Missouri school district reinstates corporal punishment

Posted at 2:18 PM, August 26, 2022 and last updated 7:06 PM, July 5, 2023

CASSVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A school district in southwest Missouri has decided to bring back spanking as a form of discipline for students, but only if their parents agree.

Classes resumed Tuesday in the Cassville School District for the first time since the school board in June approved bringing corporal punishment back to the 1,900-student district about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Springfield. The district dropped the practice in 2001.

The policy states that corporal punishment will be used only when other forms of discipline, such as suspensions, have failed and then only with the superintendent’s permission.

District spokeswoman Mindi Artherton was out of the office Friday and a woman who answered the phone in her office suggested reading the policy. She said staff had already done interviews. “At this time we will focus on educating our students,” she added, before hanging up.

Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told The Springfield News-Leader the decision to revive corporal punishment came after an anonymous survey sent to parents, students and school employees found they were concerned about student behavior and discipline.

Johnson said many parents have complained that the district doesn’t use corporal punishment.

“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.”

The policy also says a witness from the district must be present and the discipline will not be used in front of other students.

“When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm,” the policy says. “Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.”

Missouri is one of 19 states that allows corporal punishment in schools. Periodic efforts to ban corporal punishment in schools have failed to gain traction in the state Legislature.

A spokeswoman for Missouri’s K-12 education department said the state does not track which school districts allow corporal punishment because those decisions are made at the local level and approved by school boards.