Congressional Action on Corporal Punishment in Schools

Last Updated: August 26, 2010

This article appeared in the August 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Just prior to the Congressional recess, U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” that aims to eliminate the use of corporal punishment in schools. Congressman Phil Hare of Illinois is also a co-sponsor of this legislation.

Corporal punishment remains legal in 20 states and, according to US Department of Education data, is disproportionately used against African-American students and students with disabilities, often with devastating results for the students. (See RPM coverage of this issue at

Rep. McCarthy held a hearing on the issue in April. Among the statistics presented were numbers about how many students are physically disciplined (over 220,000 in 2006–2007) and how many seek medical treatment as a result (10,000 to 20,000).

The bill includes a number of important protections for students, including, but not limited to:

  • Banning corporal punishment in public schools and private schools that serve students receiving federal services;
  • Requiring states to submit plans to the Secretary of Education describing their policies eliminating corporal punishment and making school personnel and parents aware of the ban;
  • Allowing for the withholding of federal funds for failure to comply with the Act;
  • Creating a grant program, in which the Secretary may award grants to state educational agencies to improve school climate and implement school wide positive behavior support approaches (PBS); and,
  • Instituting a National Assessment to be carried out by the Secretary to determine compliance with the Act and to identify best practices, including training models that emphasize positive behavior supports.
Read more:

Coverage on the bill’s introduction:

Letter supporting the legislation signed on by a number of national student advocacy and disability organizations:

Despite growing concern about the use of physical punishment by schools, at least one district is considering implementing it some schools:

Read more from the August 2010 Rural Policy Matters.