Spare the rod
When Human Rights Watch called for an end to corporal punishment in schools today, its report pointed directly at Florida.
The Sunshine State is one of 21 states to allow educators to spank misbehaving students. (See Fl. Stat. 1006.07) And while the state doesn't come close to the highest number of such disciplines - that would be Texas, with 41,497 of 223,190 students swatted nationally in 2006-07 - it still rates in the top 10 when it comes to percentage of students struck by educators that year.
Jackson County, in the Panhandle, led all Florida districts with 712 incidents of 5,245 statewide, the Florida DOE reports. The same report notes that the number of reported uses of corporal punishment has dropped 78 percent since 1991-92. Also, in 1989-90, all 67 districts used corporal punishment, compared to 28 districts in 2006-07.
Here in the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough County schools still permit spanking, though they haven't done it recently. You might recall back in 2003 when School Board member Jennifer Faliero called for more corporal punishment and received a fairly negative reaction. "It's used very sparingly," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. (See the district rules on corporal punishment here.)
Polk schools reported 12 uses of corporal punishment in 2006-07.
The folks at Human Rights Watch say one time is too many.
So they're calling on school district, state and national leaders to ban the practice. "All corporal punishment, whether or not it causes significant physical injury, represents a violation of each student's rights to physical integrity and human dignity," the report states. "It is degrading and humiliating, damaging the student's self-esteem and making him or her feel helpless."
Still no reaction from Florida school officials on what, if anything, they plan to do.