Missouri Is One of Just 15 States to Permit Corporal Punishment in Schools


Corporal punishment, a.k.a. the inflicting of pain on students as punishment or to right behaviors, may sound like a thing of the past — a behavioral measure reserved for the strictest teachers and schools back in the day. But according to a December 1 NPR report, corporal punishment is still legal in some states — and those states include Missouri.

According NPR, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. recently addressed the issue of corporal punishment in a letter to the country's governors and state school chiefs. He noted that, while it's illegal in most states for schools to hit their students, seven states do not prohibit the practice — and fifteen states expressly permit it.

Missouri, naturally, is one of the fifteen states to clearly delineate that such violence is legal, according to a map provided by the Department of Education.

King's letter was motivated by an Education Week investigation of corporal punishment in the present day. In the letter, he notes that corporal punishment is used disproportionately among students, particularly students of color or with disabilities. More than 110,000 students experienced corporal punishment during the 2013 to 2014 school year, he writes.

Unfortunately, the information shouldn't come as much surprise to Missouri — the Show Me State has long justified allowing such harsh discipline as necessary to ensure "religious liberty. As we previously reported, a day care "maintained or operated under the exclusive control of a religious organization" is also expressly permitted to engage in corporal punishment.

In his letter, King recognizes that some people may consider this longstanding form of discipline to be "tradition," but he emphasizes that past practice is not reason to continue something that has proven detrimental effects.

In the letter, he urges abandoning the practice.

"One critical step would be to cease the use of corporal punishment in all of our public schools," he writes. "It is difficult for a school to be considered safe or supportive if its students are fearful of being physically punished by the adults who are charged with supporting their learning and their future."

Other groups, such as the American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, National Education Association and numerous others are also calling for a ban on corporal punishment.

You can read King's letter in its entirety here.

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