Report finds 109 TN school districts allow corporal punishment; legislature eyes new restrictions

A report from the state Comptroller’s Office says that 109 of the state’s 148 school districts still allow corporal punishment, though it’s rarely used in some of them. The report, requested by state legislators last year, also found that students suffering disabilities more often get corporal punishment than others.

There are bills pending in the legislature on the subject, including two scheduled for hearings next week. One (SB1947 by Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) and Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) would mandate more reporting by schools on the use of corporal punishment; the other (HB2330 by Powell and Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) would prohibit corporal punishment when a student suffers from a disability.

Corporal punishment has the subject of fairly extensive reporting in some media during recent months, notably including a couple of stations that have stories today on the comptroller’s report — WJHL TV in Johnson City and WSMV TV in Nashville

Excerpt from WSMV:

The report also found that for the schools that used corporal punishment for students with and without disabilities, about 80 percent used corporal punishment at a higher rate for students with disabilities in all three reporting years.

“We weren’t able to come up with an answer as to why this was happening,” said Lauren Spires, the legislative research analyst who wrote the review.

While the use of corporal punishment overall dropped statewide between 2009 and 2014, students without disabilities saw a much larger decline (46 percent change) compared to peers with disabilities (seven percent change).

Spires said she found that out of 109 school boards across the state that relied on a corporal punishment policy, only one policy addressed students with disabilities.

One of the limitations of the data is that the numbers do not reflect the type of disabilities because districts do not report data by using a disability category, according to Spires.

…The report included several policy recommendations:

-The General Assembly may wish to require the state Department of Education collect corporal punishment data by disability category. Districts already must report statistics to the federal government.

-The General Assembly may wish to require that school board policies specifically address the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities.

-Prohibition of corporal punishment for some or all students with disabilities.

-Restrict the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities by requiring parental consent, a manifestation of disability assessment, and/or inclusion in an IEP or Section 504 plan.

-Schools and districts should review and improve their data reporting methods.

Note: The full report is HERE.

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