Students With Disabilities More Likely To Face Physical Punishment In School

09/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Huffington Post

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch released a disturbing report today which claims that "students with disabilities face corporal punishment in public schools at disproportionately high rates." From the release:

In the 70-page report, "Impairing Education: Corporal Punishment of Students with Disabilities in US Public Schools," the ACLU and Human Rights Watch found that students with disabilities made up 18.8 percent of students who suffered corporal punishment at school during the 2006-2007 school year, although they constituted just 13.7 percent of the total nationwide student population. At least 41,972 students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment in US schools during that year. These numbers probably undercount the actual rate of physical discipline, since not all instances are reported or recorded.

Corporal punishment, legal in 20 states, typically takes the form of "paddling," during which an administrator or teacher hits a child repeatedly on the buttocks with a long wooden board. ACLU and Human Rights Watch interviews found that students with disabilities also suffered many other forms of corporal punishment, including beatings, spanking, slapping, pinching, being dragged across the room, and being thrown to the floor.

The report found that some students were physically abused for conduct related to their disabilities, including students with Tourette syndrome being punished for exhibiting involuntary tics and students with autism being punished for repetitive behaviors such as rocking. In some cases, corporal punishment against students with disabilities led to a worsening of their conditions. For instance, some parents reported that students with autism became violent toward themselves or others following corporal punishment.