Southwest Louisiana’s eight Republican state representatives voted against a bill Tuesday that would ban paddling and other forms of corporal punishment in public schools. The legislation failed, 48-49, five votes short of the 53 majority needed.

Opposing the bill were Reps. Ryan Bourriaque of Abbeville, Dewith Carrier of Oakdale, Les Farnum of Sulphur, Brett Germann of Moss Bluff, Charles Owen of Rosepine, Troy Romero of Jennings, Rodney Schammerhorn of Hornbeck and Phillip Tarver of Lake Charles.

Rep. Wilford Carter, D-Lake Charles, voted for the bill.

Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, RMetairie, is sponsor of House Bill 324. With some exceptions, current law grants local school boards discretion in the use of corporal punishment for other students.

Corporal punishment is prohibited for students with exceptionalities (except gifted and talented students) and for students who are eligible for rehabilitation services.

Current law defines corporal punishment to mean the use of physical force that causes pain or discomfort to discipline a student, not including seclusion or restraint under certain circumstances.

Critics of the proposed law said it would take away the rights of school boards to decide the corporal punishment issue.

The Louisiana Association of School Superintendents opposes the bill.

Hilferty said the Legislature regularly passes laws for the entire state, and her legislation is just another example.

She said the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes corporal punishment because it harms children.

Male students are more likely to be targets of corporal punishment, she said, and Black students are slightly more likely to receive corporal punishment.

The Advocate reported that 29 of the state’s 69 school districts allow spanking and other forms of physical punishment and 40 systems ban it. The newspaper said 31 states prohibit corporal punishment, according to figures compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Holly Holland, spokeswoman for the Calcasieu Parish School Board, said, “We have policy that technically still allows it, but our administrators are strongly encouraged not to utilize it. We haven’t had an issue in years.”

Kenney Courville, supervisor of child welfare and attendance, transportation and special services for Allen Parish schools, said, “At the present time we have really gotten away from the use of corporal punishment in our schools; it has been used very infrequently and only after conversation with the parents. As we move forward, it is being phased out completely in our schools.”

The Beauregard Parish School System spokesperson said it is moving away from this style of punishment. However, it is still in its policies and procedures. Policy dictates exactly who must be present, how many “licks” are to be delivered, etc., but as of now paddling is only used when at the specific request of the parent.

Kirk Credeur, Jeff Davis school superintendent, said his School Board voted on June 15, 2017, to prohibit any type of corporal punishment on all students.

This article was originally published by American Press.

A bill from Metairie Republican Rep. Stephanie Hilferty that would outlaw corporal punishment for public school students failed to pass in the House of Representatives by a 47-50 vote.

Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Oil City) said the state telling schools how to discipline their students could be a slippery slope that would soon lead to the state telling parents how to discipline their children at home.

“That’s not at all what this bill is looking to do,” Hilferty responded.

“I know that’s not what the bill does, but it sets a dangerous precedent,” McCormick said.

McCormick was one of several House members who, in expressing opposition to HB 324, said school systems should be able “to make their own rules” on how to discipline students.

Rep. Michael Firment (R-Pollock) read aloud messages from his wife, a teacher, and her assistant principal.

Reading the message from his wife, Firment said, “The state has our hands tied. Kids are disrespectful and defiant. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to punish them that bothers them except spank them.”

“Many times, (spanking) works on the young children when nothing else does,” Firment said, reading from the assistant principal. “They may not understand suspension or detention, but they understand paddling.”

Hilferty told the chamber that American Academy of Pediatrics supports his bill “because of some of the harmful effects that (corporal punishment) has on children.”

In arguing for her bill to the Louisiana House Education Committee last week, Hilferty told the committee that that group of pediatricians has found that children disciplined through corporal punishment become more aggressive and have reduced levels of grey matter in their brains. Students subjected to corporal punishment also score lower on IQ tests, and such discipline is considered an adverse childhood experience, Hilferty said, that is a traumatic experience that is likely to have longterm implications.

“We do not allow children in our juvenile detention system to be hit. We do not allow prisoners in our prison system to be hit. We do not allow children in early education to be hit,” Hilferty said to the committee last week. “For some reason, we’ve determined that during the K-12 time period of a child’s life that hitting is the way to change their behavior.”

This article was originally published by The Louisiana Weekly Newspaper.


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