Dem Congresswoman: 200,000 U.S. Schoolchildren ‘Live in Constant Fear of Getting Bea

Erick Hamme | September 22, 2011 | 5:13pm EDT
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Rep. Carolyn Maloney (AP Photo Lauren Victoria Burke)

(  Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that “over 200,000”  U.S. schoolchildren “live in constant fear of getting beaten.” That’s why she is sponsoring a bill to ban corporal punishment from schools.

“Basically, there are two Americas out there for our young students right now: One where they can go to school knowing that they will be guided positively by caring adults, and another where they live in constant fear of getting beaten,” McCarthy said at a news conference.

She added, “Bullying is bad enough of a problem among our students.  The teachers shouldn’t be doing it too.”

McCarthy’s bill, called “The Ending of Corporal Punishment in Schools Act,” would ban corporal punishment in all schools receiving federal funds.

The ban would allow the U.S. secretary of education to withhold federal funds to any educational agency or institution that allows corporal punishment, including private schools.

Corporal punishment is defined by the Dept. of Education as "“paddling, spanking or other forms of physical punishment imposed on a student.”

According to Rep. McCarthy “corporal punishment is defined in the bill as, paddling, spanking and other forms of physical punishment, however light.”

McCarthy said, “I was shocked when I learned that almost half our states allow school personnel to still be able to hit their students.  According to the Department of Education, over 200,000 students experience corporal punishment in schools every year.  This includes spanking, paddling, and smacking among other forms of physical violence.  In many recorded examples students have been injured and bruised badly.  To me it’s a cycle of child abuse and violence teaching children that hitting is OK.  We all know that it’s not.”

However, according to the U.S. DeapIn fact, 19 states – not 25 -- allow corporal punishment of some form in their schools, including Rep. McCarthy's home state of New York.

Moreover, the statistic that McCarthy cited -- “over 200,000 students experience corporal punishment every year” -- is actually a projection made by the Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the year 2006.

According to the Ed. Dept. Web site, “The 2006 projections are based on a rolling stratified sample of approximately 6,000 districts and 60,000 schools, and on reported data from those districts that responded to the survey. Documentation is available from OCR which describes the procedures used for the projections, including weighting of the sample, imputation for item non-response, standard errors, and quality control procedures. In addition, documentation is available from OCR for projections that should be used with caution due to large statistical uncertainty in the estimate, (emphasis added) including factors which contributed to the extent of this statistical uncertainty for the Civil Rights Data Collection.”

Rep. McCarthy, meanwhile, referenced a poll done in all 50 states by SurveyUSA in 2005 that found “only 24 percent of Americans believe it’s OK for teachers to hit students.”

Interestingly, the same survey found that that 74 percent believe it is OK to spank a child.

In lieu of corporal punishment McCarthy said she favors  “positive behavior support approaches.”  She has included in the bill “policy reinforcement” in the form of competitive grant funds to states “to help them improve school climate and culture.”

Asked if she thought she had any chance of pushing the bill out of committee, where it died last year, McCarthy was optimistic.

“As you know I’m quite a fighter and I don’t let go of anything—so I will keep on trying,” she said.

“We will be introducing the bill tomorrow and this is just the beginning.  We’ll be seeking co-sponsors here in Congress as well as more allies in the education child advocacy communities, as well as celebrity allies who want to be great messengers as we go around the country and try to get support for this effort.”

The National Center for Education's 2009-2010 School Survey on Crime and Safety found that corporal punishment was allowed in 11.6 percent of schools nationwide and actually implemented as a form of punishment in 8.2 percent.

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