School corporal punishment refers forms of upbringing children without parents causing deliberate pain or discomfort in response to undesired behaviour by students in schools. In the English-speaking world, the use by schools of corporal punishment has historically been justified by the common-law doctrine in loco parentis, whereby teachers are considered authority figures granted the same rights as parents to punish children in their care.
Advocates of school corporal punishment argue that it provides an immediate response to indiscipline and that the student is quickly back in the classroom learning, as opposed to suspension from school. Poland was the first nation to outlaw corporal punishment in schools in 1783. School corporal punishment is no longer practised in any European country. As of 2016, an estimated 128 countries have prohibited corporal punishment in schools, including all of Europe, and most of South America and East Asia. Corporal punishment used to be prevalent in schools in many parts of the world, but in recent decades it has been outlawed in 128 countries including all of Europe, most of South America, as well as in Canada, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and several other countries. Much of the traditional culture that surrounds corporal punishment in school, at any rate in the English-speaking world, derives largely from British practice in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly as regards the caning of teenage boys. There is a vast amount of literature on this, in both popular and serious culture.
The doctrine of in loco parentis lets school officials stand in for parents as comparable authority figures. The doctrine has its origins in an English common-law precedent of 1770. In some Middle Eastern countries whipping is used. From the 1917 Russian revolution onwards, corporal punishment was outlawed in the Soviet Union, because it was deemed contrary to communist ideology. School officials and policymakers often rely on personal anecdotes to argue that school corporal punishment improves students’ behavior and achievement. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence showing that corporal punishment leads to better control in the classroom.
A number of medical, pediatric or psychological societies have issued statements opposing all corporal punishment in schools, citing such outcomes as poorer academic achievement, increases in antisocial behaviour, injuries to students, and an unwelcoming learning environment. According to the AAP, research shows that corporal punishment is less effective than other methods of behaviour management in schools, and “praise, discussions regarding values, and positive role models do more to develop character, respect, and values than does corporal punishment”. An estimated 1 to 2 percent of physically punished students in the United States are seriously injured, to the point of needing medical attention. The AAP cautions that there is a risk of corporal punishment in schools fostering the impression among students that violence is an appropriate means for managing others’ behaviour. The Society for Adolescent Medicine recommends developing “a milieu of effective communication, in which the teacher displays an attitude of respect for the students”, as well as instruction that is stimulating and appropriate to student’s abilities, various nonviolent behaviour modification techniques, and involving students and parents in making decisions about school matters such as rules and educational goals. The AAP remarks that there has been “no reported increase in disciplinary problems in schools following the elimination of corporal punishment” according to evidence. According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates the use of corporal punishment does not respect the inherent dignity of the child nor the strict limits on school discipline”.
According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, all forms of corporal punishment in schools are outlawed in 128 countries as of 2016. Banned in 1813, corporal punishment was re-legalised in 1817 and punishments by physical pain lasted until the 1980s. The instruments were rebenques, slappings in the face and others. In Australia, laws on corporal punishment in schools are determined at individual state or territory level. While still legal in private schools in some states, in practice, very few schools impose corporal punishment. Ban repealed in 1989 but was in disuse.