(Reuters) — Spanking returns this school year to classrooms in a small town in southwestern Missouri, where the district will now allow corporal punishment for any unruly student whose parents give their blessing.

In Cassville, about 50 miles west of Branson, administrators this week notified parents of the new policy at an open meeting and handed out consent forms for them to sign, according to a parent who attended the meeting. .

“At the end of the day, this gives the school one more tool to discipline a child, without having to send them home suspended where they would just play video games,” said Dylan Burns, 28, a local farmer who favors the option of the corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment was a widely accepted means of maintaining discipline in American schools during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the practice has disappeared in recent decades.

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court ruled that corporal punishment in schools was constitutional, giving states the right to decide for themselves. Since then, many states have banned the practice.

But 19 US states still allow it, most of them in the South, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said he was surprised to hear Cassville’s decision.

“The trend in the United States has gone the other way, places are abandoning it completely,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve heard of someone adopting it.” The Cassville school district, which serves 1,900 students, formally adopted the policy in June, according to its website. It says that corporal punishment is an option “only when all other alternative means of discipline have failed” and must be administered without any “possibility of injury or bodily harm”.

The website doesn’t specify the preferred form corporal punishment will take, only saying that “hitting a student in the head or face is not permitted.”

“It’s absolutely a terrible practice,” Wexler said. “There is no need for a teacher or administrator to hit or physically attack a child,” he said. “It does not punish, it traumatizes”.

Efforts to contact Merlyn Johnson, superintendent of the Cassville R-IV School District, were not immediately successful. School board members declined to comment or could not be reached.

Burns, the farmer, has two children in the school system, one in fifth grade and one in preschool. He said many parents in Cassville, a town of 3,000 near the Arkansas border, supported the idea.

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there about this,” he said. “Nobody grabs a child and hits him, it’s one or two shovels.”

Burns said he has already warned his children about the possible consequences of misbehaving at school.

“My children are good children,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a problem.”