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Study: Florida Schools Should End Corporal Punishment

Sarah Gonzalez
StateImpact Florida

Two University of Florida researchers say Florida should join other states that have outlawed corporal punishment to discipline students.

Florida is one of 20 states that allows schools to spank or paddle misbehaving students. Twenty-six of the state's 67 districts allow corporal punishment. Some districts require a parent's approval, others do not.

UF education professors Joseph Gagnon and Brianna Kennedy-Lewis culled discipline data, interviewed school leaders who use corporal punishment and surveyed administrators at high-poverty schools about what they do to discipline students.

Data shows paddlings aren’t doled out evenly. And research says corporal punishment doesn’t change student behavior.

But Gagnon says schools can’t eliminate corporal punishment in order to use other punishments that keep students out of class.

"We can’t just say, 'Let’s get rid of corporal punishment and replace it,'" he says, "and start suspending these kids even more because that’s not effective either."

Two in five Florida school districts paddled students during the 2010-2011 school year. Males are more likely to be paddled than females. Black and Hispanic students were more likely to be disciplined but were not more likely to be paddled than their classmates.

The report was sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which opposes corporal punishment. Gagnon says he opposed corporal punishment before beginning the study, but that the data also supports his position.