Senate narrowly defeats corporal punishment repeal
February 13, 2003

CHEYENNE -- The narrow defeat of a bill that would repeal corporal punishment in Wyoming schools resulted in the discipline of a Natrona County senator for comments he made following the vote.

Sen. Keith Goodenough, D-Casper, was ordered by Majority Floor Leader Grant Larson, R-Jackson, on Wednesday to apologize for misusing the privilege of the Senate floor to comment on the defeat of House Bill 68.

Goodenough said he thought it was "interesting" that a handful of students sitting in the gallery had witnessed the 15-15 vote, saying it allowed their teachers and principals to "beat them."

Sen. Bill Vasey, D-Rawlins, stood and said he was offended by the comments. Goodenough later apologized for using the word "beat," but said he still disagreed with the vote. He said the process showed the students the power of one vote. During debate on the measure, several senators said they felt HB68 took away local control from school districts. They questioned the need to repeal a law that most schools were not following to begin with.

"It's definitely a bill looking for a problem that's not there," Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, said. Sen. Bill Hawks, R-Casper, added a bit of levity to the discussion by describing his experience as a teenager attending military school.

"I got my fanny paddled on a fairly regular basis and, madam chairman, look how good I turned out," he said. Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne, said the bill, approved 48-10 in the House, didn't just prohibit spanking, paddling, slapping or otherwise physically disciplining students for bad behavior.

It also protects teachers and other staff members from civil litigation if they must use force to break up fights or defend themselves, she said.

"No teacher who values what they do ... would ever inflict harm on a child," Sessions said.

Sen. Larry Caller, D-Rock Springs, said there were eight cases of physical discipline reported in Wyoming schools last year. He feared a lot more were not. "I don't think there is ever a reason to inflict pain on another person, especially a child," Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said.

The Equality State is one of just 23 with corporal punishment laws still on the books, and among five trying to repeal the law this year.

Similar bills have been introduced the past three years but never made it through debate in the full House or Senate.

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