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Group calls for enhanced measures to increase safety, prevent tragedy during the administration of corporal punishment

RALEIGH, NC-NC Child has asked the superintendent and local board members of each of the six school districts still using corporal punishment – Robeson, Graham, Madison, McDowell, Onslow and Swain – to adopt a policy to protect students from being injured during the administration of corporal punishment. Specifically, the advocacy organization is requesting that a non-parental representative for the student be present to witness the administration of corporal punishment. 

“State law requires that the punishment be done in a private place, with only the student, the school official administering the punishment, and another school official as a witness,” said Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow with the organization. “This allows the distinct possibility that the punishment could go too far, with the witness, a colleague of the perpetrator, reluctant to step in. A witness representing the student would find it far easier to do so.”

“Fortunately, injury during the administration of corporal punishment is rare, but it is tragic when it occurs,” said Vitaglione. “No one wants this sort of tragedy to occur in the public schools.”

Six of North Carolina’s 115 public school districts use corporal punishment – the beating of a student – as a form of discipline. These are Robeson, Graham, Madison, McDowell, Onslow and Swain. Only Robeson and Graham use the practice more than rarely. 

Corporal punishment is defined in state law as the “intentional infliction of pain upon the body of a student as a disciplinary measure.”  The use of the practice has declined dramatically in the past decade. New data compiled by the organization finds that corporal punishment was used just 184 times during the 2012-2013 school year, with more than seventy-five percent of the occurrences in Robeson and Graham alone.

“School personnel are the only non-parents authorized – and actually given immunity – to inflict pain on a child,” said Vitaglione. “With this awesome authority comes an equally awesome responsibility to assure that the child is not seriously injured.” 


NC Child is the leading statewide, nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that North Carolina children are healthy, safe, well-educated and have every opportunity for success. For more information, visit 

Follow NC Child on  Twitter @nckidscount.

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