Politics & Government

Though some legislators say spanking has its place, House votes to ban corporal punishment in schools

North Carolina has no school districts that still use corporal punishment.
North Carolina has no school districts that still use corporal punishment. MCT

After a heated debate about whether spanking and paddling is good for children, the state House voted Wednesday to ban the use of corporal punishment in North Carolina’s public schools.

Supporters of House Bill 295 said it’s not the place of the state’s public schools to use physical violence to discipline students, pointing to research from groups such as the American Psychological Association.

All 115 school districts in North Carolina have discontinued the use of corporal punishment, which once was used dozens of times each day across the state.

Rep. Susan Fisher, a Buncombe County Democrat who was one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said that voting for the bill would affirm the decision of the school districts to stop using corporal punishment.

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Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

“I hope I have a unanimous vote on this bill this afternoon, because it’s been a long time coming,” Fisher told her colleagues. “I know some of you have memories of corporal punishment from way back, probably more than what we’d like to think about.

“But think of it this way. Today could be the day that we become the 32nd state in the United States to take corporal punishment out of the education statutes.”

The vote would turn out to be 94 to 16 in support of the legislation, with critics arguing that the state shouldn’t prevent school districts from having the option.

“I personally thank God for every whipping my daddy ever gave me, and sometimes I got one at school and I got one when I got home, too,” said Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Cabarrus County who homeschools his children. “I don’t care what any association says. The Bible tells me he who spares the rod hates his own child.

“There’s nothing wrong with a reasonable spanking when it’s needed. When people tell me, ‘We don’t spank our children,’ I want to say, ‘Heh, and everybody can tell it too.’ I think taking away an effective disciplinary tool from the schools by the power of the state is the wrong way to go.”

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Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus. Abby Igoe

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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 just two of the state’s 115 districts.

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