A terrible incident involving a schoolboy in China has resparked the global conversation about corporal punishment. In September 2018 Zhang, whose surname has not been disclosed, collapsed and died after being made to “frog jump” up a steep incline at his school. The 16-year-old student had committed what many would consider to be a minor indiscretion – and his subsequent punishment had a tragic ending.
Although corporal punishment in schools remains legal in some parts of the U.S., most teachers in other countries punish children who break school rules through non-physical means. Consequently, stories of serious or fatal injuries resulting from a teacher’s punishment tend to make global news.
Corporal punishment is banned throughout China. However, China is known to apply more unusual punishments to schoolchildren, from the harsh to the ridiculous. For example, children often have to sing a song to their class for minor breaches of school rules.
A video doing the rounds on the internet shows a harsher punishment to Chinese schoolchildren caught using their mobile phones in the class. In it, a handful of schoolchildren are seen taking it in turns dropping their mobile phones into a bucket of water, surely damaging them beyond repair.
However, an incident that occurred at Xinshoa No. 2 Middle School in China makes the most brutal or embarrassing school punishments pale into insignificance. Investigations into the events that unfolded at this school in September 2018 continue.
The 16-year-old boy involved in the unfortunate circumstances is known only as Zhang. Little has been revealed about his family or upbringing, even though international media covered the events that followed a punishment issued to him at school.
The teenager was spotted talking to a friend during the class’s naptime on a Sunday afternoon. As punishment for disrupting the nap, both students were ordered to perform frog jumps to the top of a 65-foot slope near the school playground.
A frog jump begins in a deep squat with legs wide apart. It involves jumping high and forward with your arms in the sky, before returning to the same deep squatted position. It burns the quads and glutes and can be quite demanding for those with undeveloped leg muscles.
Both Zhang and his friend, who has not been named by the media, performed the frog jumps to get to the top of the slope. However, upon reaching the summit, Zhang collapsed and remained still on the ground.
Once the severity of the situation became clear, emergency services were called for Zhang, who has been described as “strong and active” by his family. He was quickly transported to hospital, where it was discovered that he had suffered bleeding in his ears, nose and mouth.
Despite the best efforts of the medical team at the hospital, Zhang never regained consciousness. He was declared dead at the hospital. That Sunday naptime turned out to be his last experience at school with his friends.
The teachers involved in dishing out the punishment to Zhang and his friend will not face criminal charges. Police have announced that because there had been no physical contact between them and the child, they had not broken any laws.
However, the teachers are not completely off the hook yet. Local authorities and the education bureau have launched an investigation into the incident to discover if any misconduct had happened on that fateful Sunday afternoon.
The behavior of three teachers at Zhang’s school will be under investigation, as will the school principal, Xie. It has been reported that Xie instructed both children to put their hands behind them as they jumped. This might have made it difficult for them to protect their head if they fell.
The probe of these teachers is not the only investigation of this nature going on in the world. Two teachers in Tanzania, where corporal punishment in schools remains legal, are being investigated for murder after a 13-year-old boy died after a teacher beat him.
The incident, in August 2018, has led to furious campaigns against the corporal punishment regulations in Tanzania. Campaigners have pleaded for government figures to place a ban on physical punishment in schools. However, the Tanzanian president has spoken out in support of using the cane on schoolchildren.
Meanwhile, in Columbia, South Carolina, River Bluff High School is facing a lawsuit after a 14-year-old student died after a particularly arduous football practice. It is believed the football team were being punished after a poor performance in their last game.
Lewis Simpkins was part of a team put through an intense training session with temperatures in the 90s, the day after a game. His parents launched the lawsuit for an amount to be judged by a jury, to help stop the same thing happening again. It stated that coaches had overworked the team, with nothing set to help them.
None of investigations mentioned in this article have been concluded yet. At this point, the families of Zhang and the other children whose lives ended tragically early can only hope that the deaths lead to a change in local laws. Perhaps their deaths will save the lives of other children.
At the very least, these incidents have reignited the global conversation surrounding corporal punishment in schools. It remains unclear whether any punishments should or will be handed out. There are also no signs whether the rules will change.