Students with disabilities are far more likely than other students to be subject to corporal punishment in American public schools, a new report finds.

More than 220,000 public school students were paddled, beat, spanked, slapped, pinched, dragged across the room or thrown to the floor during the 2006-2007 school year, according to the report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch. Of them, nearly 42,000, or 18.8 percent, were students with disabilities even though such students comprise just 13.7 percent of students enrolled in this country’s public schools.

The report, “Impairing Education,” is based on data from the Department of Education and over 200 interviews with parents, students, school staffers and other education professionals.

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“Students with disabilities already face extra challenges, and being hit by teachers only makes it worse,” said Alice Farmer, author of the report. “Corporal punishment is abuse, any way you look at it, and it violates students’ rights to a decent education.”

Especially shocking are cases cited in the report where students with disabilities were subject to corporal punishment for displaying behavior consistent with their disabilities, such as a student with autism rocking. In some cases, this punishment for an activity beyond the student’s control led to increased behavior problems.

“Studies show that beatings can damage the trust between educator and student, corrode the educational environment and leave the student unable to learn effectively, making it more likely that she will drop out of school,” the report says.

The 20 states where corporal punishment remains legal are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming, according to the report.

The authors say that their findings likely underrepresent the incidents of corporal punishment in American public schools since not all cases are reported.

“Corporal punishment can leave students feeling helpless, humiliated and reluctant to return to school,” Farmer said. “More effective discipline, including positive behavioral supports, creates safe classrooms where children are able to learn.”