Landon K., a six-year-old boy with autism, was in first grade at his Mississippi elementary school when his assistant principal, “a big, 300-lb man, picked up an inch thick paddle and paddled him [on the buttocks].” His grandmother, Jacquelyn K., reported, “my child just lost it … he was screaming and hollering … it just devastated him.” Jacquelyn knew that paddling was harmful for children with autism: “I had already signed a form saying they couldn’t paddle. I sent that form in every year … When a child with autism has something like that happen, they don’t forget it. It’s always fresh in their minds.”
Landon was traumatized and became terrified of school. “He was a nice, quiet, calm boy,” noted Jacquelyn, but after the paddling, “he was screaming, crying, we had to call the ambulance, they had to sedate him … The next day, I tried to take him to school, but I couldn’t even get him out of the house. He was scared of going over there, scared it would happen again … We carried him out of the house, he was screaming. We got him to school but had to bring him back home … Now he has these meltdowns all the time. He can’t focus, he cries.”
Jacquelyn withdrew Landon from school, fearing for his physical safety and mental health. She was threatened by truant officers: “[They] said I’d go to jail if I didn’t send him back to school … If I felt he would have been safe in school, he would have been there. I’m sure they would have paddled him again. I don’t trust them. If they don’t know what they’re dealing with, how can they teach a child? And the sad thing about it, he can learn. He can learn.”
hattip New York Times
More than 200,000 schoolchildren are paddled, spanked or subjected to other physical punishment each year, and disabled students get a disproportionate share of the treatment, according to a new study.
Most states prohibit corporal punishment in public schools, but 20 do not. The two watchdog groups that collaborated on the report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, are urging federal and state lawmakers to extend the ban nationwide and enact an immediate moratorium on physical punishment of students with disabilities.
“Corporal punishment is just not an effective method of punishment, especially for disabled children, who may not even understand why they’re being hit,” said Alice Farmer, who wrote the report.
The report, based on federal Department of Education data, said that of the 223,190 public school students nationwide who were paddled during the 2006-7 school year, at least 41,972, or about 19 percent, were students with disabilities, who make up 14 percent of all students.
As recently as the 1970s, only two states had laws banning corporal punishment, but 28 others have since passed similar legislation. Corporal punishment is still permitted in some form in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.