THIBODAUX — A national bill to ban corporal punishment in public schools would not affect local students much, Lafourche and Terrebonne school administrators say, because paddling hasn’t been used here for years.
Corporal punishment, typically achieved by paddling a student on the buttocks, is used as a “last-resort” discipline tool, sometimes as an alternative to expulsion.
Both Terrebonne and Lafourche still have corporal punishment policies on the books but say the paddling hasn’t been used for years.
“Administrators haven’t used it since the early 1980s,” said Frank Pasqua, supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance for Lafourche public schools. “What we concluded was it would be better to change the policy. ... We are going to look to revising our policy on corporal punishment in the near future.”
This change would forbid corporal punishment, Pasqua said.
In Terrebonne, Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor Linda Joseph said corporal punishment hasn’t been used since before she arrived in June 2002. Joseph and schools Superintendent Philip Martin said corporal punishment was halted under former Superintendent Liz Scurto, who held that post from 2000 to 2004.
Any employee caught administering corporal punishment would be in trouble, Martin said.
“It’s insubordination, and there would be some serious consequences,” he said, adding that such a situation has never arisen during his tenure as schools chief.
To stop corporal punishment nationwide, U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., has proposed the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act. The bill would criminalize the use of physical force to discipline students at any public and private schools that receive federal money.
The bill has been filed and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
In McCarthy’s home state of New York, corporal punishment is already banned. Louisiana has no such law.
Federal education officials have said that 1.7 percent of Louisiana’s 650,000 K-12 students were given corporal punishment in 2006-2007. That’s higher than the national rate of 0.46 percent during the same year. Mississippi led the nation that year with 7.5 percent of the student population receiving the paddle.
The state Department of Education does not require local districts to submit corporal-punishment statistics, said spokeswoman Ileana Ledet. But a law passed during the state’s 2010 legislative session will require the department to collect information about corporal punishment from across the state and submit it to the Legislature during its 2011 session.
A 2008 survey showed that 56 of Louisiana’s 70 school systems authorized the use of corporal punishment, Ledet said, though that does not mean those 56 districts actually paddle schoolchildren.