NewsWorldMissouri school district brings back spanking for unruly children

Missouri school district brings back spanking for unruly children

Spanking is staging a comeback this school year in the classrooms of one small town in southwestern Missouri, where the district will now allow corporal punishment for any unruly student whose parents give their blessing.

In Cassville, about 50 miles west of Branson, administrators this week notified parents of the new policy at an open meeting and handed out consent forms to sign, according to a parent who attended the meeting.

“At the end of the day, this gives the school one more tool to use to discipline a child, without sending them home on suspension where they’d just play video games,” said Dylan Burns, 28, a local farmer who favors the option of corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment was a widely accepted means of maintaining discipline in U.S. schools during the 19th and early 20th century, but the practice has faded in recent decades.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporal punishment in schools was constitutional, giving states the right to decide on their own. Since then, many states have prohibited the practice.

But 19 U.S. states still allow it, most of them in the South, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said he was surprised to hear about Cassville’s decision.

“The trend in America has been going the other way – places are dropping it altogether,” he said. “This is the first one I’ve heard of anyone adopting it.

“The Cassville school district, which serves 1,900 students, formally adopted the policy in June, according to its website. It says corporal punishment is an option “only when all other alternative means of discipline have failed” and needs to be administered without any “chance of bodily injury or harm.”

The website does not specify the preferred form that the corporal punishment will take, only saying that “striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.”

“It’s absolutely a terrible practice,” Wexler said. “There is no need for a teacher or an administrator to ever physical strike or assault a child,” he said. “It doesn’t punish, it traumatizes.”

Efforts to reach Merlyn Johnson, superintendent of the Cassville R-IV School District, were not immediately successful. Members of the school board either declined comment or could not be reached.

Burns, the farmer, has two children in the school system, a fifth grader and a preschooler. He said many parents in Cassville, a town of 3,000 near the Arkansas border, supported the idea.

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation going around on this,” he said. “No one is holding a child down and beating them, it’s one or two paddles.”

Burns said he already warned his children about the possible consequences of misbehaving in school.

“My kids are good kids,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be an issue.”


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