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Archive for the ‘Child Abuse’ Category

Taking Aim at Violence against Children

Part III

Child Sex Trafficking

Bullying

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Introduction

Part III of this four-part series is about child sex trafficking, bullying, and corporal punishment in the schools.  All of these areas pertain to violence perpetrated against children in the United States. Some predators in this country are out there lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to harm children. Some of these predators are in plain sight like the classroom of many schools. Some of these are simply bullies on the playground, or who also use the internet as a proxy for bullying. Some predators are pragmatic, looking to lure or abduct children for sex trafficking.

School is supposed to be a safe haven for children where learning and educational growth takes place. Unfortunately, what the public believes about schools is not what really takes place there. Predators of all kinds are in waiting for your child to come to school. There are administrators and teachers who are sexual predators by molesting children under their charge. There are female teachers who have been added to state sex offender registration files following arrest and conviction for having sex with their students (usually teenage boys). There are male teachers and coaches who have also been arrested for molesting children (Does Pennsylvania State University and Sandusky come to mind?). School is supposed to be safe for children; sometimes it isn’t.

Child Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking is the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying or selling of a child through force, threats, fraud, deception, or coercion for the purposes of exploitation, prostitution, pornography, migrant work, sweat shops, domestic servitude, forced labor, bondage, peonage or involuntary servitude.

Child sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. UNICEF values the global market of child sex trafficking at over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. Trafficking children into the sex industry is done because there is a demand. Predators seek out vulnerable victims and lure them under false pretenses into situations they cannot escape. No matter the reason, children have become sexual commodities to be bought and sold for the pleasure of exploiters. These children are scarred for life and need help.

Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand.  Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Those committing sex trafficking frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry.

Child Trafficking Statistics

  • Child/Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Child/ human trafficking is the  world’s second largest criminal enterprise, after drugs. U.S. State Department
  • The global market of child trafficking is over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. UNICEF
  • As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the US. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • The average age of entry for children victimized by the sex trade industry is 12 years. U.S. Department of Justice
  • Approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50% are minors.  U.S.State Department
  • The average number of victims for non-incestuous pedophiles who molest girls is 20, for pedophiles who prefer boys 100! The Association For the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)
  • 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. U.S. Department of Justice
  • 600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. U.S. Department of State, 2004, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C.
  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • An average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Study
  • Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States right now.  Nationally, there has been a 2500% increase in arrests in 10 years. FBI
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helps to identify and locate children in pornography photos and videos, says its staff reviewed more than 10.5 million images in 2009 alone.
  • Reports of exploited children grow every year. In 2009, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children received more than 120,000 reports on its cyber tip line. In 2010, the number grew to over 160,000 with the vast majority being from child pornography.

Worldwide, 5.5 million children are victims of forced labor and child trafficking. They have been bought and sold, forced into prostitution, or made to work at grueling, dangerous jobs with little or no pay.

To Report Human Trafficking Crimes in Your Area:

For questions, referrals, resources or to report a tip in your area, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or email the organization at NHTRC@PolarisProject.org

 

Bullying

It has been a rather eye-opening experience writing this four-part series to realize sadly that people of all ages and persuasions in our society can really be quite unkind to one another. Bullying isn’t just about children on the playground at school. All throughout one’s life bullying can occur in a number of social contexts including: Cyber bullying, Disability bullying, Gay bullying, Legal bullying, Military bullying, Parental bullying, Prison bullying, School bullying, Sexual bullying, and even Workplace bullying in such areas as academia, blue collar jobs, information technology, medicine, nursing, and teaching.

Because of space limitations, and my emphasis on children, I’m only going to discuss definitions of bullying, psychological characteristics of those who bully, parental bullying, school bullying and discuss the effects of bullying.

In Part IV I will set forth a set of recommendations on how to more effectively take aim at this form of child abuse. Some of the ideas will be my own, but others will come from organizations that want to do something about it.

Definition of Bullying

Bullying is defined as the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target.” Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

Bullying is detrimental to students’ well-being and development. And, it can take many forms and occurs in many different contexts. A bullying culture can develop in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. For purposes of this Blog, emphasis will be placed on bullying within the school and its effect on children.

U.S. National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying can be classified into two categories:

  1. Direct bullying, and
  2. Indirect bullying (which is also known as social aggression).

Psychological Characteristics of Those Who Bully

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, bullies can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied. Some have argued that a bully reflects the environment of his home, repeating the model he learned from his parents. Sometimes kids who are dominated by their parents often transfer their anger and bully other kids at school or in the neighborhood.

Researchers have identified other risk factors such as depression and personality, as well as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others’ actions as hostile, concern with preserving self-image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions. A combination of these factors may also be causes of this behavior. In one recent study of youth, a combination of antisocial traits and depression was found to be the best predictor of youth violence, whereas video game violence and television violence exposure were not predictive of these behaviors.

According to some researchers, bullies may be inclined toward negativity and perform poorly academically. Dr. Cook says that “a typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically. He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward him or herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative, and is negatively influenced by peers.”

Parental Bullying

Parents who may displace their anger, insecurity, or a persistent need to dominate and control, upon their children in excessive ways have been proven to increase the likelihood that their own children will in turn become overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers.

The American Psychological Association advises on its website that parents who may suspect that their own children may be engaging in bullying activities amongst their peers, should carefully consider the examples which they themselves may be setting for their own children, regarding how they typically interact with their own peers, colleagues, and children.

Do the parents typically motivate their peers and their children with positive and self-confidence building incentives, or do they most often attempt to motivate their peers and children with certain “threats” of one form of “punishment” or “reprisal” or another (emotional or physical blackmail)?

Research indicates that adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be a particularly strong risk factor.

School Bullying

Bullying can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it may occur more frequently in physical education classes and activities, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and while waiting for buses, and in classes that require group work and/or after school activities.

One factor that is often overlooked is that the bully has an overall inferiority complex.  No matter what the social context, the bully often is actually a coward masquerading as a tough guy.

Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies may taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next victim.

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse such as passive aggression, humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.

Effects of Bullying on Those Who are Targets

Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, “There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide.” Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.

Bullying has also been shown to cause maladjustment in young children, and victims of bullying who were also bullies themselves exhibit even greater social difficulties. In the long term it can lead to posttraumatic stress syndrome and an inability to form relationships.

There is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 children commit suicide every year in the UK alone, because they are being bullied. Bullied students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Since then, bullying has been more closely linked to high school violence in general.

Serial killers were frequently bullied through direct and indirect methods as children or adolescents. Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer and diagnosed psychopath, said the ridicule and rejection he suffered as a child caused him to hate everyone. Kenneth Bianchi, a serial killer and member of the Hillside Stranglers, was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants and suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

Incidence of Corporal Punishment in the United States

In 2008, 223,190 students received corporal punishment in schools in the 20 remaining states that allow hitting or hurting students. The top ten states in administering corporal punishment included:

Texas (49,197)

Mississippi (38,131)

Alabama (33,716)

Arkansas (22,314)

Georgia (18,249)

Oklahoma (14,828)

Tennessee (14,568)

Louisiana (11,080)

Florida (7,185)

Missouri (5,159)

The top five states listed above accounted for 72.4% of the number of children who were victimized by corporal punishment. All five top states in corporal punishment in 2008 were Red States in the 2012 presidential election. Of the top 10 states in corporal punishment 9 out of 10 of these states were Red States in the 2012 election.

Impact of Corporal Punishment

One area of logical importance is to answer the question, what impact does Corporal Punishment have on academic success of students? On April 15, 2010 a joint HRW/ACLU statement was made in a hearing before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities. The title of their statement fits in very nicely with my question. The title of the statement was “Corporal Punishment in Schools and Its Effect on Academic Success.”

I. Introduction

Dear Chairperson McCarthy, Ranking Member Platts, and Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its over half a million members, countless additional supporters and activists, and fifty-three affiliates nationwide and Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, we applaud the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities for conducting a hearing concerning the ongoing corporal punishment of American public school children and its impact on their educational success.

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization working daily in courts, Congress, and communities to defend and preserve the civil rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.  For thirty years, Human Rights Watch has investigated human rights violations wherever they occur, including in the United States, exposed the perpetrators, and advocated for change. We are pleased to submit this written statement for the record on the issue of corporal punishment in public schools – a vitally important issue affecting children’s access to high-quality education and a safe and supportive learning atmosphere.

II. The Ongoing Use of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.[1]  Despite the many problems associated with the hitting or paddling of students, corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states.[2]  Of these, thirteen states have reported that corporal punishment was inflicted on over one thousand students[3] — and eight states reported its use against at least ten thousand students[4]— during the 2006-2007 school year. While significant, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  These statistics only reflect data which has been reported to the Department of Education and they only include the number of students who are subjected to corporal punishment during the school year, not the total number of times that an individual student has been hit over his or her educational career.[5]

Aside from the infliction of pain and the physical injuries which often result from the use of physical punishments, these violent disciplinary methods also impact students’ academic achievement and long-term well-being.[6]  Despite significant evidence that corporal punishment is detrimental to a productive learning environment, there is currently no federal prohibition on the use of physical discipline against children in public school.  In fact, children in some states receive greater protections against corporal punishment in detention facilities than they do in their public schools.[7]  For this reason and others, the ACLU and HRW are encouraged that this subcommittee is seeking to address the problems stemming from corporal punishment in schools.

III. The Disproportionate Use of Corporal Punishment

Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment, hampering their access to a supportive learning environment.  According to the Department of Education, while African Americans make up 17.1 percent of public school students nationwide, they accounted for 35.6 percent of those who were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year.[8] In A Violent Education and Impairing Education, two joint reports published by the ACLU and HRW detailing the effects of corporal punishment in public schools, interviewees noted the disproportionate application of corporal punishment:

  • One Mississippi high school student described the administration of corporal punishment in her school this way: “every time you walk down the hall you see a black kid getting whipped. I would say out of the whole school there are only about three white kids who have gotten paddled.”[9]
  • A Mississippi teacher also noted the racial disparity in the administration of corporal punishment: “I’ve heard this said at my school and at other schools: ‘this child should get less whips, it’ll leave marks.’ Students that are dark-skinned, it takes more to let their skin be bruised. Even with all black students, there is an imbalance: darker-skinned students get worse punishment. This really affected me, being a dark-skinned person myself.”[10]

Evidence shows that students with disabilities are also disproportionally subjected to corporal punishment. The Department of Education has reported that although students with disabilities constitute 13.7 percent of all public school students, they make up 18.8 percent of those who are subjected to corporal punishment.[11]  In many of these cases, students were punished for exhibiting behaviors related to their disabilities, such as autism or Tourette’s syndrome.[12]  The effects of corporal punishment on students with disabilities can dramatically impact their behavior and hamper their academic performance. In Impairing Education, parents and grandparents of students with disabilities noted the changes in behavior and barriers to educational achievement stemming from the use of corporal punishment:

  • A grandmother of a student who has Asperger’s syndrome withdrew him from his Oklahoma school in part because of the hostile environment stemming from frequent use of corporal punishment: “It made him much more introverted. He very much didn’t want to go to school . . . No one’s supposed to go to school to be tortured, school is supposed to be fun.” [13]
  • A mother of a student with autism reported that her son’s behavior changed after he was struck in his Florida school: “He’s an avoider by nature, before he was never aggressive. Now, he struggles with anger; right after the incidents he’d have anger explosions.”[14]

Hitting any student should be an unacceptable practice, but the disproportionate application of corporal punishment further undermines the educational environment for minority groups and students with disabilities.[15]  A federal prohibition on corporal punishment in public schools is necessary to protect students from the discriminatory impact and the academic harms which it brings.       

IV. The Impact of Corporal Punishment on Students’ Academic Performance

Harsh physical punishments do not improve students’ in-school behavior or academic performance.  In fact, one recent study found that in states where corporal punishment is frequently used, schools have performed worse academically than those in states that prohibit corporal punishment.[16]  While most states demonstrated improvements in their American College Testing (ACT) scores from 1994 to 2008, “as a group, states that paddled the most improved their scores the least.”[17] At the same time “the ten states with the longest histories of forbidding corporal punishment improved the most” with improvement rates three times higher than those states which reported frequent use of corporal punishment.[18]

Many children who have been subjected to hitting, paddling or other harsh disciplinary practices have reported subsequent problems with depression, fear and anger.[19]  These students frequently withdraw from school activities and disengage academically.[20] The Society for Adolescent Medicine has found that victims of corporal punishment often develop “deteriorating peer relationships, difficulty with concentration, lowered school achievement, antisocial behavior, intense dislike of authority, somatic complaints, a tendency for school avoidance and school drop-out, and other evidence of negative high-risk adolescent behavior.”[21]  One Mississippi student interviewed for A Violent Education described the effects of corporal punishment on his attitude towards school:

  • “[Y]ou could get a paddling for almost anything. I hated it. It was used as a way to degrade, embarrass students. . . I said I’d never take another paddling, it’s humiliating, and it’s degrading. Some teachers like to paddle students. Paddling causes you to lose respect for a person, stop listening to them.”[22]

Corporal punishment places parents and teachers in positions where they may have to choose between educational advancement and students’ physical well-being.  For instance, some parents who learn that their children are being struck at public school find themselves without recourse, unable to effectively opt-out from the practice, and unable to obtain legal or other redress when their children have been paddled against their wishes.  Ultimately some parents find that the only way they can protect their children from physical harm is to withdraw them from school altogether.[23]  Similarly, teachers who work in schools where corporal punishment is administered are often reluctant to send disruptive students out of the classroom because they are afraid the students will be beaten.[24]

Moreover, a public school’s use of corporal punishment affects every student in that school, including those who are not personally subjected to hitting or paddling.  The prevalent use of physical violence against students creates an overall threatening school atmosphere that impacts students’ ability to perform academically.[25]  Often, children who experience or witness physical violence will themselves develop disruptive and violent behaviors, further disturbing their classmates’ learning as well as their own.[26]

Corporal punishment is a destructive form of discipline that is ineffective in producing educational environments in which students can thrive. Rather than relying on harsh and threatening disciplinary tactics, schools and teachers should be encouraged to develop positive behavior supports (PBS), which have proven effective in reducing the need for harsh discipline while supporting a safe and productive learning environment.[27] The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 2597) would help states and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) create positive learning environments by allowing them to use Title I funds to develop PBS practices.  This bill would also require the Department of Education to provide assistance and support so that states may fully realize the potential of supportive and flexible behavior discipline practices. By abandoning ineffective and brutal disciplinary practices, and by encouraging the adoption of PBS methods, our nation can provide opportunities for all students to achieve academic success in a supportive and safe school environment.

V. Recommendations

In order to prevent the continued use of violence against children in our schools, we recommend that Congress:

  • Introduce and pass federal legislation prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in public schools, conditioned on the receipt of federal funding.
  • Define corporal punishment as any punishment by which physical force is used with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.
  • Promote the use of positive behavioral supports by passing H.R. 2597, and provide teachers and school administrators with the tools and resources necessary to develop safe and effective methods for encouraging positive student behavior
  • Provide students and their families with a private right of action to enforce their rights to be free from physical punishment and to a safe and supportive learning environment in administrative or judicial actions.
  • Require all schools and LEAs to report all instances where corporal punishment is used, not just the number of students who are punished in a given year. This data should be collected and disaggregated by student subgroups to assess disproportionate application.
  • Provide funding to those states which implement PBS practices so that teachers may be effectively trained to create safe and supportive school discipline plans.

VI. Conclusion

The use of violence against students is never an acceptable means of punishment – it harms students physically, psychologically and academically.  The use of corporal punishment in schools is interfering with students’ right to be treated with dignity and, as a result, is interfering with their right to a quality education.  By prohibiting the use of corporal punishment and helping states to develop safe and effective behavioral practices, this Congress could help to ensure that our nation’s children are able to achieve their full educational potential in a supportive learning environment.

Research Findings on Youth Violence

There are many reasons why violence and corporal punishment is psychologically and sociologically connected in American society. This and the next section will clarify what that connection is. Sadly, the data will show that there is even a correlation between corporal punishment and school shootings. What follows are some highlights of these connections based on a review of the research literature.  Numerous reports in the popular media have speculated on plausible causes for such extreme youth violence—guns were too available; parents were not involved; boys are socialized to repress emotion; violence permeates the culture; and children are desensitized to the effects of violence by television, movies, and videogames. Causal factors have been suspected across all of the nested systems that Bronfenbrenner (1979) described as composing the ecology of child development and all aspects of what Super and Harkness (1986) have termed the developmental niche. However, there have been relatively few empirical investigations of the cultural contributions to youth violence.

In one such study, Lynch and Cicchetti (1998) examined neighborhood influences in the development and functioning of 7- to 12-year-olds. They found that children displayed more externalizing problems when they had a history of abuse and also lived in neighborhoods characterized by high levels of violence. Said another way, aspects of children’s direct experience (abuse) and the larger environment in which it occurred (violence in the neighborhood, not necessarily involving the child or family directly) interacted to predict levels of externalizing or “acting out” behavior.

Regionally based differences in the cultural sanctioning of violence are evident within the United States. Cohen and colleagues, for example, found Southerners to be more accepting of interpersonal violence in certain circumstances. Compared to students from the North, college students from southern states were more likely to respond with physiologic arousal (increased cortisol and testosterone levels and aggression) to insults and perceived threats to their honor [Cohen et al., 1996].

Southern white males, in particular, tended to endorse the use of violence for protection, defense, and the socialization of children (Cohen and Nisbett, 1994).

 

Research on Corporal Punishment

Of particular relevance to this Blog is the alleged socialization of children by violent means such as corporal punishment, i.e., the intentional infliction of physical pain in the service of discipline. The application of corporal punishment in schools by individuals serving in loco parentis is described. The research on corporal punishment by parents or other caretakers was described in Part II on child abuse. The practice in schools varies regionally.

Physical punishment has been an integral part of American education since its earliest days (Hyman and Wise, 1979). As recently as 1976, only Massachusetts and New Jersey prohibited school officials from using corporal punishment to discipline students. Currently, school corporal punishment is banned in 30 states and permitted in 20.

The practice is widely allowed by state statute or local district policy in 13 states (AL, AR, CO, ID, IN, KE, LA, MS, MO, NM, SC, TN, TX). Although it is permitted in 10 states, the majority of students attend school in districts that have adopted a ban on corporal punishment (AZ, DE, FL, GA, KS, NC, OH, OK, PA, WY) (National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in the Schools [NCACPS], 1997).

Southern states are overrepresented among permitting states (62% compared with 32% of total), and northeast states among the prohibiting (30% compared with 18% of total).

Several sources of evidence suggest that this policy may be linked to violence at school and beyond.

Hyman (1995) argued persuasively that the infliction of corporal punishment on children in schools is part of a larger web of punitiveness and authoritarian beliefs in American society. Not only does this cultural dependency on punitive measures for societal control mitigate against efforts to ban corporal punishment from the schools nationally, it may also amplify negative consequences for children who are so punished. Strauss (1994) described this phenomenon as a “cultural spillover,” arguing that the spillover of violence from one cultural domain to others accounted for observations that statewide homicide rates and assault rates by children in schools varied with the level of school corporal punishment allowed by the state.

Additional empirical evidence has linked corporal punishment to child abuse and extreme punishment. Maltreatment rates in countries such as Sweden, where corporal punishment of children in any setting is legally banned, as well as in countries such as Finland, China, and Japan, where the practice is rare, are significantly lower than in the United States (Belsky, 1980;Strauss, 1994; Zigler and Hall, 1989).

Within the United States, higher rates of child abuse fatalities occur in states that permit corporal punishment in the schools (Arcus and Ryan, 1999). Finally, Streib [cited in Hyman, 1995] found that states reporting the 10 highest rates of school paddlings were also those with the greatest number of youths awaiting capital punishment in the state judicial system.

Although the correlational nature of these data limits causal inference, critics of school corporal punishment have argued that it encourages aggression by (1) promoting the merits of applying violent responses to children’s behavior, (2) framing violence as an acceptable phenomenon, and (3) modeling its use by authority figures (e.g., American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997; Hyman and Perone, 1998; Society for Adolescent Medicine, 1992).

The chief rebuttal criticism hinges on the complexity of the issue and numerous confounding factors. Three major correlates of the endorsement and use of corporal punishment—poverty, religious views, and geographic region—are also interwoven with each other and with aggression and violence.

The southern region of the United States, overrepresented among states permittingschool corporal punishment and often referred to as the “Bible belt,” has historically been associated with low per capita income and a high prevalence of fundamentalist religious denominations.

The chronic stresses of impoverishment may exacerbate aggressive tendencies in individuals living under such conditions. Poverty in families has been associated with authoritarian parenting and the physical and emotional neglect of children (Tonge et al., 1975). Additionally, families in poverty in which there are also several young children, male children, and drug or alcohol problems, are among those with the highest rates of physical child abuse (Wolfner and Gelles, 1993).

Poverty is also related to religious affiliation. Fundamentalist or conservative Christian denominations are overrepresented among the poor (McDowell and Friedman, 1979), and these religious traditions promote punitive childrearing strategies that endorse the use of corporal punishment (Ellison et al., 1996; Grasmick and McGill, 1994; Greven, 1991; Kilbourne, 1999).

Prevailing fundamentalist childrearing philosophies may also influence public school education, and they have been used as a basis for opposition to reform initiatives stemming from constructivist (e.g., Piagetian) learning models (Berliner, 1997). Hence, any investigation of the association between school corporal punishment and school violence needs to account for at least these correlated factors.

 

Opposition to Corporal Punishment

People reading this Blog should seriously ask this question: Would you want your children or grandchildren enrolled in a school where they run the risk of being hit or hurt? Even as long ago as 230 years, people felt this was a very bad idea and highly unacceptable. Poland in 1783 was the first country in the world to abolish corporal punishment.

In the United States New Jersey outlawed corporal punishment in 1867. Our southern and mid-western states appear, in the 21st Century, to be a “Wee-bit-slow” to get rid of corporal punishment.

At the current time a majority of thirty out of 50 states (60%) have abolished corporal punishment in their schools. What is it about our predominantly southern and mid-western bible-belt conservative states that cause them to tenaciously hold on to school policies that foster and promote child abuse?  Corporal punishment is often described by psychologists as “sloppy behaviorism” and, as an educational policy or tool, has neither scientific merit nor educational value.

Important prestigious national organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA) are unanimous in opposing corporal punishment and institutionalized child abuse in the schools.

Here is an excerpt from the April 14, 2010 NEA letter to the House Education and Labor Committee on Corporal Punishment in schools. According to the NEA, “On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we write to express our position on corporal punishment and effective school safety strategies, in advance of this week’s Education and Labor Committee hearing on Corporal Punishment in Schools and its Effect on School Success…NEA believes that all educators and students have the right to work and learn in a safe school environment. Educators know that a positive, effective learning environment leads to successful student outcomes. We also know that there is no evidence to support the use of corporal punishment in schools as a strategy that leads to positive student engagement and learning. NEA categorically opposes the use of corporal punishment as a school discipline technique. It is more than ineffective – it is harmful.”

Another letter comes from the United Nations to end the corporal punishment of children. Because of its global importance, I have elected to present it in its entirety.

Statement by the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, at the event on Ending Corporal Punishment of Children

Geneva, Palais des Nations – Room XXII
 22 January 2013

Dear Ambassador,
Permanent Representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honored and delighted to join you in this discussion on how to end the corporal punishment of children.  I thank the Permanent Missions of Finland, Tunisia and Uruguay for organizing this event. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the work undertaken by civil society to bring this issue close to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, and particularly the efforts by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

We have come a long way since the publication of the UN Study on Violence against Children in 2006, produced by Professor Pinheiro with the support of OHCHR, UNICEF and WHO. As we all know, the UN Study brought to light the tragic reality and magnitude of the problem posed by violence against children, confirming that it exists in every country and takes place in different settings, including the family, the school, institutions and the community.  While six years have passed since then, most of the findings and recommendations of the Study remain valid today. UNICEF’s report on “Child Disciplinary Practices at Home” confirms that violent disciplinary measures are extremely common and that more work is needed to fight violence against children, including corporal punishment, all over the world.

Certainly efforts have been made in a number of regions and countries to implement the UN Study recommendations, and we need to celebrate some of the positive steps. Six years ago, there were only 11 States that had prohibited corporal punishment in all settings. Today, more than 30 States have done so, and 18 others have made public commitments to follow suit.

The UN Study urged States to prohibit all forms of violence against children, in all settings, including all corporal punishment, harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and so-called honor crimes, sexual violence, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment, as required by international treaties, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The recently adopted General Comment No. 13 of the CRC, on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, reinforces this recommendation.

In addition, this same recommendation has been reiterated by OHCHR in its different reports on child rights to the Human Rights Council. I would like to describe in more detail some references to corporal punishment that feature in our reports, and reflect OHCHR’s position on the matter.

In our latest report, which will be presented to the Council this March, on the right of the child to health, we stress that the burden of mortality and morbidity of children that is attributable to violence is high, particularly during early childhood and adolescence. The report also states that in light of the impact of corporal punishment on children’s health, including fatal and non-fatal injury, as well as psychological and emotional consequences, corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishments in all settings should be prohibited and eliminated.

We also recommend that States review national laws and policies and that comprehensive prohibition of all forms of violence against children be included in legislation. Given the interdependence and indivisibility of rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the child, the realization of the right to health is indispensable for the enjoyment of all other rights, and achieving the right to health is likewise dependent on the realization of many of the other rights contained in the Convention.   Thus, if the right of the child to be free from violence (article 19 of the Convention) is not realized, there will be an immediate and negative impact on the child’s right to health.

Similarly in our report on the rights of children in street situations we recommended prohibition of all forms of violence against children living and/or working on the street and implementation of the recommendations made by the UN Study on Violence against children.

Furthermore, in our joint report with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and UNODC on the prevention of violence in the juvenile justice system, we indicated that children in detention are frequently subjected to violence as a punishment for minor offences. We acknowledged that 116 countries have abolished corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions (a positive increase of 10 countries since the UN Study was finalized), but also noted that, despite abolition, violent practices in the juvenile justice system are found in both developed and developing countries. Apart from the use of caning and whipping, children may be punished through confinement in cells for lengthy periods, solitary confinement, food rationing or physical restraints.

Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a violation of the rights of the child. It conflicts with the child’s human dignity and the right of the child to physical integrity. It also prevents children from reaching their full potential, by putting at risk their right to health, survival and development. The best interests of the child can never be used to justify such practice.  Eliminating violence against children is not only a human rights imperative, but also a means to bring about social changes and attitudes. While appropriate legal frameworks are needed, little will be achieved if we do not work hand in hand to transform attitudes that condone and normalize violence against children, including corporal punishment. The need to promote the values of non-violence and awareness-raising among all those working with children is essential if we want this situation to come to an end.

Let me finish by reinforcing one of the main messages of the UN Study which, without a doubt, we will hear repeated many times today:  violence against children can never be justified and all such violence is preventable.

Many thanks

Connecting Corporal Punishment to Student Deaths in the United States

In 2002 a study was published in the Journal of Aggressive Behavior (28:173–183). Student deaths from school shootings were examined across all 50 states according to the state’s policy on the use of corporal punishment in schools. There was significantly more school shooting deaths found in states allowing school corporal punishment compared with those that do not. The odds of fatal involvement in a school shooting were greatest in states permitting school corporal punishment compared with those prohibiting it (odds ratio, 2.04) or restricting it to districts serving less than half the student population (odds ratio, 1.77). Moreover, the rate of school corporal punishment was moderately correlated with the rate of fatal school shootings both across all states and within the South, the region in which endorsement of school corporal punishment is most prevalent.

The study found evidence that the sanctioning of corporal punishment in the schools is linked with elevated levels of child-directed violence, even when accounting for associated differences in poverty and prevailing conservative Christian ideology both in the United States as a whole and within the Southern region.

Of significance was the finding that children and youths are more likely to die in school shootings in states permitting schools to practice corporal punishment than in states in which the practice has been prohibited. The more physically punitive discipline is practiced in the schools, the more likely students are likely to die in school shootings.

I had to ask myself: why is corporal punishment policy related to school shootings and student murders. The reasons pertain to the fact that corporal punishment policy is a by-product of a historically greater “culture of violence.” This culture of violence (a learned and socially transmitted set of beliefs and behavior from one generation to the next) permeates the social fabric of life in many southern and mid-western states. Any social environment that is more accepting of violence toward children, such as corporal punishment, produces a community over time that reflects deviant cultural norms. Give any profession a free pass to control and/or hurt your child and you open the door directly to exploitation and harm.

In California, prior to that state’s outlawing of corporal punishment, a former student reported that the only thing he learned from the experience of being paddled was to loathe the teacher who did it. Any educational system that reinforces hatred of authority, loathing and fear is highly suspect as not being ready for the all-important mission of education; namely, creating a positive, safe, sound, and valuable educational environment for learning and development.

 

Why Corporal Punishment?

Beyond poverty, backward fundamentalist attitudes, and specific regions of the country, what nexus of influential factors seem to precipitate or connect all the dots that link the philosophy of the region, and aggregate level variables associated with abuse, with those variables that cause teachers and administrators to commit acts of violence against children? What connects the larger structural characteristics of culture with individual acts of violence such as corporal punishment? Well, below is the answer.

There appears to this Blogger to be four major factors that cause teachers and administrators in southern and mid-western states to find corporal punishment rewarding where students are hit or hurt. These factors include: (1) Deviant Cultural Values, (2) History of the South, (3) Professional and Social Incompetence, and (4) Predators in School Settings. Some of the reasons relate to deviant social values reflected in these regions of the United States; other reasons pertain to the tainted philosophies of bible-belt religions (spare the rod and spoil the child and other antiquated nonsense).

Closer to the level of teachers and administrators there is professional and social incompetence (how they interact with young children and students). Finally, lack of school and district wide screening for predators, including sexual predators who wield a paddle, whip, or belt for sadistic or sexual stimulation and satisfaction. Given things like boring holes in paddles so as to increase pain, blistering, and longer-lasting suffering, it is clear that these degenerates are falling through the cracks. Screeners don’t suffer, children do.

Deviant Cultural Values

Institutionalized violence like corporal punishment often mask underlying deviant cultural values in predominantly southern and mid-western states. Corporal punishment has been outlawed in the nation’s prisons, jails, and adult and youth correctional facilities for decades (Supreme Court and District Court rulings). It is ironic in the 21st Century that children in school settings are deemed less important and possess less value for protection from harm— than do our offender populations. This goes back to the phenomena of cognitive dissonance discussed in Part I of this series. The decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1977 to allow corporal punishment in the schools as legal under the U.S. Constitution would be a lot different now. Given the disproportionate administration of corporal punishment to black students and disabled students, and the sexually deviant motivations of degenerate teachers and administrators who enjoy hurting children, it is very likely a Federal District Court or the U.S. Supreme Court would now invoke the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to end corporal punishment. And, the courts would create remedies of criminal indictment in federal courts for all violators subsequent to their ruling.

One may wonder why do school districts in southern and mid-western states condone violence against children at all? Why do they continue to be an embarrassment before the rest of the nation? Are they really that uncaring, or simply not too bright? Why do they take an on-purpose “blind eye” to all the relevant educational and psychological knowledge available to them? What role have deviant cultural norms motivated school districts in the south and mid-west to deny scientific knowledge that corporal punishment has short and long term effects that are deleterious to a child’s health and well-being? What would cause some educators to bury their head in the sand where corporal punishment is concerned?

Social History of the South

Perhaps the most major reason of all for continuation of deviant cultural values, into the modern era, is rooted in their past. During the racism of “Jim Crow” there was a legacy of extreme violence over others where the murder, beating and whipping blacks occurred during slavery, but also continued in the Post-Construction era following the Civil War with the criminal acts of the Klu Klux Klan. The era of “Jim Crow” is dead, but its legacy lives on, evidently well into the 21st Century.

When the Civil Rights Movement began to exert its powerful influence in the 1960s, reinforced by the Courts, southerners began to feel impotent, lost status nationally and had to come to grips with the dishonor and shame of their past. Faced with the lasting taint of racism these communities and school districts found a way to have control in social life and continue their legacy of human dominance over others. This legacy still portends a disdain for liberalism, civil and human rights.

In southern and mid-western school districts that practice corporal punishment, it would be very instructive to know the race/ethnicity of students victimized by corporal punishment. Are blacks and Hispanics more likely to be victimized by corporal punishment than white students?

Professional and Social Incompetence

One might wonder why it is school districts that prohibit corporal punishment have much higher educational achievement levels on standardized tests than do school districts authorizing violence with corporal punishment.

These differences reflect more than student natural ability. It’s more about the schools involved and their ability (or lack thereof) to use the best teaching and motivational strategies that would achieve higher student scores. One might also wonder what is about the 20 states in the US that condone violence against children, why they fail to heed the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment is sloppy behaviorism and lacks not even a scintilla of evidence to support it.

Predators in School Settings

At the current time the news headlines are filled with all sorts of school district scandals involving racketeering, corruption, and theft. In addition, it is no secret that teachers have committed serious moral and professional violations, and criminal acts that relate to sex scandals with students. All of this raises the issue of screening. Although not foolproof, this is an important role for school districts to carry out. The greatest failure of school districts around the country is inadequate screening of teachers and administrators or other employees before someone is hired. Screening of educational credentials for teachers is very common at a job interview. Seldom do school districts require psychiatric evaluation prior to someone being hired. This applies to coaching positions as well. Because of this lack of critical screening, sexual predators can find their way into the classroom.

Too many times in the last two decades students have had to endure the unwanted sexual advances of predatory teachers and administrators. Often these predators seek out their victims by going into professions where they can control and dominate their victims. These ready-made work environments include, but are not limited to, professions like teaching, nursing, or the military.

Positions where they can administer corporal punishment to students may also be linked to sexual predation as well, as mentioned above. Hitting and physically harming children in an institutional setting is as much to blame for the United States’ serious problem of child abuse as a parent is with inferior parenting skills. (See definition in Part II of what constitutes physical child abuse). Several states, including some among the 20 that allow it, have entered the names for life of individual teachers and administrators who commit corporal punishment onto their state’s Child Abuse Registry.

Post Script

Well, there are many factors collectively and individually that may be responsible for why corporal punishment still exists in these backward 20 states: (1) the possession of deviant cultural values, (2) a social history of racism and the need to dominate others, (3) lack of professionalism among the educational staff, or simply professional incompetence by failing to read and understand their own profession’s accumulated knowledge about successful student/teacher interaction and good teaching methods, and (4) teachers and administrators who derive pleasure hurting children and may derive sexual satisfaction or be sexually stimulated from hurting children (sadistic impulses). These latter individuals don’t deserve to be employed anywhere, much less in a profession as important as teaching our children. Finally, the surrounding local community or culture may possess or foster bible-belt religious philosophies that are repugnant to a modern culturally mature larger society.

Even in the 21st Century these backward pockets of extreme conservatism often culturally mask an underlying political outlook that is hidden, yet fraught with a lingering veil of racism and deviant values that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of all other Americans. Such a veil still continues to bring lasting shame to these areas of the country.

In Part IV I will report on what is known about the crime of kidnapping children. In addition, a full set of recommendations will be made to address Sex Trafficking, Bullying, and Corporal Punishment in the schools. Where school districts that promote corporal punishment is concerned I am seriously thinking the federal government must eliminate any federal economic help to school districts that promote corporal punishment in the schools. On the other hand, schools districts that ban corporal punishment would receive additional economic support. Teachers and administrators who continue to hurt students will also face arrest and criminal indictment by federal authorities.

If any infant is attacked and brutalized by an adult, law enforcement would be all over the offender lake a “Fly on do-do.” If an adult is attacked on the street and physically harmed, law enforcement will seek out and arrest the offender. When a teacher or administrator beats a child the only difference is a person’s age (school age children). But the behavioral outcome is the same—someone is getting hurt. Very young and adults are protected by the law; school age children don’t seem to be in certain parts of the country. It’s long overdue for such hypocrisy to end. It’s time for the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to apply to all citizens, old and young alike.

 

HRW/ACLU NOTES

 

[1] During the 2006-2007 school year, at least 223,190 students in the U.S. were subjected to corporal punishment.  See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection 2006, http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx (last accessed April 1, 2010) [hereinafter Civil Rights Data Collection].

[2] Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas,  Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, Impairing Education 27 (2009), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights/impairing-education-corporal-punishment-students-disabilities-us-public-schools   [hereinafter Impairing Education].

[3] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee & Texas. See id. at 27.

[4] Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. See id, at 27.

[5] Many school districts may fail to report corporal punishment data to the Department of Education, and many incidents may not be recorded in the first place. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, A Violent Education 45-46 (2008), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights-racial-justice/violent-education-corporal-punishment-children-us-public-schools [hereinafter A Violent Education]; Impairing Education, at 30-31.

[6] See generally A Violent Education, at 57; Impairing Education, at 4-5.

[7] Corporal punishment of children in juvenile justice facilities has been prohibited by the Courts of Appeals in several Federal Circuits.  See Nelson v. Heyne, 491 F.2d 352 (7th Cir. 1974), cert. denied 417 U.S. 476 (paddling of children in juvenile detention was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment); Morales v. Turman, 562 F.2d 993, 998 (5th Cir. 1977) (corporal punishment and physical abuse in juvenile detention facilities subject to prohibition as a violation of Eighth Amendment), rev’d on other grounds, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976), rev’d and remanded, 430 U.S. 322 (1977).  See also, Santana v. Collazo, 533 F. Supp. 966 (D.P.R. 1982) (corporal punishment against juveniles in industrial schools and juvenile camps violates Eighth Amendment and is barred “for any reason”), aff’d in part and vacated in part, 714 F.2d 1172 (lst Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 974 (1984).  The American Correctional Association has also issued standards banning use of corporal punishment in juvenile facilities. See also Steven J. Martin, Staff Use of Force in United States Confinement Settings, 22 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 145 (2006).  In addition, corporal punishment and other harsh disciplinary practices are prohibited in publicly-funded non-medical substance abuse and long-term medical care facilities.  See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 290jj (banning corporal punishment in “non-medical community-based facilities for children and youth.”); 42 C.F.R. § 483.13 (banning corporal punishment in long-term medical care facilities).

[8] Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1. See also A Violent Education, at 5 (“In the same year [2006-2007], in the 13 states with the highest rates of paddling, 1.4 times as many African American students were paddled as might be expected given their percentage of the student population. Although girls of all races were paddled less than boys, African American girls were nonetheless physically punished at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts in those 13 states during this period”).

[9] A Violent Education, at 72 (interview with Abrea T., Dec. 10, 2007).

[10] A Violent Education, at 75-76 (interview with Catherine V., Nov. 7, 2007).

[11] In the 2006-2007 school year, 41,972 students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment during the 2006-2007 school year. See Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1.

[12] See Impairing Education, at 35-40.

[13] Impairing Education, at 44 (interview with Sarah P.  May 22, 2009).

[14] Impairing Education, at 43 (interview with Anna M., March 9, 2009).

[15] See A Violent Education, at 75.

[16] Michael Hickmon, Study: Paddling vs. ACT Scores and Civil Immunity Legislation (2008), available at http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=paddlingvsact.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 42-43.

[20] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 43-44.

[21] Society for Adolescent Medicine, Position Paper: Corporal Punishment in Schools, 32:5 J. Adolescent Health 385, 388 (2003).

[22] A Violent Education, at 55 (interview with Sean D., Dec. 14, 2007).

[23] See Impairing Education, at 6.

[24] See id. at 5.

[25] See A Violent Education, at 25-29.

[26]  This is often because students who have been subjected to corporal punishment have learned through their experiences that physical violence is an appropriate way to handle conflict. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that “corporal punishment may adversely affect a student’s self-image and school achievement and it may contribute to disruptive and violent behavior.” American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on School Health, Corporal Punishment in Schools, 106:2 Pediatrics 343 (2000), available at http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;106/2/343.

[27] See, e.g., Stephen P. Safran & Karen Oswald, Positive Behavior Supports: Can Schools Reshape Disciplinary Practices?, 69:3 Exceptional Child. 361 (2003), available at http://www.casenex.com/casenex/cecReadings/positiveBehavior.pdf.

 

 

 

 

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