The use of corporal punishment in North Carolina public schools has fallen substantially the past three years, according to a study released Monday by a child advocacy group.
Students in six districts were hit 184 times in the 2012-2013, Action for Children North Carolina said in a news release. That's down from 404 instances in the previous year and 891 in the year before that.
Students in Robeson County were hit the most last year, with 141 uses of corporal punishment there, the group said. That represents 76 percent of the total statewide.
"Even in Robeson, corporal punishment has declined by 50 percent in the last two years," said Tom Vitaglione, senior fellow with the advocacy group. "We remain hopeful that the community will soon signal school officials to drop the practice."
A spokeswoman for the Robeson County schools said she hadn't found an official who wants to comment on the study.
Other districts that use corporal punishment are Graham, Swain, Madison, McDowell and Onslow. Action for Children North Carolina said 10 other districts that allow corporal punishment have not used it in years - Alleghany, Alexander, Ashe, Bladen, Caswell, Macon, Person, Randolph, Stanly and Thomasville.
Local boards in 99 districts prohibit corporal punishment.
Two decades ago, almost all of the 115 school districts used corporal punishment, and thousands of students were hit each year, Vitaglione said.
"The dramatic decline is a response to a growing body of research that has found no academic benefit to hitting students," he said.
The statutory definition of corporal punishment is "the intentional infliction of pain upon the body of a student as a disciplinary measure." Other than stating that the student shouldn't require medical attention beyond simple first aid, the law has no other restrictions, Vitaglione said.
"With regard to all the statutes that affect children, this one is perhaps the most grisly," he said.
Among the groups that support the end of corporal punishment in North Carolina's public schools are the State Board of Education and the N.C. Association of Educators.