The Dallas Morning News invited SMU Psychology Professor and parenting expert George Holden to participate in its opinion page face-off on corporal punishment. Holden, an advocate of positive parenting strategies, is opposed to corporal punishment in either the home or at school.
His opinion piece “Why Texas should ban corporal punishment in schools” appeared in the May 29, 2011, edition of The Dallas Morning News.
Holden, who’s published five books and more than 55 scientific papers on parenting and child development, says hundreds of studies on spanking have revealed the negative long-term impacts of corporal punishment. Holden was an organizer of the June 3-4 international conference “Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline” in Dallas.
By George Holden
Professor of Psychology at SMU
She had been struck 10 years earlier, but the student in my college psychology course remembered every detail vividly. As a fifth-grader attending public school in a town near Houston, she was falsely accused of writing in a textbook and sent to the principal’s office. The student’s denial enraged the principal, who, while yelling, hit her three times with a ruler.
The student’s parents had not given permission to the school to use corporal punishment, but school officials mistakenly found the permission form of a student with the same surname. My student reported feeling traumatized by the incident and becoming withdrawn, with a lingering fear of teachers and distrust of authority figures.
The physical punishment inflicted upon this student is by no means rare. Nineteen states in this country, primarily in the South and West, have not yet banned corporal punishment in public schools. Reported incidents have declined in the past 30 years, but not enough. According to the most recent analysis by the Department of Education’s civil rights office, more than 220,000 students nationwide were subjected to corporal punishment in 2006.
Texas schools have the dubious distinction of leading the nation in that analysis, accounting for more than 49,000 cases. Only about 40 of the state’s school districts prohibit corporal punishment, including large urban districts such as Dallas and Fort Worth, while more than 1,000 districts permit it. Their school boards have created a hodgepodge of policies, some of which specify the instrument, method and administrator of punishment, as well as whether parents must be notified.