Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Bill To Ban Paddling In Schools

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Kentucky may be the next state to ban paddling as a form of corporal punishment in schools, if a lawmaker has his way, WDRB-TV (Louisville) is reporting.

Representative Jim Wayne said he got the idea to propose the legislation after speaking to three young people who had participated in a model government program called the Kentucky Youth Assembly. One of the participants in that program, Elizabeth George, who is a student at Louisville’s Sacred Heart Academy, was herself a sponsor of similar legislation in her role as a model legislator.

George said that she was inspired by scientific research on the effects of spanking on children, particularly in schools.

“Most states prohibit corporal punishment in schools, and their experience shows that such bans do not lead to more discipline problems in schools. In fact, research shows that physical punishment in schools is counter-productive because it tends to make kids more aggressive.”

Wayne also spoke with Alex Young and Charlie Gardner, two students at St. Xavier High School. Young said that the threat of corporal punishment does not instill a healthy sense of respect in the relationship between student and teacher.

“Students should see teachers as trustworthy, steady and measured in their actions. But those characteristics are diminished when we have inconsistent policies that allow teachers to impose physical pain on students. It’s not a form of discipline that leads to deeper understanding and a long-term improvement in a child’s behavior.”

a vintage photo of a teacher paddling a student in a classroom
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The bill, which will be considered when Kentucky’s legislature convenes in January, faces an uncertain future. Already in 2017, the Bluegrass State’s legislature considered a bill that would ban corporal punishment in schools; that bill failed to get passed into law.

Kentucky remains one of 19 states that continues to allow corporal punishment of children in schools, according to the National Institutes of Health, the others being Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the most recent for which data is available, 163,333 schoolchildren between kindergarten and 12th grade were subjected to corporal punishment in school.

That’s not to say that every school in every district in those states allows children to be punished by the infliction of pain. All of those states, Kentucky included, have a patchwork of rules varying by district and school.

Kentucky, says Gardner, needs a “uniform policy” on the issue that bans corporal punishment and replaces with detentions and other forms of discipline.