Why spanking in schools needs to go

When schools use physical pain as a way of controlling kids, research shows they are less likely to cooperate, not more. While the use of spanking is up to each school district, we know it is a common practice in Arkansas, occurring 4,047 times during the 2021-2022 school year. National data shows us that as a disciplinary practice it has been linked with stress, depression and low self-esteem, harming a child’s chances for success in school and life. 

Many educators and school administrators will tell you that in the last few years since the pandemic, they have seen a sharp uptick in students acting out in the classroom, and state level data supports that. While there is no one silver bullet to this problem, we can confidently say that increasing classroom support for our educators, increasing behavioral and mental health supports for students, and expanding the use of research-based disciplinary practices, are all more likely to lead to better outcomes than spanking a child in a classroom ever could.  

Support for corporal punishment is declining. The Arkansas Poll, done by the University of Arkansas asked survey participants “do you think teachers should or should not be permitted to spank children at school?”  

In 2009 when that question was asked, 60% said that teachers should be permitted and 35% said they should not. Fast forward 14 years to 2023, and when the same question was asked, only 43% of survey participants said teachers should be permitted to spank children at school and 52% said they should not. 

What we believe we are seeing is a cultural shift in how we view spanking at school in our state. And it’s time for Arkansas families to start thinking about this current practice and decide for themselves if it feels appropriate, and if it doesn’t, then we all have a huge opportunity during the 2025 full legislative session to get rid of this practice once and for all. 

Read our earlier blog post, An update on school disciplinary practices in Arkansas, for more context on this issue.