SPECIAL TOPIC: Child Abuse Outside of New York State

New York was not the first state to implement mandated reporting and training in the identification and recognition of abuse. California paved the way for child abuse laws and training implementation. But what about other states? Is child abuse looked upon the same way all over the United States? Actually, the answer may surprise you. Over a dozen state in this country still allow children to be hit by teachers or principals in school!

In an article entitled “19 states still allow corporal punishment in school”, the Washington Post reported that the following states allow students to be hit in buildings where the goal is supposed to be to learn - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. In some cases, children are hit just for being late to class. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 838 children were hit on average each day in public school, based on a 180-day school year, which would be 150,840 instances of corporal punishment a year.

How hard can the children be hit? Well, most schools say that they do not encourage bodily injury, but nonetheless every year there are several reports (and lawsuits) involving children who were severely beaten by school staff members. It is estimated that up to two percent of children are injured to the extent where medical attention is necessary. That is not surprising, considering that someone who is having a bad day may be looking for an excuse to take it out on an innocent child. Although teachers may claim that they don’t have students in their classes that they dislike, it is just plain old human nature to feel love, hate, stress, frustration and a need to release pent-up aggressive impulses. I am sure, as a student, it is hard to focus on studying if you are worried the teacher may be hitting you any minute for forgetting your homework. How can their state courts justify prosecuting people for assault when the teachers are assaulting kids in schools? At the very least, it seems like quite a contradiction, especially if you are perhaps expecting kids to model only the desirable behaviors of their instructors. Most studies on corporal punishment make the claim that it does not result in positive behavior change and, therefore, will not help children learn and will not make them more manageable in the classroom. It might make them want to drop out of school, though. So, realistically, it would appear that all those schools are accomplishing is to teach children that hitting is acceptable, and I’m sure the parents will then feel that a few smacks and spankings are fine at home too. If hitting is no big deal, then I can only assume that bullying is not going to be considered very seriously, and maybe won’t be considered at all.

It is hard to imagine sending my children off to school to learn, only to come home with a bruise or leave school upset because a stranger was allowed to hit them. Some schools actually still use paddles, and the students in wood shop class actually have to create the paddles as part of their curriculum! Wow, things sure are different outside of New York. In Europe, most corporal punishment in schools has been banned for decades. In other parts of the world, almost all modern countries have abolished it, as well. Physical punishment is still practiced in India, and also in Malaysia, where they are basically whipping students – they call it “caning”. But here we are in New York, and we know better, right? I hope so. If you are reading this, you have arrived at our home page, www.childabuseworkshop.com, and you are probably here to learn to identify and report child abuse and maltreatment, as this training is mandated for teachers who want to be certified in New York State and/or licensed in New York City. The NYSED wants you to know that abusing children is NOT acceptable, and I need to be clear on this – as a school employee, you are NOT allowed to get physical with students in any way.

Reporting of child abuse or neglect can be done by calling the police, the National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4-A-CHILD or the New York child abuse hotline, called the State Central Registry (SCR) at 1-800-342-3720. Calling these numbers when you suspect child abuse can save a life!

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