McEachin, Bonamici Unveil Legislation to End Corporal Punishment in Schools

September 30, 2020
Press Release

McEachin, Bonamici Unveil Legislation to End Corporal Punishment in Schools

Endorsed by over 25 groups, the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020 builds on Congressman McEachin’s work to protect all students.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today unveiled the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020, his legislation to eliminate the use of corporal punishment in our nation’s schools. Co-introduced by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee, the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020 would federally prohibit the practice of corporal punishment in any school which receives federal funding. The legislation would also establish much-needed enforcement protections and a federal grant program to assist states and school districts in improving the climate and culture of schools across the country.

Substantial research has demonstrated that corporal punishment in schools is not associated in any way with improved student behavior, instead producing similar outcomes to children that suffer physical abuse. Corporal punishment, or the act of inflicting physical pain on a student’s body as a form of discipline, can result in serious physical injury to the student, including abrasions, broken bones, bruising, hematomas, and other medical complications. Further research has demonstrated that this deplorable practice leads to poor academic performance, physical and emotional harm, and damage to students’ self-esteem and trust with educators. This practice is often administered to students in response to tardiness, failing to complete assigned homework, failing a test, talking out of turn, and more.

“The federal government must eradicate corporal punishment in our schools once and for all,” said Congressman McEachin. “No evidence exists demonstrating that corporal punishment is an effective response to student behavior, and yet nearly 20 states permit the sanctioned use of physical violence against students in the classroom. I introduced this critical legislation to ensure that all students in federally-funded schools have a safe, healthy, and high-quality learning environment free of this abhorrent policy. Physical violence against our students, in any form, is a betrayal of our student’s trust, and together, we must pass this bill to protect our students.”

In addition to being both deeply harmful and ineffective, corporal punishment is also disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities. Black male students are roughly twice as likely to be subjected to corporal punishment as white male students, and Black female students are three times as likely to experience the practice as white female students. Students with disabilities are struck at higher rates than students without disabilities as well, accounting for nearly 15 percent of all corporally punished students.

“Schools must be safe spaces for all students to learn and reach their full potential,” said Congresswoman Bonamici. “It is unconscionable that corporal punishment is still allowed in many states, subjecting students to physical harm that can cause long-lasting damage to their physical, mental, and academic well-being. It is especially troubling that corporal punishment has long been disproportionately used against Black students and students with disabilities. I’m leading the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act with Rep. McEachin to finally end corporal punishment in our schools, and support practices such as positive behavioral intervention supports (PBIS), that promote safe and positive learning environments.”

“It is unfathomable that any student would be struck in school for any reason as a form of discipline,” said Katherine Dunn, SPLC Action Fund Regional Policy Analyst. “But that is what hundreds of students experience each day in public schools in states where corporal punishment is still permitted. Tragically, Black students and students with disabilities disproportionately bear the brunt of this abusive, counterproductive practice. It must end now. The SPLC Action Fund fully supports the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act, which will eliminate corporal punishment in schools that receive federal funding. And we urge swift passage in Congress.”

“This legislation is a positive step toward reducing the use of corporal punishment in public schools and an important strategy for preventing child abuse and neglect," explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America."Research shows that banning corporal punishment in public institutions protects children and youth, establishing healthier norms around safe, effective discipline strategies versus harsh physical punishment. The majority of our state chapters nationwide, in both red and blue states, are working to ban the use of corporal punishment in some form, including through state-level legislative efforts. We applaud Congressman McEachin for advancing this necessary child abuse and neglect prevention strategy that helps children grow up happy, healthy, and prepared to thrive.”

About the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020
The Protecting Our Students in Schools Act would: 

  • Prohibit the practice of corporal punishment in any school that receives federal funding.
  • Establish a series of important and much-needed enforcement protections, including a private right of action, the involvement of the attorney general and the Office for Civil Rights, and a series of rigorous reporting requirements for states and school districts.
  • Invest in states and school districts by establishing a grant program to assist in efforts to improve school climate and culture by implementing positive, proactive measures, including positive behavioral interventions and supports, trauma-informed care, restorative justice interventions, implicit bias training, and culturally responsive teaching to reduce exclusionary and averse discipline practices.

The full text of the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act is available here

Congressman McEachin’s Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020 is supported by over 25 groups, including The Education Trust, National Disability Rights Network, SPLC Action Fund, National Education Association, GLSEN, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, National Association Of Secondary School Principals, National Association of School Psychologists, the Intercultural Development Research Association, Campaign for Youth Justice, Brian Injury Association of America, the National PTA, American School Counselor Association, Legal Aid Justice Center, Prevent Child Abuse America, Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, National Initiative to End Corporal Punishment, National No Hit Zone Committee, the Up Institute, Nollie Jenkins Family Center, Inc., the International Association of Forensic Nurses, Futures Without Violence, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Southern Education Foundation, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Statements of Support for the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act

“As our country struggles to address a long legacy of racial injustice inside and outside the classroom, we know this to be true: Black and Native students across the country are more likely to be disciplined – and disciplined more harshly – than their White peers for the same behavior,” said Kayla Patrick, senior policy analyst at The Education Trust and co-author of “And they cared”: How to Create Better, Safer Learning Environments for Girls of Color. “This is not inevitable. There are practices and policies that schools and districts can implement to create a safer and more inclusive learning environment – one that is free of corporal punishment and does not punish students for who they are. Passing the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act would be a promising first step in making the promise of an equitable education a reality.”

"Corporal punishment is an outdated, discriminatory, and ineffective method of punishment that disproportionately harms students of color and students with disabilities, resulting in trauma, physical pain, and disengagement from learning," said Morgan Craven, IDRA's National Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Community Engagement. "Instead of paddling, spanking, slapping, and hitting our students, we must support them and equip educators with the knowledge and skills to effectively teach and create safe and supportive classrooms for all."

“As an organization dedicated to eliminating injustice in all forms, we are proud to see the introduction of the Protecting Our Studentsin Schools Act,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of the Youth Justice Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “This legislation is a much-needed effort to make schools safe and welcoming for all students, to improve school climate, and to provide our students with the support they need to be successful in school and in life.”

“Hitting school children with boards must cease in all schools, in all states,” said Stacey Schrieffer LeBlanc, spokesperson for the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. “We now know -with over 1500 conclusive scientific studies- that corporal punishment often results in unintended physical injury and is harmful to children’s health, cognition and brains, which are obviously essential for success in school.  Congressman McEachin's Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020 is critical to stop harmful school administrative practices and policies that condone the infliction of physical pain upon our school children. Ending hitting in schools protects brain development, promotes school success and helps children model respect, master impulse control and develop a moral compass critical to success."

“The Council for Exceptional Children and its members are committed to evidence-based practices that yield positive results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities,” said Dr. Jennifer Lesh, Council for Exceptional Children President. It is widely accepted that the extremely harmful practice of corporal punishment impacts students with disabilities at a disproportionately high rate. I applaud Congressman McEachin for his leadership on this bill and his commitment to banning corporal punishment and reframing the focus to positive behavioral initiatives.

“Educators strive always to follow the evidence toward most effective practices in schools. That evidence leads us nowhere near the infliction of physical harm on students as a means of discipline,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Secondary School Principals. “In fact, such antiquated practices are linked with higher levels of anxiety and depression, lower achievement, and violent behavior. The Protecting Our Student in Schools Act places a long-overdue prohibition on this dangerous and counterproductive practice and, just as important, encourages schools to build the kind of culture where discipline is meted fairly and restoratively, where violence of any kind is not tolerated or reinforces, and where students learn how to grow into their best selves. We are pleased to support the Protecting Our Student in Schools Act, and we thank Rep. McEachin for introducing it.”