Over most of the nation, corporal punishment has been on a gradual but steady decline since the 1970's, and 28 states have banned it, says the New York Times. The practice remains alive, particularly in rural parts of the South and the lower Midwest, where it is not only legal, but also widely practiced. In a handful of districts, there have been recent moves to reinstate it, some successful, more not.
The most recent federal statistics show that during the 2002-3 school year, more than 300,000 U.S. schoolchildren were disciplined with corporal punishment, usually one or more blows with a thick wooden paddle. Sometimes holes were cut in the paddle to make the beating more painful. Of those students, 70 percent were in five Southern states: Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas. The battle over corporal punishment often is fought on the edges of Southern cities, where suburban growth pushes newcomers from across the country into rural and religiously conservative communities. “I believe we have reached the point in our social evolution where this is no longer acceptable, just as we reached a point in the last half of the 19th century where husbands using corporal punishment on their wives was no longer acceptable,” said Murray Straus, a director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. Among adherents of paddling is James C. Dobson, the child psychologist who founded Focus on the Family and one of the nation's influential evangelical leaders.