School Climate & Safety

Getting the Paddle

By Christina A. Samuels — August 20, 2008 1 min read
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Human Rights Watch is a strong opponent of paddling in schools, so its report is not a place to find out about the “good side” of paddling. It was joined in the report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Paddling is legal in 21 states, though primarily used in the South, according to statistics gathered for the report from the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, which tracks corporal punishment. The report also includes many witness accounts. In addition to determining that minorities and boys are far more likely to be paddled than white students and girls, the study also found that special education students get paddled more often than general education students.

Special education students are beaten in disproportionate numbers when compared to the general student population, according to data from [The Education Department's office for civil rights]. Focusing on students who qualify for special education under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), IDEA students in Texas made up 18.4 percent of the total number of students who were beaten statewide. However, IDEA students in Texas made up only approximately 10.7 percent of the statewide student population, meaning that they were almost twice as likely to be beaten as might be expected. In Mississippi, IDEA students made up 15.1 percent of those beaten in the 2006-2007 school year, but only 12.2 percent of the statewide student population. Louise P., a former special education teacher in a Mississippi Delta high school, argued that some special education students are paddled more than other students in part because their particular needs are not being met by the school.

I’m sure there is some overlap among special education students, black students, and boys, because black males are overrepresented in some special education categories. Is responding with violence really the best way to cope with violence?

The section of the report that deals specifically with students in special education is here; the full report can be found here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.