Your Child and School Corporal Punishment

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Your child comes home at the end of the school day with a huge bruise on his upper arm. When you ask him to explain how he got it, he tells you that his teacher squeezed his arm and shook him hard. He begins to cry. Though your child is usually truthful you wonder if he is telling a tall tale. You can't believe your ears. Why would a teacher deliberately harm your child?

Schools and Corporal Punishment

Believe it or not, this is a daily scene across America. Twenty-three of states in the US still allow corporal punishment in schools, which is essentially putting a label of approval on child abuse. Don't be too surprised if your child's teacher practices corporal punishment, which includes grabbing, squeezing, shaking, spanking, wrapping knuckles with a pointer, forcing a child to stand for an excessive amount of time, not allowing bathroom breaks, lifting a child by the front of his clothing, washing a child's mouth out with soap and any other harsh physical handling.

States That Allow Corporal Punishment

Connecticut

Alaska

California

Hawaii

Iowa

Illinois

Massachusetts

Maine

Maryland

Michigan

Montana

Minnesota

Nevada

Nebraska

New York

New Jersey

New Hampshire

North Dakota

Oregon

Rhode Island

South Dakota

Utah

Virginia

Vermont

Washington D.C.

Washington

Wisconsin

West Virginia

The states where corporal punishment has been banned do not allow any form of physical punishment. If you live in one of these states and your child is subjected to any form of physical punishment, take him out of school and report the abuse to the proper authorities. Once you have reported the incident, seek medical attention for your child and then contact a lawyer.

Protecting Your Child

If you live in a state that has banned corporal punishment, do not allow any incident to go unreported. If your state is one of those where corporal punishment is allowed, you are still able to protect your child. Here's how:

When your child is enrolled in school, request a written copy of the punishment policy for the district. Many school districts where corporal punishment is allowed forbid the practice. In this case, every school within that district cannot use any form of physical punishment.

Ask for a written copy of the punishment policy at your child's school. Thought the school district may allow corporal punishment, many principals forbid it to be used in their schools. Be sure to become familiar with the corporal punishment policy at your child's school.

Be sure to let your child's school know your feelings on corporal punishment when you enroll your child. Though the school may allow it, they cannot administer any physical punishment if you object. If you do not wish your child to be physically punished, inform the school of your objection in writing. The letter you write should be placed in your child's educational file by school administration. If the school refuses to accept your objection, ask your lawyer to draft a letter stating that your child cannot be physically punished by anyone at the school. Be sure that the school superintendent, the principal and your child's teacher all receive a copy. Keep a copy for your own records as well.

Recourse if Your Child is Harmed

If your child comes home from school with bruises or welts that were caused by any form of corporal punishment, take the following steps:

Remain calm.

Tend to your child's emotional and physical needs.

Ask your child to describe the incident exactly as it happened and write it down in his words.

Take a photograph of the injuries.

Take your child to his doctor or to the emergency room immediately so the injury can be recorded by a health care professional. The report can be used to pursue legal action at a later date, if necessary. Be sure to obtain a copy for your own records.

Make an appointment with the school superintendent and take a copy of the report to the meeting. Discuss the incident with the superintendent and insist your child have no contact with the abuser.

If the school superintendent brushes your concerns aside or makes light of the matter, report the incident to the police and give them a copy of the medical report.

Follow the tips in this article to ensure your child has a positive school experience without fear of corporal punishment. It is every child's right to live without fear of abuse.

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