BALTIMORE -- When Baltimore's 110,000 public school children bring their report cards home today, they also will bring a note for their parents designed to curb physical abuse of children whose grades upset their parents.

Called the "report card reflex," beatings and whippings by angry parents appear to increase at report card time, officials say, not just in Baltimore, but across the country.

To try to break the link between grades and child abuse, Baltimore teachers are stuffing report card envelopes with bright red, yellow and green fliers that urge parents to consider alternatives: talk to their children, visit the children's school, seek a tutor.

"We hope to see a difference in reported abuse cases after the cards go out," said Sara Mandell, special assistant for the Baltimore Office for Children and Youth. Mandell added that she hopes that "if parents know what else is available, they will choose an alternative to beating up their kids."

Baltimore officials said they have no statistics on report card-related violence. But Peggy Mainor, a child-abuse prosecutor and member of the city's advisory Commission for Children and Youth, said the increase in abuse cases reported immediately after grades are issued has been "enough to catch our notice."

She said a critical note from a teacher or principal also can trigger violent reactions by angry, frustrated parents.

The most common forms of abuse, she said, involve "excessive beatings with a belt or looped electric cord . . . across a child's back or legs . . . . We're talking physical injuries, not mental or verbal abuse."

Such beatings, Mainor said, occur among boys and girls of all ages and socioeconomic groups, "but you see it more with younger children."

Also, she said, it happens to both above average and slow-learning children. "We have cases of quite bright children whose parents feel they should be doing better and become frustrated."

Report card reflex has been observed throughout the country. Time magazine in May 1989 reported beatings and other grade-induced violence in Richmond, Detroit, Atlanta and Houston. Some school systems, including Houston's, have mounted public education campaigns and distributed anti-abuse pamphlets similar to those in Baltimore.

Funded by a $10,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Human Resources, the Baltimore report card fliers do not mention child abuse but offer parents suggestions and telephone numbers for further information on how to deal with disappointment at their child's low grades.

"Ask to speak to the teacher," it says. " . . . Check your child's homework every day. Have your child call for homework help."

"We wanted {the flier} to be inviting . . . and non-threatening without a bunch of 'don't' messages," Mainor said.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the fliers are needed to urge parents "to calmly respond to their child's report card in positive ways."