WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representatives A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) on Thursday re-introduced the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act to federally prohibit the practice of corporal punishment in any school that receives federal funding. The legislation would also establish much-needed enforcement protections and a federal grant program to assist states and school districts in improving the climate and culture of schools across the country.
Substantial research has demonstrated that corporal punishment in schools is not associated in any way with improved student behavior, instead producing similar outcomes to children that suffer physical abuse. Corporal punishment, or the act of inflicting physical pain on a student’s body as a form of discipline, can result in serious physical injury to the student, including abrasions, broken bones, bruising, hematomas, and other medical complications. Further research has demonstrated that this practice leads to poor academic performance, physical and emotional harm, and damage to students’ self-esteem and trust with educators. This practice is often administered to students in response to tardiness, failing to complete assigned homework, failing a test, talking out of turn, and more.
“Kids should be able to learn in a safe, nurturing environment at school. It’s mind boggling that we allow educators to hit students or use other physical means of school discipline. This is a practice that disproportionately affects students of color and students with disabilities and it needlessly creates a culture of fear that teaches children that violence is acceptable. I’m glad to reintroduce legislation that ends the use of corporal punishment in schools that receive taxpayer funding, so we can make sure the classroom is a space where all students feel safe,” said Murphy.
“Corporal punishment has no place in our nation’s schools, yet these practices are still permissible in nearly twenty states. Corporal punishment can cause severe emotional, physical, psychological, and academic harm to students and has been proven to be an ineffective method of discipline,” said McEachin. “In addition to being deeply harmful, this abhorrent practice is also disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities. Schools should be a safe and healthy place for all students to learn, grow, and succeed. The Protecting Our Students in Schools Act is an important step in ending these unacceptable practices and ensuring the classroom is conducive to our children’s education and well-being.”
“Students need to be safe and feel safe at school so they can learn and grow without fear,” said Bonamici. “Many states still allow corporal punishment, a harmful and ineffective tactic that causes lasting harm and disproportionately affects Black students and students with disabilities. I’m grateful to be leading the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act with Rep. McEachin and Senator Murphy so we can protect the physical, mental, and academic well-being of students by finally ending corporal punishment and promoting positive behavioral intervention supports.”
Original cosponsors of the Protecting Our Students in Schools Act include U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), David Trone (D-Md.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.).
The Protecting Our Students in Schools Act has been endorsed by the National Disability Rights Network; National Education Association; American Federation of Teachers; American Psychological Association; SPLC Action Fund; The Education Trust; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; National PTA; National Women’s Law Center; National Down Syndrome Congress; Brain Injury Association of America; Lives in the Balance; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of School Psychologists; Intercultural Development Research Association; Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; Autistic Self Advocacy Network; Legal Aid Justice Center; National Federation of Families; Girls Inc.; American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children; The Up Institute; Texas Appleseed; The Dignity in Schools Campaign; National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities; Council for Exceptional Children; National Initiative to End Corporal Punishment; U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children; Crimes against Children Research Center; Prevent Child Abuse America; New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; Center for Learner Equity; National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives; Futures Without Violence; Center for Health and Health Care in Schools; Committee for Children; Center for Disability Rights; American Psychological Association Division 31; National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice (Division 37 of the American Psychological Association); Attachment Parenting International; Nollie Jenkins Family Center, Inc.; Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Division 53, American Psychological Association; Empowering Pacific Islander Communities; Minnesota Psychological Association; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; National Network to End Domestic Violence; Society of Pediatric Psychology, Division 54 of the American Psychological Association; GLSEN; Children's Defense Fund; Southern Echo Inc.; Southern Education Foundation; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; National Parents Union; Florida Psychological Association; Kentucky Psychological Association; Georgia Psychological Association; Michigan Psychological Association; Maine Psychological Association; First Focus on Children; The Daniel Initiative.