By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va -- Representative A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) co-sponsored legislation that was introduced Sept. 30 meant to eliminate use of corporal punishment in U.S. schools.

The Protecting Our Students in Schools Act of 2020, also co-sponsored by Chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), would prohibit use of corporal punishment schools receiving federal funds. The bill also establishes enforcement protections and a federal grant program.

“No evidence exists demonstrating that corporal punishment is an effective response to student behavior,” said Congressman McEachin in a press release. “Physical violence against our students, in any form, is a betrayal of our student’s trust, and together, we must pass this bill to protect our students.”

The practice includes a teacher or principal using physical force upon a student such as “paddling'' or “spanking” to cause pain or discomfort in response to a student behaving undesirably. 

Under the legislation, enforcement protections include a private right of action, the involvement of the attorney general and the Office for Civil Rights, among other reporting requirements for states and school districts.

States and school districts would also receive grant programs meant to improve the culture at schools with measures such as positive behavioral interventions and supports, trauma-informed care, restorative justice interventions, implicit bias training and culturally responsive teaching.

School corporal punishment in public schools is currently legal in 19 states which are heavily concentrated in the American south including Texas, South Carolina, Alabama and Flordia. Virginia has banned the practice in public schools since 1989. Iowa and New Jersey are the only states in the U.S. to ban the practice for both public and private schools.

“It is unfathomable that any student would be struck in school for any reason as a form of discipline,” said Katherine Dunn, SPLC Action Fund Regional Policy Analyst in a press release. “But that is what hundreds of students experience each day in public schools in states where corporal punishment is still permitted. Tragically, Black students and students with disabilities disproportionately bear the brunt of this abusive, counterproductive practice. It must end now.”