A board member for the National Rifle Association wants to defeat a proposed bill that would ban corporal punishment in Texas schools, arguing that paddling a child now may prevent him from “having to put a bullet in him later.”
Charles Cotton — a lifelong gun enthusiast who also serves on the board of directors for the PSC Shooting Club and remains active in the Texas State Rifle Association — made the comments this week on an online forum about firearms in Texas.
On the forum, Cotton wrote that guns rights supporters should be paying attention to a recent bill filed by Rep. Alma Allen (D) that would ban corporal punishment, including spanking and paddling, as a disciplinary measure in public schools. He says that if teachers aren’t allowed to hit kids, the crime rate will eventually go up.
Texas is one of just 19 states that continue to allow corporal punishment in schools. According to data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the practice is particularly prevalent in the Lone Star State, which is home to the highest number of kids who get struck by educators each school year.
Cotton is eager to preserve this tradition, and upset that Rep. Allen is attempting to change it with her new legislation. “I’m sick of this woman and her ‘don’t touch my kid regardless what he/she did or will do again’ attitude,” he wrote on the forum. “Perhaps a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet in him later.”
Research shows that, in school districts that allow corporal punishment, black boys are disproportionately likely to be on the receiving end of the paddle. Rep. Allen, who has been trying to ban paddling in Texas schools for the past eight years, cites that racial disparity as one of her primary motivators. In a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle, she suggested that corporal punishment is a “vestige of slavery.”
In general, young African American boys are more likely to be singled out for disciplinary action in the classroom, a trend that emerges as early as preschool. The disproportionate suspension rate of black students has spiked since the 1970s, and the U.S. Department of Education has confirmed that black kids are now suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white kids. Criminal justice reform advocates refer to this as the “school to prison pipeline,” since suspensions increase the likelihood of arrests and juvenile detention later down the line.
The attitudes that fuel the racial gap in school discipline — that is, the interpretation of young black boys’ behavior as aggressive or dangerous — have a big influence on African American men throughout the rest of their lives. Even if they are paddled as kids, it doesn’t necessarily prevent them from being shot later.
Research shows that cops unconsciously perceive black men as threats, which makes them more likely to use deadly force in encounters with African Americans. That dynamic was on full display two years ago in Sanford, Florida, when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman as he was walking home in a hooded sweatshirt carrying a package of skittles. It emerged again last year in Ferguson, Missouri, when 18-year-old Mike Brown was gunned down in the street despite holding his hands up to signal that he was unarmed.
Despite Cotton’s suggestion that paddling kids in school could prevent them from misbehaving later, there’s an increasing body of evidence that suggests otherwise. Several studies have found a link between corporal punishment and an increased risk of mental health issues, bullying, and physical aggression toward others. Other research has found that physical punishments aren’t actually effective compared to other punishments, like time-outs and the removal of privileges.