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Corporal Punishment: An Old Wives’ Tale

By |2019-02-21T18:09:28+00:00February 21st, 2019|Blog, Child Welfare & Safety, Education|

Type into Google, “False Old Wives Tales” and you will get a rash of fascinating and fun reads.

What? It DOESN’T take seven years for a piece of gum to digest after you swallow it? And cracking your knuckles DOESN’T cause arthritis? And eating right before you go swimming DOESN’T cause cramps? And going out with wet hair WON’T cause you to catch a cold? Both of my beloved grandmothers must be turning over in their graves.

Old wives’ tales are fun to read about, but you surely don’t want for them to be cornerstones of how you live your life.

Can I add another false old wives’ tale? Corporal punishment in school works to create good behavior. And just like those other tales, physical punishment is one that should not be a cornerstone of how any school functions anywhere.

The research is frankly overwhelming and has been operationalized by most of the nation and most of this state. We know that corporal punishment actually is counterproductive to discipline that works. We know that corporal punishment – in many cases – can result in lasting traumatization of kids. We know that kids of color, kids with special needs, and young males get the paddle disproportionately. Odd, isn’t it? White females, students of affluent parents, and linebackers are not the targets of school officials.

The good news is that I really have not heard assertions of late that hitting kids with wooden sticks is particularly conducive to creating safe schools. Instead, the argument has become about governance and not kids, which in and of itself is problematic. There are some elected leaders who believe that it is more important for local officials to implement policies that are injurious to kids than for we as a Commonwealth to protect every kid in every county.

Let me be clear. I understand and support the primacy of local control for schoolhouses on many – if not, most – issues. Communities need and deserve schools that align with local values and priorities. Teaching pedagogy, the array of programming options, and even how students and faculty are assigned to schools all should be unique to every unique school system in this state.

But, local autonomy should NEVER take primacy over the best interests of kids.

Our elected leaders have shown a remarkable commitment to student safety in their current deliberations over Senate Bill 1. And that is against a backdrop of real achievement over recent legislative sessions when it comes to protecting kids from abuse and neglect through such measures as House Bill 1 in 2018 and Senate Bill 236 in 2017. The time has come for discussions in the General Assembly about the local authority to hit kids while they are in school. The time has come to ensure that never again will a kid face physical punishment at the hand of an adult while in school.

I realize that along with a few counties in Kentucky, corporal punishment is still alive and thriving in a few other places: Yemen, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Singapore. It is time to get Kentucky off that list. The 2019 General Assembly can do just that by passing House Bill 202, sponsored by Representative Steve Riley. Let’s hope the well-being of our children wins over an old wives’ tale or a concession to adult convenience!

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