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History Of Corporal Punishment

The Rod Spoils the Child

It’s impossible to discuss this corporal punishment work without acknowledging all of the history and relationships that has made this work possible.

My twin sister, co-conspirator, rabble rouser, “carpetbagger” 

The many families who have allowed us into their lives during these most intimate and traumatic moments when their child is injured as a result of administration of corporal punishment. 

In Honor of the 1910 Revolt of the Chiabata  Legacy of the Lash-“Corporal Punishment in the Atlantic World”, a practice in military service for the US as well.


In 2012, young people/students in Holmes County –first   identified violence as a problem and did the Participatory Action Research (PAR) that unearthed all of this information that has really led to our Campaign To End Corporal Punishment.



Historians, Journalists & Researchers like –Dr. Stacey Patton, Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Black Children Won’t Save America, Liz Gershoff @ University of Texas at Austin, , Ward, Kupchik & others research on “ Historic Lynching and Corporal Punishment in Contemporary Southern Schools” 

Authors like  Robert P. Jones White Too Long, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. Phillip  Greven; The Legacy of White Supremacy of American Christianity:  White Too Long by Robert P. jones

Most recently, Attorney Jeffery Robinson, former legal attorney for the ACLU & Trone Center for Justice and Equality- talk and documentary on “Racism in America” - Who We Are Now, which chronicles the history of racism in America.


In the preface of the 1619 project, Hannah-Jones writes, ”What would it mean to reframe our understanding of US history by considering 1619 as our country’s origin point, the birth of our defining contradictions, the seed of so much of what has made us unique?”  As we  move along, we want to keep in mind   and think about how  this history continues to negatively impact the lives of Black, Brown, Native Americans and children who are  differently-abled through state sanctioned policies and practices and in our own communities.  As communities of color, why have we Permitted corporal punishment to exist in both public policy and practice?   We MUST envision a different future for our children free of violence?


The period of enslavement from 1619 and the vestiges of that period continue to show up  those nineteen (19) who continue to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary practice;  (where at least ten (10) of those states are in the southeastern US).


For nearly 425 years, state sanctioned violence, slavery existed throughout the South.  For nearly a century, Mississippi led with historically high rates of lynching.  Recently, these same states  were more likely to inflict state sanctioned school violence, corporal punishment, particularly toward Black, Brown & Native American students.  Today, these same trends continue to have a disproportionate effect on black juvenile and adult incarceration rates. 


Continued legality and use of  the practice (I’m talking about corporal punishment) are concentrated  in southeastern states, and the punishment is disproportionately imposed on black, brown, Native Amercan and students with disabilities. (Gershoff and Font, 2016; 10; Gershoff, Purtell, and Holas 2015)  It’s All Connected!!

 We must be mindful that the beginning of the African Slave Trade  begin in 1440 in West Indies (Caribbean Islands) South America and 1619 in North America throughout the Middle Passage.

The period of Enslavement was and continues to be  the most tragic human rights violation against Africans & Black people which included kidnapping, exploitation, human trafficking, abuse, free labor, suffrage, murder and other crimes.


Seasoning:  Kidnapped  and enslaved Africans taken to the West Indies were meant to dehumanize and obliterate their identity; sever their past bonds; teach the European language; rename them to adapt to new forced labor and living conditions.


Slave traders used "seasoning" in this colonial context to refer to the process of adjusting the enslaved Africans to the new climate, diet, geography, and ecology of the Americas. The term applied to both the physical acclimatization of the enslaved person to the environment and that person's adjustment to a new social environment, labor regimen, and language. 


Slave traders and owners believed that, if a person survived this critical period of environmental seasoning, they were less likely to die, and the psychological element would make them more easily controlled. This process took place immediately after the arrival of enslaved people during which their mortality rates were particularly high. These "new" or "saltwater" slaves were called "outlandish" on arrival

Those who survived this process became "seasoned", and typically commanded a higher price in the market. This would be a time when slaves were introduced to Christianity. Earth as temporal, identify with Israelites, etc.


Seasoning in 2022 looks like Breaking the spirit of students through paddling, exclusionary policies -in school & out of school suspension. Instilling Fear, paddling the entire class for one offense, walking  around with paddles underneath their arms, listening to the cries & muffled sounds of students being paddles; 


When I think about seasoning, “I think about Mississippi’s Literacy-Based 3rd grade Gate  that indicates that if students are not reading on grade level, they are retained for another year.  Throughout the school year during the regularly scheduled Board meetings, administrators flaunt that they are moving students from the bottom quartile and at the end of the school year all students will do well on the required state test.  Unfortunately, less than 45% of 3rd graders pass onto the 4th grade.  Even after mandatory summer school!!


Africans and Blacks saw a rise and increase in lynching.  Why Lynching?

Lynching:  Acts of racial victimization, terror and control used against Black people to enforce Jim Crow Laws in southern states.  Form of punishment and/or torture leading to death included hanging and strangling a person by their neck; Often accompanied by other forms of torture to prolong the agony for the victim(s), including tarring, featherings, beating, mutilation by white racist mobs.  Victims committed a minor offense or no crime at all.   


Similar to what we hear from students and parents: I was hit because I was talking in class or the cafeteria or waiting in line.  I rolled my eyes or I asked to go to the bathroom. Some of us  didn’t  pass the test so everybody got paddling.

Lynching was and continues to be Racial Public terror, instilling fear in families, entire communities. Slaves had no Rights, families could be separated, sold away, babies ripped from their mother’s breast and arms.


Slaves  were burned, women & girls were raped, even pregnant women were whipped and their babies cut from their bellies, men were also raped (Buck-breaking) men, women & children as young as 8 years old were hanged and  tortured.


Lynching in MS–First broadly publicized deadly lynching - Vicksburg in 1835.  Between 1863 and 1950, there were at last 708 lynchings in Mississippi, the vast majority of victims being Black. 

 (Consider the implications of Ward, Petersen, Kupchik  & Pratt 2019-”Historic Lynching and Corporal Punishment in Contemporary Southern Schools” -

The study examines how corporal punishment in contemporary public schools, a disciplinary practice concentrated in southeastern US states, relates to histories of lynching in the region.  Using school-level data from the US Department of Education to examine these relationships.  

What they found was an increased likelihood of corporal punishment for all students in counties where greater number of lynchings  occurred, and that lynching is particularly predictive of corporal punishment for black students.  Consistent with prior research associating historic lynching with contemporary violence these results suggest general and race-specific legacies for violent school discipline.  

Black students are at much greater risk of school corporal punishment than their white counterparts.  In the 2011-2012 school year, black boys had the highest overall rate of school corporal punishment (16 percent) in the nineteen states where the practice is permitted, followed by white boys (9 percent), black girls (6 percent) and white girls (2 percent); this trend has been consistent since data collection began in the 1970s (Gershoff and Font 2016; Gershoff  et al.. 2015) 

Racially disparate corporal punishment is most pronounced in Alabama and Mississippi, but substantial in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee schools as well (Gershoff and Font 2016)

An analysis of Mississippi data for 2017-2018 


The threat and use of violence as a Control strategy are deeply rooted in U.S. racial history.  Generations of Black, Brown and Native Americans have been subjected to intentional inflictions of pain as control mechanisms, through whippings and other means, especially in the southeastern United States, where violence of enslavement and subsequent Jim Crow era were concentrated.


Paddling–A form of physical punishment using a wooden plank or board to beat a person for committing an offense or for revolting; evolved during Middle Passage to ensure  the $$ value of the cargo (i.e. kidnapped Africans) was not diminished by visible scars from whippings and other forms of inhumane brutality and torture;

A standard form of corporal punishment used against slaves and as a form of discipline in American schools.

  • ***TO MAKE THEM STAND IN FEAR***

    *****IT’S ALL CONNECTED****


 Black Students & Corporal Punishment Nationwide:  According to “Cruel Schools”,  a report authored by Joe Spielberger and Mika Fernandez with Lawyers for Good Government


Black children make up 15.1% of public schools students, bt 37.3% of corporal punishment incidents;

Children with disabilities make up 13.2% of public school students, but 16.5% of corporal punishment incidents;

Native American children make 1.0% of public school students but 1.9% of corporal punishment incidents;

Of all Black students who receive corporal punishment, 50.5% were in Mississippi.

Of all Hispanic students who receive corporal punishment, 69.6% were in Texas.

In Arizona, Hispanic students make up 45.1% of public school students, but receive 93.0% of corporal punishment.

Of all Native American students 22who received corporal punishment, 74.2% were Oklahoma.

In North Carolina, Native American students make up 1.2% of public school students, but represent 54.7% of students against whom corporal punishment is used.

Of all students with disabilities who received corporal punishment, 28.8% were is Mississippi.

In Indiana, students with disabilities make up 14.6% of public school students, but 43.8% of Corporal punishment incidents.

In at least 13 of the 19 states, students with disabilities were disproportionately impacted by corporal punishment. 

 During 2017-2018, more than 2,500 public schools administered corporal punishment against students with disabilities.  At least 62 public schools administered corporal punishment against with preschool students with disabilities.


THE SCHOOLHOUSE TO PRISON PIPELINE

****IT’S ALL CONNECTED****


Corporal Punishment leads to In & Out of School Suspensions & EXPULSION- which leads to Juvenile Incarceration which ultimately  leads to Adult Imprisonment.    The US has the highest juvenile and adult incarceration rates in the world.  Mississippi has the 3rd highest incarceration rate in the nation.

It's impossible to discuss this corporal punishment work without acknowledging all of the history and relationships that has made this work possible.

My twin sister, co-conspirator, rabble rouser, “carpetbagger” 

The many families who have allowed us into their lives during these most intimate and traumatic moments when their child is injured as a result of administration of corporal punishment. 

In Honor of the 1910 Revolt of the Chiabata  Legacy of the Lash-“Corporal Punishment in the Atlantic World”, a practice in military service for the US as well.


In 2012, young people/students in Holmes County –first   identified violence as a problem and did the Participatory Action Research (PAR) that unearthed all of this information that has really led to our Campaign To End Corporal Punishment.



Historians, Journalists & Researchers like –Dr. Stacey Patton, Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Black Children Won’t Save America, Liz Gershoff @ University of Texas at Austin, , Ward, Kupchik & others research on “ Historic Lynching and Corporal Punishment in Contemporary Southern Schools” 

Authors like  Robert P. Jones White Too Long, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. Phillip  Greven; The Legacy of White Supremacy of American Christianity:  White Too Long by Robert P. jones

Most recently, Attorney Jeffery Robinson, former legal attorney for the ACLU & Trone Center for Justice and Equality- talk and documentary on “Racism in America” - Who We Are Now, which chronicles the history of racism in America.


In the preface of the 1619 project, Hannah-Jones writes, ”What would it mean to reframe our understanding of US history by considering 1619 as our country’s origin point, the birth of our defining contradictions, the seed of so much of what has made us unique?”  As we  move along, we want to keep in mind   and think about how  this history continues to negatively impact the lives of Black, Brown, Native Americans and children who are  differently-abled through state sanctioned policies and practices and in our own communities.  As communities of color, why have we Permitted corporal punishment to exist in both public policy and practice?   We MUST envision a different future for our children free of violence?


The period of enslavement from 1619 and the vestiges of that period continue to show up  those nineteen (19) who continue to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary practice;  (where at least ten (10) of those states are in the southeastern US).


For nearly 425 years, state sanctioned violence, slavery existed throughout the South.  For nearly a century, Mississippi led with historically high rates of lynching.  Recently, these same states  were more likely to inflict state sanctioned school violence, corporal punishment, particularly toward Black, Brown & Native American students.  Today, these same trends continue to have a disproportionate effect on black juvenile and adult incarceration rates. 


Continued legality and use of  the practice (I’m talking about corporal punishment) are concentrated  in southeastern states, and the punishment is disproportionately imposed on black, brown, Native Amercan and students with disabilities. (Gershoff and Font, 2016; 10; Gershoff, Purtell, and Holas 2015)  It’s All Connected!!

 We must be mindful that the beginning of the African Slave Trade  begin in 1440 in West Indies (Caribbean Islands) South America and 1619 in North America throughout the Middle Passage.

The period of Enslavement was and continues to be  the most tragic human rights violation against Africans & Black people which included kidnapping, exploitation, human trafficking, abuse, free labor, suffrage, murder and other crimes.


Seasoning:  Kidnapped  and enslaved Africans taken to the West Indies were meant to dehumanize and obliterate their identity; sever their past bonds; teach the European language; rename them to adapt to new forced labor and living conditions.


Slave traders used "seasoning" in this colonial context to refer to the process of adjusting the enslaved Africans to the new climate, diet, geography, and ecology of the Americas. The term applied to both the physical acclimatization of the enslaved person to the environment and that person's adjustment to a new social environment, labor regimen, and language. 


Slave traders and owners believed that, if a person survived this critical period of environmental seasoning, they were less likely to die, and the psychological element would make them more easily controlled. This process took place immediately after the arrival of enslaved people during which their mortality rates were particularly high. These "new" or "saltwater" slaves were called "outlandish" on arrival

Those who survived this process became "seasoned", and typically commanded a higher price in the market. This would be a time when slaves were introduced to Christianity. Earth as temporal, identify with Israelites, etc.


Seasoning in 2022 looks like Breaking the spirit of students through paddling, exclusionary policies -in school & out of school suspension. Instilling Fear, paddling the entire class for one offense, walking  around with paddles underneath their arms, listening to the cries & muffled sounds of students being paddles; 


When I think about seasoning, “I think about Mississippi’s Literacy-Based 3rd grade Gate  that indicates that if students are not reading on grade level, they are retained for another year.  Throughout the school year during the regularly scheduled Board meetings, administrators flaunt that they are moving students from the bottom quartile and at the end of the school year all students will do well on the required state test.  Unfortunately, less than 45% of 3rd graders pass onto the 4th grade.  Even after mandatory summer school!!


Africans and Blacks saw a rise and increase in lynching.  Why Lynching?

Lynching:  Acts of racial victimization, terror and control used against Black people to enforce Jim Crow Laws in southern states.  Form of punishment and/or torture leading to death included hanging and strangling a person by their neck; Often accompanied by other forms of torture to prolong the agony for the victim(s), including tarring, featherings, beating, mutilation by white racist mobs.  Victims committed a minor offense or no crime at all.   


Similar to what we hear from students and parents: I was hit because I was talking in class or the cafeteria or waiting in line.  I rolled my eyes or I asked to go to the bathroom. Some of us  didn’t  pass the test so everybody got paddling.


Lynching was and continues to be Racial Public terror, instilling fear in families, entire communities. Slaves had no Rights, families could be separated, sold away, babies ripped from their mother’s breast and arms.


Slaves  were burned, women & girls were raped, even pregnant women were whipped and their babies cut from their bellies, men were also raped (Buck-breaking) men, women & children as young as 8 years old were hanged and  tortured.


Lynching in MS–First broadly publicized deadly lynching - Vicksburg in 1835.  Between 1863 and 1950, there were at last 708 lynchings in Mississippi, the vast majority of victims being Black. 


 (Consider the implications of Ward, Petersen, Kupchik  & Pratt 2019-”Historic Lynching and Corporal Punishment in Contemporary Southern Schools” -

The study examines how corporal punishment in contemporary public schools, a disciplinary practice concentrated in southeastern US states, relates to histories of lynching in the region.  Using school-level data from the US Department of Education to examine these relationships.  

What they found was an increased likelihood of corporal punishment for all students in counties where greater number of lynchings  occurred, and that lynching is particularly predictive of corporal punishment for black students.  Consistent with prior research associating historic lynching with contemporary violence these results suggest general and race-specific legacies for violent school discipline.  

Black students are at much greater risk of school corporal punishment than their white counterparts.  In the 2011-2012 school year, black boys had the highest overall rate of school corporal punishment (16 percent) in the nineteen states where the practice is permitted, followed by white boys (9 percent), black girls (6 percent) and white girls (2 percent); this trend has been consistent since data collection began in the 1970s (Gershoff and Font 2016; Gershoff  et al.. 2015) 

Racially disparate corporal punishment is most pronounced in Alabama and Mississippi, but substantial in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee schools as well (Gershoff and Font 2016)

An analysis of Mississippi data for 2017-2018 


The threat and use of violence as a Control strategy are deeply rooted in U.S. racial history.  Generations of Black, Brown and Native Americans have been subjected to intentional inflictions of pain as control mechanisms, through whippings and other means, especially in the southeastern United States, where violence of enslavement and subsequent Jim Crow era were concentrated.


Paddling–A form of physical punishment using a wooden plank or board to beat a person for committing an offense or for revolting; evolved during Middle Passage to ensure  the $$ value of the cargo (i.e. kidnapped Africans) was not diminished by visible scars from whippings and other forms of inhumane brutality and torture;

A standard form of corporal punishment used against slaves and as a form of discipline in American schools.

  • ***TO MAKE THEM STAND IN FEAR***

    *****IT’S ALL CONNECTED****


 Black Students & Corporal Punishment Nationwide:  According to “Cruel Schools”,  a report authored by Joe Spielberger and Mika Fernandez with Lawyers for Good Government


Black children make up 15.1% of public schools students, bt 37.3% of corporal punishment incidents;

Children with disabilities make up 13.2% of public school students, but 16.5% of corporal punishment incidents;

Native American children make 1.0% of public school students but 1.9% of corporal punishment incidents;

Of all Black students who receive corporal punishment, 50.5% were in Mississippi.

Of all Hispanic students who receive corporal punishment, 69.6% were in Texas.

In Arizona, Hispanic students make up 45.1% of public school students, but receive 93.0% of corporal punishment.

Of all Native American students 22who received corporal punishment, 74.2% were Oklahoma.

In North Carolina, Native American students make up 1.2% of public school students, but represent 54.7% of students against whom corporal punishment is used.

Of all students with disabilities who received corporal punishment, 28.8% were is Mississippi.

In Indiana, students with disabilities make up 14.6% of public school students, but 43.8% of Corporal punishment incidents.

In at least 13 of the 19 states, students with disabilities were disproportionately impacted by corporal punishment. 

 During 2017-2018, more than 2,500 public schools administered corporal punishment against students with disabilities.  At least 62 public schools administered corporal punishment against with preschool students with disabilities.


THE SCHOOLHOUSE TO PRISON PIPELINE

****IT’S ALL CONNECTED****


Corporal Punishment leads to In & Out of School Suspensions & EXPULSION- which leads to Juvenile Incarceration which ultimately  leads to Adult Imprisonment.    The US has the highest juvenile and adult incarceration rates in the world.  Mississippi has the 3rd highest incarceration rate in the nation.