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.”