State's proposed social studies standards debate

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment would be permanently barred in North Carolina’s public schools in legislation receiving bipartisan support on Tuesday now that the final two districts still allowing them have ended the practice.

A House education committee voted to approve a statewide prohibition starting this fall, which also would apply to public charter schools.

For nearly 30 years, the General Assembly has given local school boards — currently at 115 — the option to decide whether to allow principals or teachers to use physical punishment upon students.

The number of districts allowing the practice has fallen over time as society and researchers have discouraged it. Still, it was used nearly 900 times in 17 districts as recently as the 2010-11 school year, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. There were just 60 incidents during the 2017-18 school year, and the Graham and Robeson county school boards were the last to bar corporal punishment last year.

“I think the overwhelmingly 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 Buncombe County Democrat and chief bill sponsor with GOP Rep. Linda Johnson of Cabarrus County. The bill passed with no voices or votes in opposition.

Under current law, school boards could reverse their decisions and reinstitute corporal punishment. The law says districts had to set policies that made clear a spanking or other physical penalty couldn’t be performed in front of other children. Parents had to be notified of why it happened and the names of the person giving the punishment and a witness.

The legislation, which now goes to another House committee before reaching the House floor, wouldn’t allow districts to revert to the policy. The bill also would have to pass the Senate.

Tom Vitaglione, a senior fellow at the NC Child advocacy organization, has participated in repeated news conferences over the years pushing for a statewide ban on corporal punishment. In the early 1990s, he said, the legislature decided instead to make clear each district could make the decision on whether to allow or ban the practice.

Now, Vitaglione said, “we’re hoping that the General Assembly will affirm the decisions that have been made by 115 school districts.”

Vitaglione said there’s more research showing there’s no link between corporal punishment and academic improvement. Instead, he said, it can harm the relationship between students and teachers, reduce academic performance and encourage more aggressive behavior.

Physical punishment, he said, leaves the impression that “getting hit — that’s the way to resolve things.”

Corporal punishment in schools has been banned in more than 30 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Copyright 2019, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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