Carney backs bill to end corporal punishment in schools

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Seventeen school districts in Kentucky still use corporal punishment

By Zac Oakes


A bill has been filed in the Kentucky Legislature that would aim to end corporal punishment in schools, and it is co-sponsored by Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville.

Carney, who chairs the House Education Committee, said that he decided to join Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, in sponsoring the bill after traveling the state and hearing from education administrators in different parts of the state.

Carney said that several school officials had discussed the possible liability issues that come from the use of corporal punishment in schools, although use across the state has decreased substantially over the years.

“I think there have been some concerns about potential lawsuits,” Carney said.

Carney also said that the bill was passed through the Kentucky Youth Assembly, a mock legislature forum that is used in high schools across the state. 

Only 17 of Kentucky’s school districts reported use of corporal punishment during the 2016-2017 school year, and 334 instances were reported to the Kentucky Department of Education. That number is a decrease from 517 instances in the 2015-2016 school year.

It’s an even larger decrease from the 1,096 instances reported in 2011-2012.

The most reported cases in 2016-2017 were in Bell County with 100, nearly double of Pulaski County’s 53, which was the second-most in the state. Pike County Schools had the third-most cases last year with 36.

Neither Taylor County nor Campbellsville Independent reported any incidents of corporal punishment in their schools during 2016-2017. None of the surrounding districts reported use of corporal punishment either.

The bill would ban the use of corporal punishment by “school administrators, teachers or other certified personnel, office staff, instructional assistants, coaches, and extracurricular sponsors who are employed by a school district… including the use of spanking, shaking, or paddling, as a means of punishment, discipline, behavior modification, or for any other reason.”

“Corporal Physical Discipline” is defined in the bill as “the deliberate infliction of physical pain and does not include spontaneous physical contact which is intended to protect a child from immediate danger.”

Currently, the decision of the use of corporal punishment is made at the district level in the state of Kentucky. Carney said he believes many legislators feel that the decision should continue to be made at the school district level.

“A lot of members think it should be a district issue,” Carney said.

The bill has been introduced to the House Education Committee, but with the legislature facing several other issues considered higher priority, Carney said he doesn’t believe the bill will get very far in the legislative process.

However, he did say that he believes filing the bill will increase discussion and Carney said the bill could be filed again next session, possibly with higher priority.

The full version of the bill can be found on the internet via the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission at http://bit.ly/2FjYYbM