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As more local school districts choose effective alternatives to spanking, nine continue to allow the practice

(Raleigh, NC)–North Carolina public schools reduced the use of corporal punishment by more than half during the 2011-12 school year, but alarming disparities in the administration of spanking persist, according to an annual data snapshot released today by Action for Children North Carolina.

Twelve school districts administered corporal punishment a total of 404 times during the 2011-12 school year, down from 891 times in 2010-11. Three districts that hit students in 2011-12 (Columbus, Burke and Duplin Counties) have since banned the practice.

 “A sea change has occurred in North Carolina, and most local school districts have now abandoned corporal punishment in favor of more effective research-based approaches to student discipline,” said Tom Vitaglione, senior fellow at Action for Children North Carolina, a statewide child advocacy organization that has worked with educators and elected officials to curtail the use of corporal punishment in North Carolina public schools. “We applaud this progress, and caution that in order for North Carolina to advance we must ensure that every student has access to classrooms that are safe, nurturing and conducive to learning.”

Research shows when children are taught in supportive environments they thrive, rapidly forging connections and skills that empower them to succeed in school and later life. Exposure to violence, anxiety or heightened levels of stress–like the physical pain caused by corporal punishment–can alter the architecture of children’s developing brains, reducing their academic outcomes, promoting fear and mistrust in the classroom and, ultimately, causing them to disengage from the academic and social elements of school.

Data released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction earlier this year revealed disparities in the use of corporal punishment in North Carolina public schools. American Indian students, who comprise less than two percent of the total student population, received 58 percent of all corporal punishment administered in the state. Elementary school children, males and students with disabilities were all disproportionately likely to receive corporal punishment than their peers.

“It is ironic,” said Vitaglione, “That all local school districts now have excellent anti-bullying policies in place, yet several districts continue to threaten and actually inflict pain on students. Apparently, this is not considered bullying.” “On top of that, it is the most vulnerable students–the youngest and those with disabilities–that are singled out for this antiquated form of punishment.” 

Last month, the North Carolina State Board of Education voted to oppose the use of corporal punishment in public schools. Although the board has no authority to ban spanking in local districts, advocates say the vote sends a clear message that physical punishment is an outdated practice. The North Carolina General Assembly is currently considering legislation (S 278) that would further regulate corporal punishment, clarify exemptions and reiterate gender protections currently in law.

Other findings in the data snapshot include:

  • One in five uses of corporal punishment (91 cases) in North Carolina was administered in response to offenses where students hit or intimidated others.
  • Almost 30 percent of corporal punishment was administered to students younger than the age of seven.
  • Students with disabilities received 29 percent of all corporal punishment.
  • Eighteen percent of corporal punishment was administered to girls.

Corporal Punishment in North Carolina Public Schools: Down, But Not Quite Out is available on the Action for Children website at:

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