In-depth observation of corporal punishment data

Last fall, after reading about the behavioral challenges that educators were describing as returning to personal education, I started talking to people about school discipline. I was amazed at how important it is for students to stay in school and how schools are moving toward disciplinary discipline after the whole country had spent the last year. One of the people I spoke to was Cara McClellan, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He suggested that I look at corporal punishment as part of my research on exclusionary discipline because he heard a Tennessee district family ask to choose between paddle and suspension. “The options that are being given to families are so unfair and unfair to students, is it really a choice?” McClellan told me.

I didn’t originally plan to write about corporal punishment. But McClellan created my interest. After reading many reports and making many more phone calls, I realized that the practice was common, not unique to this district of Tennessee. And my research has drawn me to a different community.

My investigation into the continued use of corporal punishment in the United States, which we published last Monday in partnership with the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, focuses on Collins Elementary School in Covington County Public Schools in southeastern Mississippi. Collins Elementary stands at a national dataset for the widespread use of paddling in 2017-18, in a state where paddling is more common and opposition to it is more organized than anywhere else. I will let you read the story to learn more about how and why disciplinary practice remains in Mississippi and 18 other states. Here, I want to share other numbers.

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