The intentional abuse of students at school is still legal in 19 states

man with backpack beside a books
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

In the United States, it is illegal to hit another person. It is illegal for police officers or correctional officers to use force for any reason other than subduing someone.1 A court of law cannot sentence someone to physical punishment, such as whipping or branding, which were common criminal punishments, historically speaking, because that would violate the "cruel and unusual" clause of the Eighth Amendment. Why then is corporal punishment still legal for schoolteachers to enact on students in 19 states?

We are not talking about force to subdue violence or force in self-defense. No, we are talking about teachers "paddling" or "spanking" students, from the time they start school until they graduate, as punishment for misbehaving on school property. Parents are asked to provide permission for field trips, sexual education or school nurses administering medications, but not, in many states, for a teacher to spank their child.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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