A bill that bans the use of corporal punishment in Kentucky schools passed the state House of Representatives on Friday morning.
House Bill 22, which was filed by Rep. Steve Riley, a Glasgow Republican and retired teacher and principal, was approved by the House by a vote of 65 to 17. The bill next goes to the Senate.
Similar bills to ban corporal punishment have been filed in the past. Riley filed the same bill last year and in 2018, but neither were called for consideration.
The bill in its current form prevents “school district employees, nonfaculty coaches, and nonfaculty assistants” from using “corporal punishment on any student.” The bill defines corporal punishment as “the infliction of severe physical pain on a student by any means intended to punish or discipline the student, included but not limited to striking, shaking or spanking.”
As a committee hearing on the bill earlier this week, Riley said the bill does not pertain to athletic coaches who have their teams do extra work at practices, such as running extra laps. The bill also does not apply to actions a teacher or school official might take “to protect a student from immediate danger.”
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, 284 students were subjected to corporal punishment during the 2018-19 school year. Those incidents took place in 13 school districts, largely in eastern Kentucky.
Both Daviess County Public Schools and Owensboro Public Schools prohibit the use of corporal punishment.
The Department of Education supports the bill, KDE Interim Director of Communications Toni Konz Tatman said Friday after the vote.
In a written statement, interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said: “We are working really hard in Kentucky to equip our educators with the knowledge and resources they need to think differently about student discipline. Corporal punishment affects the lifelong aggression and mental health of our children.
“Research has shown that this form of discipline may adversely affect a student’s self-image and school achievement and may actually contribute to disruptive and violent student behavior,” Brown said. “Corporal punishment goes against the research and the direction of education in the Commonwealth and across the nation.”
Brown said KDE “fully supports implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in schools, which is an evidence-based three-tiered framework that helps schools improve and integrate all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day.”
At Tuesday’s hearing on the bill by the House Education Committee, Riley said students who are subjected to corporal punishment view it as teachers “punishing people (they) don’t like.”
Terry Brooks, executive director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in his career as a school administrator “my own experience taught me that it was an extremely ineffective means of discipline,” and that view is reinforced by research.
“It in no way alters student behavior,” Brooks said, and corporal punishment has a damaging effect “on the culture of the school.”
“Folks a lot smarter than myself had demonstrated physical (discipline) is a traumatic experience” for some students, Brooks said.
While being spanked or struck might not be traumatic for some students, Brooks said, “in 2020, more kids are victims of traumatic experiences, and we should not sanction behavior that contributes to that.”
The bill will next be assigned to a Senate committee for consideration. Brooks said he is optimistic the bill will be approved by the Senate.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse