Spanking Ban Would Affect Private Schools and Yeshivos


schoolbooksA bill aims to put a stop to teacher-administered spanking, making corporal punishment illegal in any school – including private religious ones – that receives even a trickle of federal funding.

Religious school groups, usually quick to guard against government encroachment, have few worries about the bill because officials said many abandoned hitting as a punishment years ago.

“Whether you believe it’s right or wrong, it’s just too big of a liability or legal issue,” said Tom Cathey, a legislative analyst for the Association of Christian Schools International, an umbrella group for private Christian schools.

Introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., the bill would ban schools from practicing any corporal penalties “as a form of punishment,” or “for the purpose of modifying undesirable behavior.”

The bill would cover public schools and any private schools that receive federal money for free lunch programs or bus rides for their poorer students. The bill has 18 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

According to the Department of Education, 20 states allow corporal punishment in public schools. Where it is allowed, corporal punishment is more likely to be disproportionately applied to minority students (36 percent) and disabled students (19 percent).

“Corporal punishment does not work and in fact leads to increased negative behavior and dropout rates,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill.

A nun’s swift rap across the knuckles was once a hallmark of the Catholic educational system in America. But in recent decades, the practice has made more appearances in comedic routines than classrooms.

“I think corporal punishment has not been an issue for a long, long time,” said Brian Gray, a spokesman for the National Catholic Educational Association.

He did not see compliance as an issue.

Almost half of all Catholic schools in the United States receive government money in the form of the federal nutrition program, according to yearly association statistics, and almost as many schools receive federal money to bus students to and from school.

The bill does not ban the use of “reasonable restraint” should a student’s behavior put other students or school personnel at a risk of injury.

The proposed bill comes amid a growing debate among psychologists on whether spanking is an effective and safe punishment tool.

“Psychologists don’t all agree that spanking is always harmful to children,” said Kim Mills, a spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association. “Some psychologists have a belief that certain levels of gentle punishment may be effective.”

Her association’s official stance is that corporal punishment should not be allowed in schools, day care centers or other institutions.

Juli Slattery, a family psychologist at Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, suggests tempered spanking on young children as one of many disciplinary tools available to parents.

The bill, she said, is indicative of American society’s collective disagreement on how to punish its children.

The responsibility for discipline, Slattery said, should ultimately rest with parents or guardians, not schools.

But she does worry that bills like McCarthy’s encourage a child’s disregard for consequences.

“I think it’s a step in downplaying discipline,” she said.

The legislation could set a precedent for more government regulation of private schools, said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America.

“We are certainly not enamored of corporal punishment,” Shafran said. “But we are concerned with the rights of religious schools.”

{ Newscenter}


  1. Is the ban going to be applied retroactively? I got smacked real hard 20 years ago for breaking two windows in a span of one recess.

  2. The Rishonim write one who fails to discipline his child with spanking, is as if he killed him.

    His child not somebody else’s child.

  3. reply to #1 “ben Torah”:
    see what our Gedolim (start with Rav Wolbe zatzal) have to say about this issue before you start poskening from rishonim. btw – the article is about teachers (rebbe’s) not parents.

  4. M.T./#4 — A Rebbe has the same din as a parent. He is mechuyiv to spank (i.e. use corporal punishment) when necessary.

  5. Having had a few fruskings in my time along with all the other in my class.
    It’s one thing to discipline kids, it’s another to use them as a punching bag for personal anger management issues

  6. In this day and age corporal punishment should never be administered anywhere but at home, by a parent, and even then – it should be done with real chochma and not out of anger.

  7. It’s not the Rishonom it is a Posuk in Mishley.I don’t think teachers should hit, but I don’t think a decision like this should made by the government.

    Various hot shot anti hitting advocates acknowledged to me that on occasion they hut their own kids.

  8. i believe the idea of corporal punishment is from the wiseman shlomo hamelech as is written in mishlay ‘cosaich shivtoi sonay bnoy