Corporal punishment policies in La. schools

Local legislators have advocated for its ban while others support the practice

Shreveport, La. - Public school education has changed over the generations and now prompts questions of how best to discipline children. 

Louisiana is one of only 19 other states that still allow corporal punishment where children are paddled for bad-behavior.

The right to spank or paddle students in state schools was upheld by the Supreme Court Decision of Ingraham v. Wright1977. But over the decades most states have banned the practice of corporal punishment.  

The law remains in Louisiana, ranking tenth for the most use according to the Center for Effective Discipline.

Caddo Parish logged more than three-thousand incidences since 2010. Bossier Parish logged 39 incidences during the 2015/2016 school year.

"Corporal punishment was not helping in any sense," said State Representative Barbara Norton, (D) District 3.

Representative Norton pushed several bills in recent years to banned it. 

 "I was looking at many of the children who received corporal punishment were children with special needs and I just felt that our education system is a system where we teach children. It's not a system where we whip children or abuse children," Norton said.

The bills never got enough votes to pass because other legislators support its use. 

"The policy we have in Caddo and Louisiana I think is not stringent enough," said State Senator Greg Tarver (D) District 39.

Senator Greg Tarver said he believes corporal punishment can be used as an effective form of discipline. 

"I used to go the principals office and get a spanking all the time. It did not kill me. It did not hurt me, it hurt me at the time, but it made a better person out of me," Tarver said. 

State law allows all school districts the option of corporal punishment but school boards must adopt their own regulations and it can only used at the principal's discretion. 

The guidelines for Caddo Parish are defined as "punishing or correcting a student by striking on the buttocks with a paddle provided by the school board a maximum of three times." "Paddles must measure 24 inches by five inches, by three-eights inches."

Bossier Parish guidelines "allow reasonable corporal punishment of unruly students to be administered with extreme care, tact and caution." "Paddle sizes must be 18 inches or less, between three and six inches in width and three-eights inches thick or less."

Both parishes give parents the option to opt-out and include policies of:

-Students must be given an opportunity to explain their side.

-Age, size, and physical condition must be considered.

-A witness must be present.

-Parents must be given a written notice following the discipline. 

"If you take more time showing love and explaining and talking. You never know what those kids went through the night before they came to school," Norton said.

Norton said she'll continue to advocate for its ban but believes the rules requiring principals to document its use will help phase out the practice. Tarver said discipline is about of education. 

"I don't think people today just want to hurt a child. I think a child needs to be discipline. Yes, you need rules and regulations on how you do, but I don't think you ought to automatically think it will hurt the child," Tarver said.

Both districts say they work with schools to reduce its use and prefer using the alternative of positive behavior interventions and supports. 



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