SMU Professor to speak at congressional briefing on corporal punishment

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An SMU Professor is leaving The Hilltop and heading to The Hill to try and convince lawmakers to ban corporal punishment in public schools.

George Holden is an SMU Professor and Psychology Department Chair and will speak before a congressional briefing titled “Spare the Rod: Protect the Child” in Washington D.C. Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Congressional staffers will attend the briefing held by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. Rep. Hastings’ goal is to introduce a bill that will outlaw corporal punishment and paddling of children in schools, Holden said.

Currently, 19 U.S. states allow corporal punishment in public and private schools. Although Texas is one of these states, corporal punishment is outlawed in Dallas and other metropolitan areas across the state.

The topic of corporal punishment has gained an increasing amount of attention in light of a September 2014 Texas grand jury indictment charging Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson with felonious “reckless or negligent injury to a child” for “whooping” his four-year-old son with a tree branch.

A recent ABC NEWS poll found that 65 percent of the American public approves of spanking children at home, but 72 percent said it shouldn’t be permitted at school.

SMU freshman Kevin Ulman grew up going to a small private school in the Los Angeles area where he said corporal punishment in school was completely unheard of.

“I don’t think it is the business of a school to discipline a child like that,” Ulman said. “I’m not against corporal punishment completely. I got spanked by my parents when I did something wrong. I’m ok with that. But in school? No.”

Carol Miller, a Library Specialist at SMU, said corporal punishment has no place at home, school or anywhere else.

“I think that when you hit someone, when you physically harm someone, you are teaching them that this is the way to resolve issues. It is not ok ever.” Miller said.

Preschool teacher Lowry Manders said corporal punishment in school is unacceptable and can affect a child’s ability to learn.

“It is infringing on the child’s rights to be safe and secure,” Lowry said. “And they should be safe and secure in a school environment so they can learn.”

Holden, who is a leading expert on parenting, discipline and family, said there is very limited research on the impact of corporal punishment in schools.

“What research is available is focused on how much it’s used and to whom it’s used on,” Holden said in a press release. “It’s mostly used on minority students and students with disabilities.”

The bill Rep. Hastings’ hopes to introduce will not be the first bill lawmakers have seen regarding this topic. New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy introduced a bill called the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” in 2011. The bill never made it out of committee.

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