Electronic Theses and Dissertations


The American School Discipline Debate and the Persistence of Corporal Punishment in Southern Public Schools

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

Ted Ownby

Second Advisor

Mike Hoffheimer

Third Advisor

Robert S. Haws


The dissertation examines the history of American school discipline and corporal punishment in southern public schools. Pedagogical literature, court reports, and popular fiction show that school discipline was a controversial topic throughout American history. The conflict over corporal punishment in schools led to a 1976 Supreme Court decision, Ingraham v. Wright, affirming the power of educators to use corporal punishment. When the school discipline debate peaked late in the twentieth century, most American schools no longer used corporal punishment but southern educators continued to paddle students, especially African American school children. By the twenty-first century, southern city schools adopted non-violent forms of discipline but paddling persisted in rural southern schools, reinforcing images of the South as a violent region.

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