Tennessee's 136 local school systems operate 1,693 schools that employ 62,614 professional educators and serve 920,562 students, Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Tennessee's student population is approximately 70% Caucasian, 25% African American, and 5% other minorities. Approximately 16% of the students receive special education services, 34.6% are in Title I compensatory education programs, and 52% are classified as economically disadvantaged. The Office for Civil Rights reported that in 2002, 16.1% children lived in poverty. In 38 of the 136 school systems, 50% or more of the students are on free or reduced-price school meals. The number of English Language Learners who were identified as having barriers because English is not their native language increased 35% from 1998-99 to 1999-2000.

According to the most recent survey by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, 37,419 students were paddled in Tennessee elementary, middle and high schools during the 2002-2003 school year. That is 4.3% of the enrollment, an increase from the historical low of 4% in 1997-98. This number, however, does not reflect the actual incidence of corporal punishment in Tennessee public schools because students are reported only one time, even though they may have been paddled numerous times throughout the year.

Tennessee ranks 4th in the nation in percentage of students receiving corporal punishment according to the most recent OCR survey, exceeded only by Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama in percentage of students paddled.

The State of Tennessee Department of Education does not monitor or collect information about the use of corporal punishment in Tennessee public schools. The Tennessee State Board of Education has not updated information regarding schools that do not use corporal punishment or available speakers on discipline alternatives since 1992.

Tennessee State Law Senate Joint Resolution #175
Corporal Punishment in Tennessee Public Schools 1997-1998 Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools 1997-1998
Corporal Punishment in Tennessee Public Schools 1999-2000 Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools 1999-2000
Corporal Punishment in Tennessee Public Schools 2001-2002 Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools 2002-2003
Corporal Punishment in U.S. Private Schools

Tennessee State Law

TCA 49-6-4103

Corporal punishment. -- Any teacher or school principal may use corporal punishment in a reasonable manner against any pupil for good cause in order to maintain discipline and order within the public school.

TCA 49-6-4104 Rules and regulations. -- Each local board of education shall adopt such rules and regulations as it deems necessary to implement and control any form of corporal punishment in the schools in its district.

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Senate Joint Resolution #175

On February 15, 1989, Tennessee lawmakers adopted Senate Joint Resolution No. 175 of the 96th General Assembly. This Resolution established a Joint Committee to study discipline in Tennessee public schools. The scope of the committee was to study corporal punishment and positive alternatives in Tennessee schools. Realizing the need of professional input on which to make informed recommendations, the committee requested that interested professionals testify on the issues raised by the resolution.

As a result of the testimony presented and documentary information received, the committee made the following conclusions relative to disciplinary measures in Tennessee's public schools:

  1. Corporal punishment is not an effective tool in dealing with behavioral problems in the public schools.

  2. More effective alternative forms of discipline include: alternative schools, in-school suspensions, behavior modification techniques and behavior contracts.

  3. The majority of teachers do not use corporal punishment but do not believe corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool should be removed from the teachers discipline repertoire.

  4. Smaller teacher-pupil ratios reduce discipline problems in classes.

  5. Parental involvement is an important aspect in reducing a student's behavioral problems.

  6. In-service training for teachers in classroom management and alternative disciplinary measures is effective in reducing the need for teachers to use corporal punishment.

  7. Specific discipline plans which utilize fair, consistent rules and add structure to a school develop self-monitoring, self-reliant students and reduce the need for corporal punishment.

Based upon the committee's findings and conclusions, it made the following recommendations:

  1. In keeping with Governor McWherter's and President Bush's emphasis on local rather than state control the committee is not recommending a ban on corporal punishment. The committee recognizes corporal punishment is not an effective tool and encourages school districts to develop alternative disciplinary programs such as those suggested in this report and seek to phase out corporal punishment at the local level.

  2. The committee urges the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to do a feasibility study on adding a classroom management course to the teaching curriculum at the state universities.

  3. The committee suggests that local school districts give parents the option of placing in their child's permanent file a form denying the use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure on their child.

  4. The State Board of Education is encouraged to develop model guidelines for the use of corporal punishment to be used by school districts throughout the state.

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Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools 1997-98

The 10 worst states by percentage of students struck by educators

1 Mississippi 10.1
2 Arkansas 9.2
3 Alabama 6.3
4 Tennessee 4.0
5 Oklahoma 3.0
6 Louisiana 2.7
7 Georgia 2.13
8 Texas 2.07
9 Missouri 1.1
10 New Mexico 0.9

DATA RELEASED JULY 2000 (1997-98 School Year)

In the U.S. as a whole, 457,754 students were subjected to corporal punishment. This is 1.0% of the total U.S. public school enrollment of 45,550,555 students. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia now have prohibited all corporal punishment in public schools. Data for the remaining 23 states are listed below.

Alabama 45,610 6.3
Arizona 346 > 0.1
Arkansas 40,811 9.2
Colorado 0 0
Delaware 95 0.1
Flordia 12,850 0.6
Georgia 27,559 2.13
Idaho 17 > 0.1
Indiana 2,482 0.3
Kansas 20 > 0.1
Kentucky 2,584 0.4
Louisiana 19,986 2.7
Mississippi 49,859 10.1
Missouri 9,717 1.1
New Mexico 2,935 0.9
North Carolina 7,080 0.6
Ohio 903 > 0.1
Oklahoma 18,581 3.0
Pennsylvania 90 > 0.1
South Carolina 5,426 0.8
Tennessee 36,477 4.0
Texas 81,373 2.07
Wyoming 56 0.1

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Corporal Punishment in U.S. Private Schools

A bill to ban corporal punishment in NON-PUBLIC schools will be introduced by State Representative Ken Daniels and will be announced in the national media on January 23rd, 2003. Home schoolers would be exempt. Michigan banned corporal punishment in public schools in 1989. Michigan would be the second state to prohibit its use in non-public schools. Only New Jersey does so now.

Information compiled and published by Tennesseans for Nonviolent School Disicpline - www.forkidsake.org