Stay as far away from corporal punishment as possible. This commonsense decision has nothing to do with the eternal debate regarding the morality of spanking. Rather, your decision never to use corporal punishment is based on the simple fact that in 27 of the 50 United States, the practice is illegal.
Unless you happen to live in one of the 23 states where teachers may legally spank students, forget it. As of the writing of this book (2009), the states allowing teachers to use corporal punishment are listed below:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
If you don't see your state on that list, use the various means of disciplining students that have been discussed in previous chapters. Accept the fact that the majority of the people of your state, through their representatives, have decided that corporal punishment is verboten.
For instance, in California, Section 49000 of the California Education Code, which prohibits corporal punishment, announces emphatically that, “Children of school age are at the most vulnerable and impressionable period of their lives and … the safeguards to the integrity and sanctity of their bodies should be, at this tender age, at least equal to that afforded to other citizens.” Whether you agree or not, comply with the laws of your state.
However, even if you do see the name of your state on the list, you've still made the laudable decision to forget about using corporal punishment for two extremely important reasons.
First, even legal corporal punishment can quickly become illegal child abuse. If that happens, you'll have crossed a statutory line and might find yourself subject to criminal prosecution. Just imagine that one of your kids has been defying you all day. You grab your yardstick and advance angrily toward him. Terrified, he tries to bolt. But you're too fast — you grab his arm and whack him on his legs with the yardstick, in front of your shocked class.
Screaming, he tries to pull away, which only feeds your anger, and you whack him repeatedly, breaking the yardstick with a final devastating blow. Later, bruises are discovered on his legs. The principal calls you to his office. When you arrive, a police officer awaits. Just think — you could have calmly told your misbehaver, “You're going to the principal.” Instead, you're the one visiting the principal.
It's interesting to note that, currently, 17 countries have banned any use of corporal punishment directed toward children, whether by parents, teachers, or others. These “nonspanking” countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Sweden, and Ukraine.
Second, suppose in the same hypothetical above, that the boy's father is telephoned at work. Furious, he races to the school and when he enters the principal's office — with you sitting there — and is informed of his son's injuries, he becomes enraged. He screams that he has never used corporal punishment at home because his own father was physically abusive.
Suddenly, he grabs you by your coat, and before the police officer can react, delivers an uppercut to your jaw that you'll never forget. True, he's probably going to jail, but you're going to the hospital with a broken jawbone. Which is worse? And remember, all this happens in a state where corporal punishment is legal. You realize, far too late, that for a teacher the use of corporal punishment is never worth the serious risks that such disciplining entails.