On March 24, 2023, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote to Governors, Chief State School Officers, and School District and School Leaders and urged them to end corporal punishment in schools—the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students. This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) reinforces the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) position that corporal punishment in schools should be replaced with evidence-based practices, such as implementing multi-tiered systems of support like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), that create a safe and healthy school environments.
Despite decades of research showing the short and long-term harms of corporal punishment, the practice continues to be legal in at least 23 states.
In addition, the USDE released guiding principles on how to maintain safe, inclusive, supportive, and fair learning environments for students and school staff, including specific recommendations for evidence-based practices to give students what they need to learn and grow.
In addition, USDE avers that it stands ready to support efforts to replace harmful disciplinary practices, including exclusionary discipline and corporal punishment through funding under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and through its technical assistance centers, including the Best Practices Clearinghouse, National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, and National Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety, among other resources.