According to an analysis by The Hechinger Report, 150 schools in eight states across the U.S. used corporal punishment, or a form of physical pain, on 20% or more of their students that year. Sixty-nine of those schools, such as Collins Elementary School, are in Mississippi. Tara Garcia Mathewson investigates how and why this practice is still legal and happening at thousands of schools today.

In Covington County, giving parents a say has helped prevent controversy over the use of corporal punishment, but a Hechinger Report investigation has found this system of local and parental control is rife with problems. School officials don’t always respect parents’ wishes. They implicitly — and sometimes explicitly — pressure parents and students into allowing or actively choosing the punishment, often by presenting it as an alternative to suspension. Families, faced with the prospect of missed learning time and a daytime scramble for childcare, opt for the faster, physical discipline and a return to class.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.