France recently became the 52nd country in the world to ban corporal punishment in an attempt to protect its 14 million children. The country officially passed the Equality and Citizenship Bill this week, which explicitly bans “any cruel, degrading, or humiliating treatment, including corporal punishment.”
These types of laws definitely aren’t anything new–Sweden, for instance, was the first nation to ban the use of physical punishment back in 1979. However, not too surprisingly (considering the lack of parental support in the country in general), the U.S. does not actually have federal laws banning the use of corporal punishment.
That being said, the U.S. Supreme Court did rule in 1977 that corporal punishment was constitutional (in the Ingram v. Wright case). But this left a lot to interpretation–which causes many states to have different laws. For example, parents in Delaware cannot hit their kid with a closed fist, but in Oklahoma, parents can if they use “ordinary force.” Cue some bad “Star Wars” joke about the Force.
Did you realize that 19 states still allow public schools to use physical forms of punishment on students? If you think it doesn’t actually happen, it does. According to data from the 2013-2014 Education Week Research Center, more than 109,000 students were subjected to physical punishment in school. If that doesn’t make your skin crawl enough, a 2016 Social Policy Report reported that in 36,942 public schools, African American students were 51% more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment, and children with disabilities were also 50% more likely to be physically punished as well.
Subjecting kids to physical punishment has terrible and devastating effects–which may seem obvious, but apparently it’s not. In a June 2016 study, the data concluded that children who were spanked or paddled were more likely to struggle with mental, health, and cognitive disorders as adults.
This is especially important for educators and parents to remember. If we want our kids to respect boundaries–and understand what consent actually is–we need to teach them that touching anyone without consent is wrong. We all get angry, yes, but anger should never become physical. By using physical touching as a way to teach a child not to do something, what are we actually teaching them?