Hands off

Published 1:32 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

You may have heard the story of the mother who believed it necessary to spank her children as a form of discipline. One day, she observed her 3-year-old daughter hitting her 1-year-old son. When the mother confronted the daughter, the child responded, “I’m just playing mommy.”
That mother never spanked a child again.
With that story in mind, we salute the state Senate for Tuesday’s 50-0 unanimous approval of Senate Bill 498, legislation that will protect some students from the paddle in North Carolina schools.
Sponsored by Sens. Louis Pate, R-Wayne County, and Dr. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland County, the measure allows parents or guardians to declare in writing at the start of the school year that they do not want corporal punishment administered to their child.
“It doesn’t outlaw corporal punishment. It does make it a little more difficult to do,” Purcell told The Associated Press. “Most research shows that hitting students won’t modify long-term behavior.”
Corporal punishment is permitted in North Carolina schools, although the state leaves it up to individual school districts to decide how to administer it. Current requirements dictate the punishment be administered away from other students, by a principal or teacher and with a witness present.
Last year, there were 1,160 corporal-punishment cases reported statewide.
Beaufort County Board of Education policy expressly prohibits the administration of corporal punishment by any school personnel at any time. Only 18 out of the state’s 115 school districts permit the practice. U.S. Department of Education statistics indicate that poor children, minorities, children with disabilities and boys are paddled most frequently in schools.
We believe the General Assembly needs to go one step further and join 31 other states that have outlawed the practice. New Mexico passed legislation in April prohibiting corporal punishment. In fact, more than 100 nations worldwide have abolished the procedure.
The case against corporal punishment is fairly clear. According to the Center for Effective Discipline, a Columbus, Ohio-based group opposed to corporal punishment, “corporal punishment reinforces physical aggression as an acceptable and effective means of eliminating unwanted behavior.” The center also found that corporal punishment “teaches children that violence is a way to solve problems. Research shows that this message is taught to those who inflict pain, those who receive it, and those who witness it.”
It is time, once and for all, for North Carolinians to end the “spare-the-rod, spoil-the-child” mentality and bring an end to corporal punishment in schools.