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Signs of change in some Southern states, communities

As data show students with disabilities disproportionately receive corporal punishment, several Southern states are taking action against the harmful practice.

Louisiana, for example, banned the use of corporal punishment on students with disabilities in 2017. The next year, Tennessee banned the practice for students with disabilities without express written permission from their parents. And in March 2019, shortly before this report went to print, Mississippi also banned the practice for students with disabilities.

Psychologist Charles Ihrig summed up the dangers of administering corporal punishment to students with disabilities during a 2017 TV news report about Middle Tennessee schools corporally punishing students with disabilities at a higher rate than students without disabilities.

“They are going to cause the child to be more anxious, more stimulated, more angry, more hyper and basically act out more,” said Ihrig, who had worked with students with disabilities experiencing setbacks after being corporally punished. “It’s not solving the problem, it’s making it worse.”

While progress is being made, communities are recognizing that the harm of corporal punishment also reaches beyond students with disabilities. In Greenville, Mississippi, the local school board voted in 2018 to immediately ban corporal punishment for all students after an educator dragged a student with disabilities by her hair across a gym floor, according to news reports. A year earlier, the Alabama Association of School Boards adopted a position encouraging local school boards to ban corporal punishment for all students.