BR.hilferty.adv TS NEW 183.jpg (copy)

State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie, is the sponsor of a bill that would ban paddling and other forms of corporal punishment in public schools.

In a change from previous years, paddling and other forms of corporal punishment would be banned in public schools under a bill that won lopsided approval Wednesday in the House Education Committee.

The proposal, House Bill 324, was endorsed 9-2 and next faces action in the full House.

Previous efforts to prohibit spanking public students have failed by substantial margins.

"What this asks is should administrators in our school system be hitting children as a method of punishment," said state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie and sponsor of the legislation.

Hilferty noted that neither children in Louisiana's juvenile justice system nor state prisoners can be hit. "For some reason we have determined during the K-12 period that hitting is the way to change their behavior," she said.

Under current rules, whether paddling is allowed is left to local school districts.

A total of 29 school systems allow spanking and other forms of punishment and 40 school systems ban it, including urban areas.

Corporal punishment is banned in 31 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The legislation is opposed by the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.

"We ask you to allow the local option to continue for those school systems that continue to use corporal punishment," said Michael Faulk, executive director of the group and former superintendent of the Central school system.

Faulk said rules are spelled out in school districts that allow paddling, and in some cases the punishment is given only by the school principal with witnesses and reporting requirements.

He said directives "prescribe where the licks are to be administered."

"And common sense should tell you that when you apply a paddle to the buttocks of a small, thin child the impact is different."

"That is up to the administrator to discern and be reasonable," Faulk said.

Most panel members were not persuaded.

The scoop on state politics in your inbox

Get the Louisiana politics insider details once a week from us. Sign up today.

"I don't see anything good about corporal punishment," said Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans and a committee member. "It is horrific to me."

The bill was backed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the advocacy group Stand for Children and Susan East Nelson, executive director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families."

"Corporal punishment basically amounts to state-sanctioned abuse," Nelson said.

Carrie Griffin Monica, executive director of Stand for Children, echoed that view.

"Corporal punishment and inflecting pain on children is egregious," Monica said.

Tammy Wood, a retired educator who spent 36 years in the East Baton Rouge and Zachary school districts, also backed the bill.

Wood said students who disrupt classrooms need the help of counselors or school psychologists.

"Corporal punishment is not a solution in this situation," she said. "School counselors adamantly oppose the use of corporal punishment."

Wood said paddling and spanking students shows them "violence is an acceptable way to solve problems in society."

Rep. Chuck Owen, R-Rosepine, was one of two committee members who voted "no" on the bill.

Owen said he has one school system in his legislative district that allows paddling and a second that does not.

"I have my reasons," Owen said of his stance. "I don't believe in violence. I don't believe in hurting."

The other "no" vote was cast by state Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge.

Hilferty took issue with comments that parents are allowed to opt out of corporal punishment in districts that allow it.

She said that often means students are instead subject to suspension, which she said poses special problems for single mothers.

Voting "yes" on the bill were state Reps. Ken Brass, D-Vacherie; Gary Carter, D-New Orleans; Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans; Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie; Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer; Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport; Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles; Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge and Mark Wright, R-Covington.

 

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.