In over one-third of states across the country, corporal punishment is still allowed in schools, including paddling and other forms of physical discipline.
In the United States, 17 states have yet to explicitly outlaw the use of physical discipline against students, and 14 actively use it. While 90 percent of schools do not use corporal punishment, those that allow it are are almost exclusively in the South. According to federal data, Mississippi uses corporal punishment more than any other state.
Data also reveals that schools disproportionately apply corporal punishment to children who are Black, to boys, and to children with disabilities. Compared to their White peers, Black boys were twice as likely to be paddled.
In August 2023, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement from the Council on School Health that called for corporal punishment to be "abolished in all states by law," stating that "the use of corporal punishment in schools is not an effective or ethical method for management of behavior concerns and causes harm to students."
"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that corporal punishment in all school settings be abolished in all states by law and replaced by alternative forms of student behavior management," it reads. "Corporal punishment remains legal in many public and private schools in the United States and is disproportionately used among Black students and children with disabilities."
The United Nations has also called the practice a human rights violation. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang said that corporal punishment "conflicts with the child's human dignity and the right of the child to physical integrity. It also prevents children from reaching their full potential, by putting at risk their right to health, survival and development. The best interests of the child can never be used to justify such practice."
As corporal punishment has been used for centuries, the schools where it is still in use have been reluctant to give up the practice. Unless all 17 states pass laws banning physical discipline, only federal legislation could ensure its end.