Published on: July 10, 2010 10:31 PM
News Source: KansasCity
Introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., the bill would ban schools from practicing any corporal penalties “as a form of punishment,” or “for the purpose of modifying undesirable behavior.”
The bill would cover public schools and any private schools that receive federal money for free lunch programs or bus rides for their poorer students. The bill has 18 co-sponsors, all Democrats.
According to the Department of Education, 20 states allow corporal punishment in public schools. Where it is allowed, corporal punishment is more likely to be disproportionately applied to minority students (36 percent) and disabled students (19 percent).
“Corporal punishment does not work and in fact leads to increased negative behavior and dropout rates,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., a co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill does not ban the use of “reasonable restraint” should a student’s behavior put other students or school personnel at a risk of injury.
The proposed bill comes amid a growing debate among psychologists on whether spanking is an effective and safe punishment tool.
“Psychologists don’t all agree that spanking is always harmful to children,” said Kim Mills, a spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association. “Some psychologists have a belief that certain levels of gentle punishment may be effective.”
Her association’s official stance is that corporal punishment should not be allowed in schools, day care centers or other institutions.
Juli Slattery, a family psychologist at Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, suggests tempered spanking on young children as one of many disciplinary tools available to parents.
The bill, she said, is indicative of American society’s collective disagreement on how to punish its children.
The responsibility for discipline, Slattery said, should ultimately rest with parents or guardians, not schools.
But she does worry that bills like McCarthy’s encourage a child’s disregard for consequences.
“I think it’s a step in downplaying discipline,” she said.
Religious school groups, usually quick to guard against government encroachment, have few worries about the bill because officials said many abandoned hitting as a punishment years ago.
But Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath
“We are certainly not enamored of corporal punishment,” Shafran said. “But we are concerned with the rights of religious schools.”