Until corporal punishment was banned from British schools as the result of some cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights, it was a familiar part of British school life. Corporal punishment, defined as inflicting physical pain as a method of discipline, has maintained a staying power in British schools long after it had largely disappeared from other sectors of British society. Weapons and severity varied, but the most common methods were “caning” (also known as “swishing’) or “slippering” (a euphemism for hitting with a gym shoe rather than an actual slipper), usually on the clothed buttocks.
Another common method was the “tawse,” a short leather thong that was was most widely used in Scottish schools.For much of the history of schooling, corporal punishment was widely accepted as an appropriate method of discipline, especially for boys. Corporal punishment was traditionally carried out in front of the offender’s fellow pupils as a way of humiliating and making an example of him.
Although corporal punishment, especially caning has been associated with boys private schools in literature and popular culture, in practice, there has historically been less difference between British private and state (public) schools than among individual schools. Even then, the main differences between public and private schools has been over who has the authority to regulate corporal punishment, including who may administer it.Instead, the more significant differences regarding corporal punishment have included gender, which meant generally harsher punishments for boys, though girls were almost never entirely spared.
Age has also been a factor, with corporal punishment at the elementary level generally limited to knuckle-rapping and spanking or slapping with the hand. Beyond these, regulation of corporal punishment have centered around who may administer it, what methods and body parts are permitted, the offenses it may be used to punish, and the duration. In all of these instances, there was sometimes significant variation that included whether any teacher could administer corporal punishment or only senior faculty or headmasters, and whether it would be administered in a private, public, or semi-public setting.
Regulations also included which body parts were off limits and whether punishment should be administered immediately or after a “cooling off” period.Even with these regulations, until the twentieth century, the basic acceptability of corporal punishment in British schools remained largely unquestioned.
The earliest challenges came in 1934, when doctors raised concerns about the health effects of caning, especially of girls. Caning students in public was first banned in 1961, and the first (unsuccessful) governmental efforts to ban corporal punishment in schools emerged beginning in the 1970s, promoted by Labour politicians. Corporal punishment was finally outlawed in Britain’s state schools in 1987 and in private schools in 1999.
But the end of corporal punishment in schools was not universally accepted, with some Christian schools unsuccessfully seeking exemptions, and some teachers, administrators, and even students favoring its return. But now even corporal punishment’s proponents acknowledge the unlikelihood of its return to Britain’s schools.
The USA currently allows the practice of corporal punishment, though it is left to each of the 50 states to decide whether or not they allow it’s use it. In that sense CP is like capital punishment in that the federal government and the supreme court permit it’s use yet it is up to each individual state to let schools to administer it to students. There are different forms of corporal punishment sanctioned to be used in the different states, though 31 states no longer permit it in their schools. This has been the legal position since the late 1970’s, a time when the physical punishment of students happened with greater frequency.
Many other Western countries have stopped using corporal punishment in the same way that these same countries have taken steps to stop parents smacking their children. The legislators and the populations of these nations have come to regard punishments such as birching, caning, smacking, and spanking as been cruel and contrary to human rights. However the USA supreme court still believes that schools should still be able to carry out such types of punishment for students that have misbehaved or broken school rules if the state the schools are located within still allows CP. Students in the 19 states that have retained corporal punishment can either be likely to get punished by such methods or not so much at risk.
There is a wide range of disparity in the states that have kept corporal punishment as to how frequently it is applied to students that have been caught misbehaving, or breached discipline codes in one way or another. School boards and principals will usually have the final say as to the type of punishments administered in their respective schools. A minority of schools will carry out corporal punishment for virtually every rule that students break to maximize it’s deterrent affect. The majority of schools tend to regard such punishment as a resort that is rarely required. Another minority of schools theoretically will cane or spank students yet have not done so for many years, and may never do so again. Schools with a more traditional outlook towards discipline are more likely to use corporal punishment on a regular basis. Perhaps that is why schools in the Southern States are the most likely to physically punish students for misbehavior.
The use of corporal punishment in the USA is thus predominantly in the Southern States. All three states that have schools regularly punish their students physically are in the South, namely Alabama, Arkansas, as well as Mississippi. There are six more states that carry out routine punishments, these are Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, and Georgia. The other ten states in, which CP is very rarely used include Arizona, Florida, and both North and south Carolina. So students in the Northern States will never realistically run the risk of receiving punishment. Students in the South though are the most likely to punished though less frequently than in the past.