Alabama Is One of 19 States That Still Allows Paddling Children in Schools

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2016.

Call it paddling, spanking, or corporal punishment, but don’t be surprised that it still exists. Physically punishing children by striking or hitting may seem archaic, but 19 states still permit it as a disciplinary measure in public schools – and Alabama is one of them. Here’s what parents of students in Alabama schools need to know about corporal punishment.

Data on Paddling

Of the 19 states that allow paddling as a disciplinary measure, Alabama ranks third in overall numbers of students who receive this method of discipline. Here, 2.5% of students were paddled in the 2013-2014 school year, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Only Mississippi and Arkansas ranked higher, with 5.1% and 3.1% of students paddled, respectively.

Certain Alabama schools paddle decidedly more than others. Selma Middle CHAT Academy (Selma City District) paddled the most students – 64.9% of their student body – in 2013-2014. The other top 5 schools for paddling were Hollywood Elementary of Jackson County at 50%, Marshall Middle School of Conecuh County at 43.3%, Greenville High School of Butler County at 41.4%, and Constantine Elementary School of Anniston County at 41.1%.

Gender and Racial Implications of Paddling

The same data from the DOE shows there were significant gender and racial divides in terms of which students were more likely to receive paddling as a punishment. Boys were paddled far more often than girls, at a ratio of roughly 4.5 to 1. Black males were paddled most often. About 35% of the overall black male population of Alabama students experienced paddling, even though they make up only about 24% of the total student population. Black girls accounted for 47% of all girls paddled, though they made up only about 25% of total student population.

Recommendations Against Paddling

Even though paddling is not generally considered controversial within the state of Alabama, on a more national level it tends to be a hotter topic. The American Academy of Pediatrics, among many other professional organizations, has called for a ban on paddling nationwide, stating findings that show corporal punishment has adverse effects on children’s self-esteem and academic achievement. It also may contribute to, rather than prevent, violent or disruptive behavior. The National Education Association has called for a ban as well, for similar reasons.

Alabama Law on Paddling

Here’s what Alabama law says about paddling in schools:

“No student has a right to be unruly in his or her classroom to the extent that such disruption denies fellow students of their right to learn. The teacher in each classroom is expected to maintain order and discipline. Teachers are hereby given the authority and responsibility to use appropriate means of discipline up to and including corporal punishment as may be prescribed by the local board of education. So long as teachers follow approved policy in the exercise of their responsibility to maintain discipline in their classroom, such teacher shall be immune from civil or criminal liability. It shall be the responsibility of the local boards of education and the administrators employed by them to provide legal support to each teacher exercising his or her authority and responsibility to maintain order and discipline in his or her classroom as long as the teacher follows the local board of education’s policy.”

Generally, however, teachers do not paddle the students themselves. More often this task falls to administrators, such as a dean of students or an assistant principal.

Paddling in Decline

Even though Alabama schools practice paddling at one of the highest rates in the country, the practice does seem to be gradually declining. In the data for 2013-2014, roughly 19,000 students were paddled at some point, down about 50% from the year 2000’s estimate of almost 40,000 students.