16 June 2009

Committee action, Jun. 16: HB 571

HB 571 would prohibit corporal punishment in schools, being reheard. Author Rep. Barbara Norton said to the House Education Committee it was for the children, as 11,000 a year worth get paddlings. She brought witnesses in tow, including one from BESE who said it liked the bill. 80 percent of districts authorize corporal punishment at this time, and 66 of the 70 have written policies about it.

Rep. Frank Hoffman wondered about the four that didn’t have a policy and how they were counted (as not permitted), and got clarification that a policy wasn’t needed if it was decided that it would not be permitted. He asked how many allowed opting out; which all apparently could do. Rep. Clif Richardson got confirmed that school districts made information about corporal punishment available to parents, and observed responsible parents then could inform themselves and act accordingly. He also questioned the causation that was assumed between corporal punishment and incarceration, noting that other extraneous factors could explain the relationship. He noted that as practiced it was a highly regulated, last-resort technique that can get results. This sent Norton off on an emotional appeal that charged abuse could occur and said corporal punishment constitutes abuse of children. Richardson reminded if abuse was widespread, that existing laws and policies were in place to discourage and prevent it and should be enforced. If corporal punishment kept a child in school, he said that was the most important.

Rep. Hollis Downs repeated the idea that no data show causation between corporal punishment and negative societal outcomes. He said educators said their major concern was discipline. Witnesses argued various relationships between indicators associated with child abuse or violent behavior later in life chock full with emotional arguments, but none produced a systematic study was showed corporal punishment directly caused negative social outcomes. They did claim that corporal punishment did not have any evidence to show that it did work, and one even claimed it violated federal law because it had differential effects between boys and girls and it could be unconstitutional even though courts have held it as constitutional. One did say there was association between corporal punishment and things like childhood aggression and other personality aspects, but did not show causation. One supporter representing principals testified the necessity of discipline in school systems which is becoming much more difficult, and that the corporal punishment option was one of many tools to improving it, his experience showed, and that history showed few deleterious affects appeared before the now “no-touch” ethos seemed so prevalent.

Norton closed saying she loved them all, and the bill was defeated 6-8. All Republicans voted against it, and most votes for it were black Democrats.

I was disappointed … just kidding
Rep. Pat Smith when she related a story about coming to teach in East Baton Rouge Parish and was told a paddle made by a former student could not be used for corporal punishment since the district did not permit it.

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