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Body castigation is allowed in a school district in Missouri, is this legal?

Corporal punishment is back in Missouri if a child’s guardian opts in, though the violent practice has no evidence that it reduces misbehaviour.

Corporal punishment is back in Missouri if a child’s guardian opts in, though the violent practice has no evidence that it reduces misbehaviour.

A school district in Missouri is bringing back the smacking of children in an effort to discipline children. but only if their guardian agrees.

Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told The Springfield News-Leader that the reintroduction of the policy was in reaction to parent concerns about student behaviour.

“We’ve had people actually thank us for it,” he said. “Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I’ve run into have been supportive.”

While the school may have received encouragement to engage in the practice, the rate of children being physically punished has been decreasing year-on-year. Data from the Journal of Child and Family Studies, published in 2019, states that rates of corporal punishment of children younger than nine was 49 percent and down by as much as 40 percent from 1988.

Only 62 countries in the world have banned the practice, which does not include the US. Around one-third of US parents hit their children. Rates of physical punishment of children are higher amongst people who were themselves beaten as a child.

Is there any evidence corporal punishment works?

In short, no. In fact, there are a host of problems associated with hitting a child.

Harvard researcher Jorge Cuartas says, “Preschool and school age children — and even adults — [who have been] spanked are more likely to develop anxiety and depression disorders or have more difficulties engaging positively in schools and skills of regulation, which we know are necessary to be successful in educational settings.”

He coauthored a study into the practice with Katie McLaughlin, professor at the Department of Psychology. They concluded that corporal punishment actually changes the way a child’s brain reacts to stimuli. By using MRI scans on 147 children, the researchers saw an increase in brain activity in the area that detects threats and emotional response after showed a selection of images. This included images that would not usually be considered threatening.

“We know that spanking is not effective and can be harmful for children’s development and increases the chance of mental health issues. With these new findings, we also know it can have potential impact on brain development, changing biology, and leading to lasting consequences.” says Cuartas.

This brain activity is a similar response as children who have been sexually abused.


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