Education Secretary John King has written governors and state school leaders calling for an end to corporal punishment in the states, including Arkansas, that still allow it.
His letter called infliction of pain by paddling and other means as a disciplinary tools is “harmful, ineffective, and often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities.”
Corporal punishment is banned in 28 states and explicitly allowed in 15, including Arkansas, with perhaps four others using it as well. Seven states — Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma — account for 80 percent of paddlings, according to a recent study. Arkansas is typically ranked in the top three — with Mississippi and Alabama — in data on use of corporal punishment.
A call from the lame duck Obama administration isn’t likely to motivate positive reaction, certainly not in seven states that generally gave Donald Trump landslide votes. There’s an abiding belief in the Arkansas legislature — also among many conservative “Christians” — that corporal punishment is a useful tool.
Arkansas’s leading role in use of corporal punishment is, in a way, worse than it seems. Many of the largest school districts in the state — all those in Pulaski County, for example, with about a seventh of the public school population — ban its use.
A 2010-11 report by Never Hit a Child, a group that worked to end use of corporal punishment in schools, reported that 49 of 261 school districts and 489 of 1,083 schools in Arkansas that year reported no use of paddling.
I’ve asked the governor’s office for a comment.
UPDATE: Asa Hutchinson’s spokesman J.R. Davis provided this response:
“This sort of guidance, which we’ve come to expect out of this administration, is overreaching and unnecessary. These decisions are made by school districts at the local level in our state—a fact the Governor has always acknowledged and respected.”