Currently, there are no federal laws against the physical punishment of students by teachers, principals, or any other school official. This has led to states creating their own laws on the issue, and 31 have prohibited the practice in public schools, but only two ban it in private schools as well — Iowa and New Jersey.
An expose on the issue by TruthOut detailed that available statistics reveal that Texas leads the country on the most corporal punishment, with 49,197 students beaten at least once during the 2008-09 academic year. In second place was Mississippi with 38,131 reported beating incidents, followed by Alabama, with 33,716; Arkansas, with 22,314; Georgia, with 18,249; Tennessee with 14,868; and Oklahoma with 14,828.
The publication noted that male students are hit far more frequently than girls, with 35.6 of those beaten being black. Students with disabilities, such as autism, are also physically assaulted more often in their schools, making up 12-15% of those beaten. The Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center has found that students with disabilities are two-to-five times more likely to be hit by school officials than other children.
In addition to physical punishment, seclusion and isolation are also commonly used, though there is no research to prove that the methods are helpful. Often, those placed in seclusion are disabled, sometimes nonverbal, and, as parents do not have a right to be notified when it is used, the isolation can be ongoing without relatives being aware that it is happening.
Beyond physical and emotional punishment by school employees, police and private security guards are now more commonly present in many school districts. As there is no federally-mandated school violence reporting system, the frequency of less lethal weapons or violence being used by police in schools is unknown, but with cellphone cameras and the Internet, there is now enough anecdotal evidence to paint a dire picture.
The Education Justice Alliance, seeking to counter harsh punishment in schools, maintains that excessive discipline causes increased aggression, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Added stress can also lead to liver and heart disease, according to researchers.