North Carolina school district to vote on whether to end corporal punishment

As kids and parents prepare for the new school year, a public school district in North Carolina is about to step out of a bygone era and adopt a spare-the-rod policy in dealing with misbehaving students.

The Onslow County Board of Education is set to vote today on a proposal to repeal its corporal punishment policy. Onslow paddled two students this past school year; one the year before and four the year before that.  The school district, which has 25,000 students, says it is weighing the repeal because it resorts to spanking so infrequently and there are better ways to teach students how to behave.

“We have turned to other tools in our arsenal as far as disciplinary measures go,” Onslow spokeswoman Suzie Ulbrich told “We’re trying to teach children proper behavior by rewarding good behavior.”

Corporal punishment persists in public schools in many parts of the U.S. Nineteen states still allow principals to paddle or spank students as a form of old-fashioned discipline, down from 49 in 1971. Most of those states are in the tradition-bound South. The most recent data from the federal Department of Education shows that corporal punishment was used on 218,000 students in the 2009-10 school year.

“That is five out of every thousand students across the country,” University of Texas professor Elizabeth Gershoff, a leading authority on school spanking, told


She said most research on corporal punishment looks at what happens when children are spanked by parents. The researchers found those children were more likely to be aggressive, delinquent, to have more mental health problems and less success in schools, she said.

“There is very little reason to think that wouldn’t be the same, that corporal punishment in schools would have the same negative effect as corporal punishment by parents,” Gershoff said.

Deborah Sandek, with the Center for Effective Discipline, a group that advocates against corporal punishment, said most school districts have established guidelines for paddling.

“What we find is, it is on the behind, not the face or anywhere else on the body. It is administered with a wooden or fiberglass paddle,” she said. Usually another school official is in the room as a witness.

Sandek said paddled students are learning the wrong lesson. “It is teaching violence," she said.

The vote in Onslow comes three weeks before the start of the new school year, which begins Aug. 28. The district has 37 schools, from kindergarten to high school.

A child advocacy group in North Carolina, NC Child, said corporal punishment is permitted in only 12 school districts, including Onslow. But six of the 12 districts haven’t paddled a student in years.

Last year, NC Child reported there were 184 incidents of corporal punishment in the state during 2012-2013 school year, down from 404 in 2011-2012.

“We don’t think it’s an effective method of discipline for children,” Rob Thompson, the nonprofit's communications director, told

Ulbrich said the rare times Onslow resorted to corporal punishment, the parent was notified.

“The times it was used was because the parent wanted it,” she said.

The states that allow corporal punishment are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.