Corporal punishment in schools used to be commonplace in the United States, with paddling being one of the most prevalent forms. If you’re wondering when paddling was phased out of schools, the answer varies across the country.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Paddling started being banned in schools in the late 1970s, gaining momentum through the 1980s and 1990s. Today, 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools, but its use has declined dramatically from previous decades.

What Is Paddling in Schools?

Paddling in schools, also known as corporal punishment, refers to the act of physically disciplining students by striking them with a paddle. It has been a controversial disciplinary method used in schools for many years, although its prevalence has significantly decreased in recent decades.

Definition of Paddling

Paddling involves using a wooden paddle to strike a student on their buttocks as a form of punishment for misbehavior or rule-breaking. The severity of the paddling can vary, but it typically causes some degree of pain and discomfort.

It is important to note that paddling is different from physical abuse, as it is administered by school staff and is intended to be a disciplinary measure rather than an act of violence.

How Paddling Was Carried Out

In schools where paddling was practiced, it was usually carried out in a designated area such as the principal’s office or another private space. The student would be required to bend over a desk or hold onto a piece of furniture while the paddling was administered.

The number of strikes and the force used would depend on the school’s policies and the severity of the student’s offense.

Paddling was often seen as a deterrent to prevent future misbehavior and maintain discipline within the school. However, its effectiveness as a disciplinary method has been widely debated, with many arguing that it can have long-lasting negative effects on students’ mental and emotional well-being.

Regulations Around Paddling

The use of paddling as a disciplinary measure in schools has been a subject of considerable debate and concern. Over the years, many states in the United States have implemented regulations and laws regarding the use of corporal punishment in schools.

Currently, 31 states have banned paddling in schools, while others still allow it, but with varying degrees of restrictions and guidelines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with numerous child advocacy organizations, strongly opposes the use of corporal punishment in schools. They argue that it is ineffective, can lead to physical and emotional harm, and undermines the principles of positive discipline and effective classroom management.

For more information on the regulations and statistics related to paddling in schools, you can visit the website of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, which provides comprehensive resources and research on this topic.

History and Prevalence of Paddling in Schools

Paddling’s Entrenched History in Education

Paddling, also known as corporal punishment, has a long and entrenched history in the education system. It dates back centuries and was used as a disciplinary method to maintain order and control in classrooms.

In fact, paddling was once considered a normal and accepted practice in schools across the United States.

During the early years of American education, paddling was seen as an effective way to discipline students and enforce obedience. It was believed that physical punishment would teach children to respect authority and discourage them from engaging in disruptive behavior.

Paddling was often administered by teachers or school administrators using a wooden paddle on the student’s buttocks.

While paddling has been practiced in various cultures throughout history, its prevalence in American schools reached its peak during the mid-20th century.

Peak Usage in Schools

The use of paddling in schools was most prevalent during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, it was estimated that around 90% of schools in the United States allowed corporal punishment. Paddling was seen as a common disciplinary tool and was even supported by many parents and community members.

However, as time went on, attitudes towards corporal punishment began to shift. Studies started to emerge questioning its effectiveness and long-term impact on students. Concerns were raised about the physical and psychological harm it could cause, leading to a decline in its usage in schools.

Today, the use of paddling in schools has significantly decreased. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2020, only 19 states in the United States still allow corporal punishment in schools. This marks a significant decrease from the peak usage in the mid-20th century.

Demographics of Paddling

The demographics surrounding the use of paddling in schools have also undergone changes over time. Historically, paddling was more prevalent in rural areas and Southern states. This can be attributed to cultural and regional differences in disciplinary practices.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, African American students and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by paddling. This raises concerns about the potential for discrimination and unequal treatment in the education system.

Efforts to ban paddling in schools continue to gain momentum as more research highlights its negative effects on students. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have called for a complete ban on corporal punishment in all schools, emphasizing the importance of promoting positive and non-violent discipline methods.

For more information on the history and prevalence of paddling in schools, you can visit and

Decline of Paddling in Schools

For many years, corporal punishment was a common disciplinary practice in schools. However, over time, society’s views on this practice began to change, leading to a decline in paddling in schools.

Increased Scrutiny in the 1960s-70s

In the 1960s and 70s, there was an increasing amount of scrutiny on the use of corporal punishment in schools. As awareness grew about the potential negative effects on children’s well-being, parents, educators, and experts started questioning the effectiveness and ethics of paddling as a disciplinary tool.

Studies began to emerge, highlighting the potential physical and psychological harm caused by corporal punishment. These findings triggered public debate and discussions on alternative disciplinary methods that focused on positive reinforcement and behavior management.

Key Bans Starting in the 1970s

Starting in the 1970s, several states took steps to ban or limit the use of corporal punishment in schools. These bans were often a response to mounting public pressure and concerns about the potential for abuse and unequal treatment of students.

One of the first significant bans occurred in New Jersey in 1971, followed by Massachusetts in 1972. Other states soon followed suit, including Wisconsin, California, and Oregon. By the end of the 1970s, several states had implemented laws or regulations that restricted or prohibited paddling in schools.

Momentum in the 1980s-90s

The momentum against corporal punishment in schools continued to grow in the 1980s and 90s. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association issued statements condemning the use of physical punishment in educational settings.

During this period, more states enacted laws banning or severely limiting paddling in schools. By the end of the 1990s, the majority of U.S. states had implemented some form of restrictions on corporal punishment in educational institutions.

Current State Bans and Policies

Today, the use of corporal punishment in schools is banned in many states across the country. Currently, 31 states have prohibited paddling in public schools, while others have implemented strict regulations and guidelines for its use.

These bans and policies reflect society’s evolving understanding of effective disciplinary practices and a recognition of the importance of providing a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.

For more information on the current state bans and policies regarding paddling in schools, you can visit the website of, an organization dedicated to promoting positive discipline and ending the use of corporal punishment in schools.

Ongoing Controversies and Debates

The use of corporal punishment in schools, specifically paddling, has long been a subject of controversy and debate. While many argue that it is an effective disciplinary tool, others believe it to be outdated and potentially harmful.

The ongoing discussion surrounding this issue has led to various arguments, alternative disciplinary methods, and federal attempts at reform.

Arguments Around Paddling Today

Proponents of paddling argue that it serves as a deterrent to misbehavior and helps maintain discipline in the classroom. They believe that physical punishment can be an effective way to teach students the consequences of their actions.

Additionally, some argue that it can be more efficient and cost-effective than other disciplinary measures, such as detention or suspension.

On the other hand, opponents of paddling highlight concerns about its potential negative effects on students. They argue that it can lead to physical and emotional harm, and may even perpetuate a cycle of violence.

Additionally, there are concerns about the disproportionate use of paddling on certain groups, such as students of color or those with disabilities.

It is important to note that the use of corporal punishment in schools varies by state and district. While some states have banned paddling altogether, others still allow it with certain restrictions. This further adds to the ongoing debates and differing perspectives on the issue.

Disciplinary Alternatives

In response to the controversies surrounding paddling, many schools have adopted alternative disciplinary methods. These methods focus on positive reinforcement, conflict resolution, and fostering a supportive learning environment.

Examples of these alternatives include peer mediation programs, restorative justice practices, and social-emotional learning initiatives.

Advocates for these alternatives argue that they are more effective in promoting long-term behavioral change and student development. They emphasize the importance of addressing the underlying causes of misbehavior rather than simply resorting to physical punishment.

Furthermore, these alternatives aim to create a safe and inclusive school environment that encourages positive behavior and academic success.

Federal Attempts at Reform

The controversy surrounding paddling in schools has caught the attention of federal lawmakers. In recent years, there have been attempts to implement nationwide reforms to restrict or ban the use of corporal punishment in schools.

One such attempt was made through the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act,” introduced in the U.S. Congress. This bill aimed to prohibit the use of physical punishment in schools that receive federal funding.

While the bill did not pass, it sparked discussions and raised awareness about the issue on a national level.

It is worth mentioning that several organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Civil Liberties Union, have also voiced their opposition to paddling in schools. They argue that it is not an effective or appropriate method of discipline and advocate for the use of alternative strategies.


While paddling students used to be commonplace in U.S. schools, views shifted in the late 20th century due to increased scrutiny around corporal punishment. Key state bans started in the 1970s, gaining force over the next few decades.

Today, 31 states prohibit paddling in schools, though it persists in some districts in 19 states. The debates around paddling’s merits continue, but educational disciplinary practices have largely moved away from physical punishment towards alternative corrective measures.

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