Politics & Government

No more paddling in school? NC lawmakers back ban on corporal punishment.

No North Carolina school districts allow the use of corporal punishment. Some state lawmakers want that change reflected in state law to prohibit the use of corporal punishment.
No North Carolina school districts allow the use of corporal punishment. Some state lawmakers want that change reflected in state law to prohibit the use of corporal punishment. MCT

North Carolina lawmakers moved a step closer Tuesday toward banning the state’s public schools from using corporal punishment to discipline students.

The House Education Committee backed legislation that would remove corporal punishment as an option for public schools. Backers said the time to act is now, because all 115 school districts in the state have discontinued the use of a practice that once resulted in dozens of students a day being spanked by principals and teachers.

“The overwhelming opinion is that educating should be left up to the schools, and discipline should be left up to the parents,” said Rep. Susan Fisher, a Democrat from Buncombe County and one of the bill’s primary sponsors.

House Bill 295 now goes to the House Rules Committee, which will decide whether to let the full House vote on the legislation.

The bill comes after the use of corporal punishment has sharply declined in the state’s public schools.

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 Graham and Robeson counties, which both voted last year to end the practice. (No charter schools reported using corporal punishment.)

The bill would ban corporal punishment in both traditional public schools and charter schools. It does not prevent private schools from using corporal punishment.

“This is not a bill that we decided today,” said Rep. Linda Johnson, a Republican from Cabarrus County and the bill’ s co-primary sponsor. “This is a bill we started working on years ago. We’re really pleased with the school systems.”

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.

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