Parenthood
Missouri school district reinstates spanking as an acceptable punishment in schools
"The majority of people that I've run into have been supportive," said Superintendent Merlyn Johnson.
Elijah Chan
09.02.22

As a parent, would you allow someone to hit your child in the name of discipline?

Parents resort to different disciplinary measures or use communication practices to instill better behaviors in their children.

Pexels - Dids
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Pexels - Dids

But as they age, they spend less time with their parents and more time at school and with peers. When this happens, the child can be exposed to a different set of disciplinary standards.

Such disciplinary methods can cause an uproar especially when it involves physical punishment.

Just last month, a school district in southwestern Missouri brought back corporal punishment to discipline their student.

Pexels - CDC
Source:
Pexels - CDC

The practice of spanking students was dropped by the Cassville School District last 2001 but was reinstated this year.

YouTube Screenshot - NBC News
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - NBC News

The policy states that the disciplinary measure can only be carried out when other forms of corrective measures, such as suspensions, have failed and can only be done with the superintendent’s permission.

The action came after an anonymous survey revealed concerns about student behaviors.

“We’ve had people actually thank us for it,” Superintendent Merlyn Johnson said, as quoted by NPR. “Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I’ve run into have been supportive.”

YouTube Screenshot - NBC News
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YouTube Screenshot - NBC News

Parents, however, are on the fence. One of them said that some kids need spanking but did not opt into the same disciplinary program because their child has autism and will fight back once hit.

Experts also say that this kind of disciplinary action is not effective.

Not only does it change the child’s behavior, but it can also exacerbate it – which is in contradiction to what the program is trying to achieve.

YouTube Screenshot - NBC News
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - NBC News

According to the WHO, corporal punishment can result in a range of negative outcomes for children no matter the country, culture, or race. While physical harm is most apparent, it can also affect children socially, emotionally, and psychologically.

YouTube Screenshot - NBC News
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YouTube Screenshot - NBC News

It can also frame a school as a violent institution, which can be detrimental to a student’s learning. Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer with the American Psychological Association said that such punishment “will not reduce inappropriate behavior” and will only increase “rage, hostility, and risk to depression”.

For some observers, the move is also deemed racially motivated.

Sarah Font, associate professor of sociology and public policy at Pennsylvania State University, coauthored a study tackling the topic.

YouTube Screenshot - NBC News
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YouTube Screenshot - NBC News

The research revealed that corporal punishment is employed in generally poor, Republican-leaning rural areas in the South and that children of color are disproportionately subjected to such punishment.

But the pushback against the practice is far from over.

Moves to ban corporal punishments in Missouri have failed to gain traction but Senator Christopher Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, is pushing to ban the practice in schools that receive federal funding.

YouTube Screenshot - NBC News
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - NBC News

“Corporal punishment in schools has been on the decline for such a long time,” Font said to The Guardian. “There’s increased awareness of how ineffective it is as a discipline strategy and the potential for harm.”

As such, the district’s move to reinstate such punishment remains controversial.

Learn more about this decision in the video below.

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By Elijah Chan
hi@sbly.com
Elijah Chan is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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