Disabled Children More Likely to Receive Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools

Friday, August 14, 2009

A study by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch on corporal punishment found the use of physical punishment is disproportionately used on students with disabilities in American schools. While disabled students make up 13.7% of the school population in the U.S., they endure 18.8% of all corporal punishment handed out by school officials, with paddling being the most common practice.

The authors of the report noted that “human rights law protects students with disabilities from violence and cruel and inhuman treatment, and guarantees them non-discriminatory access to an inclusive education.” They also pointed out that disabled students, who already face hurdles to receiving a quality education, are likely to struggle even more as a result of being paddled or enduring other forms of physical punishment. They cite other studies showing that “beatings can damage the trust between educator and student, corrode the educational environment, and leave the student unable to learn effectively,” resulting in more students dropping out.
Currently, 20 states permit the use of corporal punishment in local schools. Its use is most common in the South. In Tennessee, disabled students were twice as likely as other students to receive corporal punishment.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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