CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - The debate has been heated between parents and educators wondering if corporal punishment is an effective form of punishment.
"The truth is, effective discipline isn't quick, and it isn't easy. It's a complex issue," said Mariah Boone, a social worker, and the field education coordinator at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
The Three Rivers Independent School District board voted at the end of the 2016-17 school year to bring back corporal punishment as one solution.
Currently, in South Texas, 27 school districts including Aransas County, Agua Dulce, and West Oso have some form of corporal punishment. Parents have the option to let the school principal or a campus behavioral specialist decide to spank, slap or use a paddle to inflict pain as a form of discipline.
"You're always susceptible to, 'How hard am I going to hit the student? How is this appropriate for the student? And is it fair to the student?" said Dr. Nancy Vera, president of Corpus Christi chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
Vera is quick to point out that the Corpus Christi Independent School District has a policy in place prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in the classroom, along with 12 other school districts in the region.
"Let's spank them, and they'll behave. That is not true. That is a myth, and we need to get away from that in public education," Vera said.
Texas is one of 15 states that still allows paddling as a form of discipline.
Studies show younger populations with lower levels of education, and lower levels of per-pupil spending in the classroom tend to accept corporal punishment as effective.
"When it is used in the classroom, it is disproportionately used on children with disabilities and minority children, and children who are boys," Boone said.
Boone added that children in rural communities who are living in poverty also fall into the category of disproportioned use.
"Ideally, we want children to learn skills so that they are not only behaving because they fear a consequence," Boone said.
Corporal punishment can have long-lasting physical concerns.
"10 to 20,000 students need medical attention every year for school administered corporal punishment," Boone said.
There are, however, limitations to studies conducted on corporal punishment. Most are cases conducted overseas in Europe and involve parental punishment and not school educators.
"But they tend to correlate corporal punishment with high levels of aggression; high levels of mental health problems later in life, like anxiety and depression; and alcohol and substance abuse," Boone said.
"They don't know the research. Here we are in education saying 'This has to be research-based. This has to be positive.' It has to be for the betterment of the children," Vera said.
Vera points out that just giving up on the student and allowing them to misbehave is not a solution either.
"They say 'We won't give them in-school suspension, we're just going to talk with them.' We need to come to some sort of middle ground," Vera said.
For parents who agree to allow a school to punish their children physically, Boone has a message.
"Of course they're good parents, you know. And they love their children, and that's why they're disciplining them. It's just a matter of finding tools that are more effective in the long run," Boone said.
That starts with recognizing the good in the student, creating a positive class norm, and nurturing a culture of learning and support, Boone added.
While corporal punishment remains one possible solution, educators will continue to research to see if it is the answer to helping problem children resolve their discipline problems.
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