BATON ROUGE — More than half of Louisiana’s public school districts still will allow their schools to paddle and spank students for misbehavior after the state House on Monday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to ban corporal punishment across the districts.
Only 34 lawmakers voted for the prohibition bill by Rep. Barbara Norton, a Shreveport Democrat. Sixty-one lawmakers voted against the measure.
Norton said her proposal would make sure “that we not brutalize our children.” She said 31 other states have outlawed such punishment and have found other ways to discipline students at school.
“I believe at the end of the day we’re teaching our students about violence,” she said.
Republican Rep. Rogers Pope, a retired school superintendent from Denham Springs, said local districts should decide whether to use corporal punishment, not the state.
“I still feel like we can do some things better at the local level,” Pope said.
In Louisiana law, discretion to use the disciplinary method specifically rests with local school boards. Thirty-eight of the state’s 69 public school districts allow schools to use corporal punishment, according to Scott Richard, executive director of the state school boards association.
Lafayette Rep. Nancy Landry, the Republican chairwoman of the House Education Committee, cast the tie-breaking vote to move the bill to the House floor for consideration. She said she didn’t oppose use of corporal punishment but supported the prohibition proposal because state law includes no safeguards for students.
She said male administrators shouldn’t be allowed to spank female students and parental permission should be required before schools can use corporal punishment. She said a second adult should be present when the punishment is administered and the student shouldn’t have to remove any clothing before being paddled.
“There’s no requirement that these safeguards be in local policy,” Landry said.
The Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools told lawmakers in committee debate that decisions on whether to allow corporal punishment should be left to local districts and schools.
Though they shelved Norton’s bill, lawmakers in the House have unanimously backed another proposal by Rep. Franklin Foil, a Baton Rouge Republican, to prohibit corporal punishment of students with disabilities. Gov. John Bel Edwards is pushing that more limited ban, which awaits consideration in the Senate Education Committee.