Instigator / Pro

Controversial Debate Series: Reasonable corporal punishment should be permitted in American public schools.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 8 votes and with 8 points ahead, the winner is...

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Last updated date
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Time for argument
One week
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Voting period
Two months
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Contender / Con

Four Key Points for Judges and potential contenders:

1. Reasonable corporal punishment includes, but is not necessarily limited to, physical conditioning (e.g., running laps around a track), spanking/paddling and the like. (1). The only corporal punishment at issue is "reasonable" corporal punishment. Any abusive corporal punishment would be, by definition, unreasonable. Thus, abusive corporal punishment (e.g., depriving a student of access to water while making him or her run laps in 115 degree Texas heat, beating with a baseball bat, thrashing with an electrical cord) is outside the scope of this debate. Corporal punishment permitted by law in those states permitting it is presumptively reasonable. (1).

2. The legality of corporal punishment is a different issue than reasonableness, however. This is about the normative question of whether corporal punishment should be allowed, not whether it is allowed in any type or form. Arguments with respect to the legal status of corporal punishment shall be considered non-topical and disregarded by judges.

3. The debate is limited to use of corporal punishment in the school setting, and the specific school setting at issue is American public schools. Other contexts beyond the school setting (e.g., corporal punishment at home), in non-American settings (e.g., Australia or Sweden) or in non-public contexts (private and/or religious schools) may be relevant as illustrative examples. But this is a debate about the United States (as opposed countries where corporal punishment is routinely carried out in unreasonable ways according to American sensibilities, like Malaysia, Uganda, Thailand, India or South Korea).

4. The debate is only about whether reasonable corporal punishment should be "permitted," as opposed to mandatory. Permitting corporal punishment does not imply that it will be used wholly or totally in place of other available measures of discipline (like in-school suspension, detention or revocation of extra curricular privileges).
Further, PRO does not have to come up with a plan for HOW corporal punishment should be applied or provide evidence that any particular scheme of implementing would avoid harms (such as potential abuses), identify what if any safeguards as to preventing abuse should be implemented, whether it should be a default punishment as opposed to something like in-school suspension, whether parents should be required to opt-in or opt-out or other issues focusing on implementation. Implementation-focused issues are beyond the scope of this resolution.



Rules: Please review the rules carefully before accepting.

Structure. The structure of this debate shall follow as such:

Round 1: debaters shall make their affirmative cases (absent any specific refutation of arguments made by the opposing side).

Round 2: debaters shall rebut the affirmative cases raised in round 1 (and may introduce new evidence in support of such rebuttals).

Round 3: debaters shall reply to the rebuttals provided in round 2 and provide any reconstructive arguments in support of arguments initially raised in round 1 (but may not introduce new evidence in support of such replies or reconstructive arguments).

Burdens of Persuasion. The burdens of persuasion shall be equal, as stated below:

In order for PRO to win, PRO must argue that "on balance" reasonable corporal punishment should be permitted in American public schools; and prevent CON from establishing that, by the same standard, corporal punishment should NOT be permitted in American public schools.

In order for CON to win, CON must argue that "on balance" reasonable corporal punishment should NOT be permitted in American public schools; and prevent PRO from establishing that, by the same standard, corporal punishment SHOULD be permitted in American public schools.

For the avoidance of doubt, the burdens of persuasion apply equally to both sides. No side has any greater or lesser burden than the other. All starting points are equal.

Please ask questions if any of the above is unclear. If you do not agree to these terms, it would be better that you select another debate.

Accepting this debate implies that you agree with all terms stated herein.

Round 1
Reasonable corporal punishment should be permitted in American public schools.

1.     Failed status quo. 
a.     Inadequate, failed options.
Few options are available to maintain appropriate classroom discipline; namely, referral, in-school and out-of-school suspension or expulsion. (Bloomberg 2004; Mizel 2016). Each fail, and each contribute to the“school-to-prison” pipeline, to the detriment of students and society. (Bloomberg2004; Mizel 2016).
Challenges confronting school discipline include, but are not limited to, drugs, gangs, violence and the like. However, a majority of referrals are not for drugs, gangs or violent offenses. According to the empirical literature, offenses involving defiance and insubordination comprise the majority of causes for school discipline. (Bloomberg 2004, 2 (reviewing literature)).
None of the referral, in-school/out-of/school suspension or expulsion options work. (Bloomberg 2004; Mizel 2016). Mizel 2016 finds a classic chicken-and-egg problem:students’ past delinquency was the strongest predictor of future delinquency.(Mizel 2016). And to no one’s surprise, it turns out that both in-school and out-of-school suspension fail to deter student misconduct.  (Bloomberg 2004, 2-8). 
Minority Students are the most likely to be the most hurt by the current suspension-based discipline model. (Mizel 2016). According to Mizel 2016, latinos were most likely to receive office referral, and blacks most likely to be suspended or expelled.  Likewise, boys were more likely than girls to receive office referral and to be suspended or expelled.  The outcomes are particularly egregious for boys and minority students.  For example, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, 23% of middle school students are suspended each school year and suspensions are concentrated heavily among minority populations.
Prolonged time periods spent outside of the classroom and away from structured learning environments is particularly harmful to students most in need of structure and positive influence. (Kirsch 2019). ISS in particular “was associated with lower grade point averages and increased likelihood of high school dropout.” (Cholewa 2019). Out-of-school suspension results in similar outcomes. (Bloomberg 2004).
b.    Making a bad situation worse.
Current disciplinary measures make a the already bad situation worse, across numerous data points in the short term and the long term. American Academy of Pediatrics 2003 warns that current measures such as suspension and expulsion “exacerbate academic deterioration,and when students are provided with no immediate educational alternative,student alienation, delinquency, crime and substance abuse may ensue.” (AAPS 2003).
Rosenbaum 2018 reinforces, finding that “[p]rior to suspension, the suspended and non suspended youth did not differ on 60 pre-suspension variables including students’ self-reported delinquency and risk behaviors, parents’ reports of socioeconomic status, and administrators reports of school disciplinary policies. Yet, [t]welve years after suspension(ages 25-32), suspended youth were less likely than matched nonsuspended youth to have earned bachelor’s degrees or high school diplomas and were more likely to have been arrested and on probation, suggesting that suspension . . .explains negative outcomes.” (Rosenbaum 2018).
Further, student suspensions cause life-long harm to students and their communities.  (Batcher-Hicks 2019, 17-21). According to Batcher-Hicks 2019, school suspensions result in overall declines in student achievement, lower lifelong educational attainment and adult criminal activity.  In particular, schools with higher suspension rates are 15 to 20% more likely to be arrested and incarcerated as adults, are less likely to attend/complete college. 
2.     Corporal Punishment: The reasonable alternative.

a.     Spanking works, in the short and long terms.
Competent Analysis of the underlying data on corporal punishment obviates baseless superstition against it.  Fuller 2015 illustrates how both the science and statistics behind spanking illustrate that it is consistently kids’ best interest.   Even now, some school districts are bringing back corporal punishment. For example, in March 2020 the Pampa ISD in Texas voted to bring back corporal punishment for the 2021 school year, following others throughout Texas with minimal opposition from parents or students. (Miller 2020).

Contrary to the multitudes of bad correlation studies and politicized pop-psychology, less spanking is directly linked to more child abuse and more teen violence; while children who are spanked tend to have the highest levels of optimism, academic achievement and highest self-esteem.  (Fuller 2015, 264-315; see also Larzelere& Baumrind 2010).  The empirical literature demonstrates no lasting harm resulting from spanking. (Baumrind (Berkeley); Baumrind 2001). Kids who are spanked performed better in school, were more involved and optimistic in terms of their future, compared with those never spanked. (CNN2010).
Student accounts confirm that corporal punishment, specifically paddling, motivated them to stay out of trouble. For example, Three Rivers ISD student Joseph Garcia said that being paddled wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  “It was kinda embarrassing. I Shouldn't have done thing I did. I'm now doing better changes and doing my best to stay out of trouble,” Garcia told a local news outlet.  (Garcia 2017). Additionally, Ozen High School student Raleigh Johnson Reported that after being paddled for failing a class, the coach “got it through [Johnson’s] head” that grades were important,he told a local newspaper. (Henry 2012). Likewise, Julian Mansfield, a 19-year-old student agrees with his former high school’s use of corporal punishment. He told CNN that the potential shame caused by corporal punishment is more a deterrent than the threat of pain,unlike suspension or detention which does not involve the same level of embarrassment.(CNN 2010).
School administrators agree that paddling is effective. For example, Kenneth Whalum Jr., a board commissioner for Memphis City Schools in Tennessee, told CNN that, in his experience, “[o]ur public education is in a state of crisis because the current discipline system in this nation is being ineffectively implemented,” and “[c]orporal punishment would be an arrow in the quiver for teachers to use at their disposal. It’s the best way to get the system right.” (CNN 2010). Smithfield High School Principal Chad O’Brian told a local news outlet that “A lot of the children actually would rather take corporal punishment. When they get into detention or [in/out-of-school suspension] then they are going to start missing extra curricular activities,ball games can’t participate, can’t come to games and those kinds of things.They would rather just . . . get it over with.” (WBCI 2019).
b.    Spanking opponents have proposed no alternative.
Thepublic move against corporal punishment largely came about as a result of junkscience (e.g., Gershoff 2013; Sheehan 2008) devoid of evidence for alleged harms and lacking viable alternatives (Gunnoe 2019). Only about 19 states currently allow corporal punishment in public schools. (NY Times 2018). Baumrind 2002 warns that the majority of negative child-behavior outcomes alleged in the anti-spanking literature are based on “methodological weaknesses,” which I willaddress I am sure at greater length in the rounds to come.  (Baumrind 2002; see also Larzelere 2010, Baumrind 2001).
Round 2
Opponent forfeited.  

Round 3
Extend all arguments.