A school district in rural Missouri has decided to bring back the practice of spanking for this school year, a sort of blast from the past that has no close comparison.
Cassville R-IV, saying parents spoke out about poor student discipline, now allows parents to fill out a form whereby employees are authorized to hit misbehaving children with a wooden paddle. Parents who do not complete such a form or otherwise provide written consent will be exempt. Suspension from school is authorized instead for these children. Located in the southwest corner of the state, the 1,856-student district takes advantage of a provision of state law.
St. Joseph’s School District and all districts in our area have refused to allow such punishment. SJSD Policy JGA-2 prohibits “the use of physical force as a method of correcting student behavior”. No person working as an employee or volunteer “shall administer corporal punishment or cause corporal punishment to be administered to a student”. An exception exists to allow physical restraint if a student becomes violent, but only to the extent necessary to protect others.
Missouri is one of 19 states that have not banned corporal punishment in schools statewide. Kansas is also among those 19; Nebraska and Iowa have bans.
Shannon Nolte, Director of Student Services, oversees classroom discipline throughout SJSD. Nolte, who worked as a superintendent in rural Missouri, said then and now he sees corporal punishment as an issue that is in the hands of elected policymakers. It is not its role to decide what the policy is or should be, but to implement it in the most efficient and equitable way possible. Developing ethical policies is key to making this possible, he said.
“Ethics is not just ‘the law’. It’s the law, it’s the health care system, there are a lot of elements in ethical behavior. It’s not just about following the law,” he said. “So I would recommend that every administrator try to ethically analyze every situation and do what’s best for that student, whether it’s rewarding them positively or providing them with, maybe, some consequence or loss. of privilege. Ethically examine what is best for this student and what is best for all students.”
The Department of Primary and Secondary Education issues limited guidance on this.
“Policies relating to student discipline are developed locally and voted on by local school boards in accordance with state law,” department spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said by email. “…Senate Bill 681 was recently passed with a provision that amends Section 160.261. School districts will now be required to notify parents and receive written permission before using corporal punishment.
Cassville R-IV did not respond to a request for comment on its policy, the nature of which is not without criticism: The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry is advocating for state legislatures to ban the practice.
“Corporal punishment signals to the child that one way to resolve interpersonal conflict is to use physical force and inflict pain,” the academy said in a 2014 statement. in turn resort to such behavior themselves. They may also fail to develop trusting and secure relationships with adults… Supervising adults who deliberately humiliate children and punish them with force and pain often cause more harm than they prevent.