Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in pub­lic schools may be banned in NC

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Local - BY T. KEUNG HUI [email protected]­sob­server.com T. Keung Hui: 919- 829- 4534, @nck­hui

North Carolina’s pub­lic schools have gone from spank­ing dozens of stu­dents a day to none now. And some state leg­is­la­tors want that change re­flected in state law.

House Bill 295, filed on Wed­nes­day, would change state law to pro­hibit pub­lic schools from us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment. The bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion comes after the last two school dis­tricts in the state to use cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, Gra­ham and Robe­son coun­ties, voted last year to ban the prac­tice.

“Since all 115 school dis­tricts have de­cided they don’t want to use cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, it’s time to clean up the word­ing in the statute and af­firm their de­ci­sion,” said Rep. Su­san Fisher, a Demo­crat from Bun­combe County and one of the bill’s pri­mary spon­sors.

The bill’s other pri­mary spon­sor is Rep. Linda John­son, a Repub­li­can from Cabar­rus County and co-chair­woman of the House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee.

The bill comes after at­ti­tudes about cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment as a means of dis­ci­plin­ing stu­dents have sharply shifted over the past 30 years.

The U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion re­ported that North Carolina ed­u­ca­tors pad­dled stu­dents more than 21,000 times in 1988, ac­cord­ing to a 1992 News & Ob­server ar­ti­cle. The ar­ti­cle also re­ported that cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was banned in 1992 in 27 of the state’s then 129 school dis­tricts.

But by the 2010-11 school year, only 17 dis­tricts re­ported us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment 891 times. The num­ber dropped to 60 times in the 2017-18 school year in two of the state’s 115 dis­tricts. (No char­ter schools re­ported us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.)

Ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior and skip­ping school were among the most fre­quently cited rea­sons by schools for us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est state re­port. Stu­dents in sec­ond, ninth and 11th grades were the ones most fre­quently pad­dled.

Tom Vitaglione, a se­nior fel­low at NC Child, said the elim­i­na­tion of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was in­evitable be­cause stud­ies have shown that it doesn’t lead to im­proved aca­demic per­for­mance and ac­tu­ally can cause stu­dents to be­come more ag­gres­sive.

Vitaglione said it’s time for North Carolina to of­fi­cially be­come the 32nd state in the na­tion to ban cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in schools. He said chang­ing state law would send a pow­er­ful mes­sage “that North Carolina is a state where chil­dren don’t get hit in schools.”

“Now that we’ve banned it en­tirely, many of us feel it’s time to get it off the books so we’re not tar­nished any more with that im­age,” said Vitaglione, who has worked for more than two decades to get cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in schools banned.

Fisher, the law­maker, said she’s hope­ful her col­leagues will sup­port mak­ing the change to state law.

“At a time when we are look­ing at the idea of school safety for stu­dents across North Carolina, it seems very fit­ting that those 115 dis­tricts have de­cided that the use of phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment is not ap­pro­pri­ate at any time when you’re send­ing a mes­sage of try­ing to keep chil­dren safe in the schools that they at­tend,” Fisher said. “By hav­ing made that de­ci­sion, the schools are set­ting a re­ally healthy ex­am­ple of us­ing other less vi­o­lent forms of pun­ish­ment with the idea in mind of nur­tur­ing chil­dren and keep­ing chil­dren safe in ways other than cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.”

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