According to a new study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Penn State, schools in Alabama allow corporal punishment to occur more often than in any of the 19 states that have not yet banned it.
Researchers used 2011-12 data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and found that the practice of corporal punishment was most often allowed in Southern states.
Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama all had particularly high rates of the practice, with over half of all schools in those states reporting that they allow physical punishment.
According to the data from the U.S. DOE, a total of 163,000 students were subjected to physical punishment during the 2011-12 school year.
Not only that, but black children were disproportionately punished using physical force.
“I think what really surprised me was the extent of the gap between both black and white students and male and female students. It was so excessive,” said study author Sarah Font.
In fact, researchers found that in the majority of Mississippi and Alabama’s school districts, black children were 51% more likely to be physically disciplined.
Additionally, black students are over 500% more likely to be physically punished in one-fifth of those school districts.
Every nine seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten, but the number of students subjected to physical punishment from educators was a surprise to researchers.
In addition to Font’s study, researchers at Michigan State University recently found that the way teachers treat students in the classroom could be preventing them from learning and increasing their levels of anxiety.
Study author Peter De Costa said that scholarship students, first-generation college students, and minority students already feel extreme pressure to perform well, and that much of that pressure is only perpetuated by classroom environments that educators may be creating.
“If teachers already have a stereotype of students’ ethnic groups, it could advantage or disadvantage them,” De Costa said.
Instead, he said, it’s important for educators to realize that events and other influences throughout students’ lives are what shape them, not their ethnic groups.
He urges parents, students, and educators to be more aware of the people and cultures around them, and not to judge books by their covers.
Unfortunately, many of the states that still allow corporal punishment aren’t so open-minded.
When a concerned mother prompted other parents to take a stand in their Alabama community a few years ago, many refused, stating that their parents hit them and that they didn’t want to demonize their elders.
However, according to 2003 data from the Society for Adolescent Medicine, between 10,000 and 20,000 children, the majority of whom were black or of a minority, had to receive medical treatment as a result of corporal punishment in their schools.
In closing, the study suggests that federal agencies should consider whether or not the disparities discovered are in violation of civil rights laws.