Web site, www.stophitting.com, the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools makes the usual unverified, histrionic claims about spanking, such as "it teaches children to hit someone smaller and weaker when angry." Thus, my dilemma.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions at www.rosemond.com.