RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Hitting kids in public schools is perfectly legal in North Carolina as a form of punishment.
If a parent hasn’t written to the school saying they don’t allow what’s known as “corporal punishment,” a teacher or principal can hurt a child, just as long as the damage doesn’t exceed needing “simple first aid.”
That’s the law, but most school districts are banning it, except two of them, including one in central North Carolina.
“[Corporal punishment] is ‘the deliberate infliction of pain on the body of a student to change behavior,'” Tom Vitaglione said, quoting the law. Vitaglione’s group “NC Child” hopes to get it off the books.
“We’ve been working one-by-one with local school systems across the state,” Vitaglione explained.
There are 115 school districts in North Carolina, and in years past, they recorded hundreds of incidents of school officials hitting kids. Now, Graham and Robeson county public schools are the only districts who haven’t banned the practice.
They hit 75 kids last school year.
“[The law is] about as close as you can come to sanctioning child abuse,” Vitaglione said.
CBS North Carolina went to Prospect Elementary School near Lumberton where the most kids are hit each year in Central North Carolina.
“I didn’t even know that,” Ken Harris said, who was picking up his first grade daughter. “It seems like they might need a little reform there.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” one man who didn’t give his name said as he waited to pick up his fourth grade grandchild. “When I came up as a young boy, we were punished when we did wrong.”
“I think [corporal punishment] should be an option,” Harris agreed. “I was raised up the ‘old school’ way too.
“But there are all kinds of means that you could use before that.”
CBS North Carolina reached out to Robeson County Interim Superintendent Shanita Wooten about the use of corporal punishment in her schools.
She said questions should go to the school board.
So CBS North Carolina reached out multiple times to School Board Chairwoman Peggy Wilkins-Chavis. They also reached out to her fellow board members. They never heard back.
“We’ve got more than 90 studies that show that there are negative effects [from the use of corporal punishment],” Tom Vitaglione with “NC Child” said. “There’s no studies showing a positive effect.
“We feel it’s really important to try to break this cycle, and we’re happy that it’s happened in 113 of the school districts. We hope that the last two will come on board soon.”
Bills removing corporal punishment haven’t gained much traction over the years in the General Assembly.
CBS North Carolina reached out to State Superintendent Mark Johnson about his stance on this.
In a statement, he said, “While this is a local decision, we know that there are more effective and constructive ways of enhancing discipline and ensuring order than by using corporal punishment.”