Corporal punishment is finally banned in all Kentucky schools – but not by law

After years of partnering together to lead the charge on this issue, we’re celebrating a big win for child advocates in Kentucky – the banning of corporal punishment in every school district in the commonwealth. This decision by our school districts came after the Kentucky Department of Education put out an administrative regulation requiring districts to create a formal policy on the use of corporal punishment. They all chose to prohibit it.

Corporal punishment is still legal in Kentucky

We spent seven years lobbying the Kentucky Legislature together to get corporal punishment in schools outlawed statewide, and although that legislation is yet to pass, we have many champions in the General Assembly. We want to thank Rep. Steve Riley in particular, who has fought hard for this change. It is through his efforts the visibility of the issue has been raised.

KY failed to ban corporal punishment: We're making changes without them

Corporal punishment is a discipline method in which an adult deliberately inflicts pain on a child, with the secondary goal of instilling fear in the student so they misbehave less in the future. In recent history in the state of Kentucky, it has generally taken the form of paddling. However, hitting a child teaches them that a way to settle conflicts or change a behavior you don’t like in others is to use physical force and inflict pain and humiliation.

Corporal punishment in schools is not only a violation of a child’s rights, it’s ineffective as a tool for behavior management. Rather than correcting behavior in kids, it can often have the opposite effect in the long-term. There is a large body of research that consistently links corporal punishment to increased behavioral problems, increased aggression and defiance and lower moral internalization. It is also linked to an increased risk of mental illness in adolescence, drug and alcohol abuse, and a greater likelihood of domestic violence in adulthood.

We also know corporal punishment is not doled out equally among students, and the most vulnerable kids are often on the receiving end of the most corporal punishment. National data show corporal punishment is disproportionately used among students with disabilities, students living in poverty and Black and Hispanic students.

Greenberg's universal pre-K plan: It prioritizes early childhood education for Louisville kids

Kentucky kids are safer thanks to school policies against paddling

This academic year, students in the commonwealth will be safer, no longer having to attend school in fear of being hit by trusted adults. We are grateful school boards and district leaders across Kentucky are in agreement the archaic and inappropriate practice of corporal punishment has no place in our schools. Kentucky children deserve to receive quality education in a safe environment, and this announcement is a monumental step in the right direction.

While we celebrate progress in Kentucky, it is important to remember not all children in the U.S. have the same protections. At least 128 countries have banned corporal punishment in schools. It is long past time the United States join them, and end government-sanctioned violence against school children once and for all.

Jill Seyfred is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, the leading statewide child abuse prevention organization.

Alex Young is a Louisville native, a current student at the University of Notre Dame, and a longtime advocate for ending corporal punishment in schools.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Schools ban spanking after law failed to protect Kentucky kids