Corporal Punishment in NC Schools – Progress Report

The following article was written by Linda Griffin, Parent Advocate Director for the Autism Society of North Carolina.

In July 2011 we posted a blog article about the shocking use of corporal punishment in NC public schools. At that time we reported that 38 NC school districts allowed corporal punishment and 16 of those schools had actually used corporal punishment during the 2009-10 school year. This October 2012 update brings good news.

In the 2011-2012 school year, out of North Carolina’s 115 school districts only 17 continue to allow the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline. Although we are still not completely out of the Dark Ages, we have made enormous progress – especially when you stop to consider that a mere four years ago, about 70 NC school districts used corporal punishment annually! This move into the light is the result of a long-term team effort. Furthermore, 8 of the 17 districts did not use corporal punishment nor have they used it in recent years. The 8 districts that allow but have not used corporal punishment in recent years are:

  • Alleghany
  • Alexander
  • Ashe
  • Northampton
  • Person
  • Randolph
  • Stanly
  • Thomasville

Unfortunately, 9 of the 17 districts used corporal punishment a total of 366 times! Those districts are listed below along with the number of occurrences:

  • Bladen (1)
  • Caswell (1)
  • Graham (43)
  • Macon (5)
  • Madison (2)
  • McDowell (29)
  • Onslow (4)
  • Robeson (267)
  • Swain (14)

We are grateful for the data which was compiled through an Action for Children North Carolina survey and through the NC Department of Public Instruction. Currently, all we have is the total occurrences figure. Data by race, age, gender and disability status will not be available until DPI releases that information in February 2013.

If you have questions or concerns about school issues, contact the Autism Society of North Carolina Parent Advocate in your area.

I should remind families that NC has a law regarding corporal punishment that requires the involvement of a parent or guardian before school officials may administer corporal punishment on a student. Here’s what the law says:

“Corporal punishment shall not be administered on a student whose parent or guardian has stated in writing that corporal punishment shall not be administered to that student. Parents and guardians shall be given a form to make such an election at the beginning of the school year or when the student first enters the school during the year. The form shall advise the parent or guardian that the student may be subject to suspension, among other possible punishments for offenses that would otherwise not require suspension if corporal punishment were available. If the parent or guardian does not return the form, corporal punishment may be administered on the student. This act is effective when it becomes law and applies beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.”

This means that schools are required to give parents the option to opt-out of corporal punishment. Schools should have sent a letter and a form at the beginning of the school year to parents in the 17 counties where they still allow its use. Parents need to fill out and return the form to the school in order to opt-out of corporal punishment.

It is important to remember:

  • Schools need to have current addresses for parents – if they have moved, the parents need to make sure the school has their new mailing address.
  • If parents do not receive a form, they should request one from the school as soon as school starts.
  • The forms are not standardized. It may contain language to this effect: “If corporal punishment is not used, the child may be subject to other punishment including suspension.” Be aware and request information about what violations are punishable by suspension and of the child’s rights if suspended.
  • For children who have an Individualized Education Program, or IEP,  in place, if consequences for violations are spelled out in the plan, the school should be following the plan regardless of what is stated in the opt-out form about suspensions.
  • Parents should keep a copy of all information, including the opt-out form.

Although 366 corporal punishment occurrences are horrendous, it is the lowest number ever recorded in NC. Furthermore, it is one of the lowest totals among the 19 states that still use corporal punishment. Parents who feel strongly about this issue should address their concerns with their local school board. Statewide data from the 2010-2011 school year indicate that students with disabilities receive corporal punishment disproportionately.

Linda Griffin can be reached via email at lgriffin@autismsociety-nc.org.

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