Kentucky School Districts Ban Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools

Following an administrative regulation that required school districts to create a policy on the use of corporal punishment in schools, and advocacy efforts by Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky and partners, every school district in Kentucky has now prohibited the use of corporal punishment. The administrative regulation requiring districts to formalize rules around corporal punishment went into effect on Aug. 30.

“Corporal punishment is both ineffective and a violation of a child’s human rights,” said Myranda James, program coordinator at the U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children. “It is consistently linked to increased behavioral problems, increased aggression and defiance, and lower moral internalization. It is also linked to an increased risk of mental illness in adolescence, drug and alcohol abuse, and a greater likelihood of domestic violence into adulthood. It has no place in schools.”

The decision by Kentucky school districts is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that corporal punishment settings be abolished in all school settings in all states and replaced by alternative forms of student behavior management. Corporal punishment remains legal in many public and private schools in the United States and is disproportionately used among Black students and children with disabilities, according to the AAP. Additionally, national data show that among students who received physical punishment at school, 16.5% were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; making students with disabilities overrepresented among students who are physically punished at school.

“The decision by every school district across all 120 counties to formally prohibit corporal punishment in schools is a win for students and the commonwealth,” said Alex Young, a Kentucky native and student at the University of Notre Dame who advocates for ending corporal punishment in schools. “For seven years, we have worked tirelessly on advocacy efforts at the state and local levels to ban paddling. And from here on, students in the commonwealth will be safer, no longer having to attend school in fear of being hit by trusted adults. I am grateful that school boards and district leaders across Kentucky are in agreement that the archaic and inappropriate practice of corporal punishment has no place in our schools. Kentucky children deserve to receive quality education in a safe environment, and today’s announcement is a monumental step in the right direction.”

The Kentucky Department of Education’s 2022-2023 School Report Card, released on Tuesday, showed there were five incidents of corporal punishment in schools last year. All five incidents were in Pike County and involved white male students.

“Ending corporal punishment in schools is an issue we have been strong advocates for going back many years,” said Prevent Child Abuse Director Jill Seyfred. “It is encouraging that every Kentucky school will now be free of this harmful practice and will provide healthier, safer environments for all children. This is wonderful news for the future of the commonwealth.”