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In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of educators to use corporal punishment to foster discipline in the public schools. In doing so, the Court observed that the use of the hickory stick was a venerable tradition. Yet, 30 years later, there has been a dramatic shift in state policies and local practices governing corporal punishment. This entry briefly traces the origins of corporal punishment in American education, litigation that has challenged the practice, often unsuccessfully, and recent state policy initiatives restricting its use.

An American Tradition

Corporal punishment is a practice deeply ingrained in American education. Its roots reach into the pre-Revolutionary colonial era. Consistent with the then-pervasive view of schooling as a means of passing on pious values, and of discipline ...

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