RALEIGH — A bill that would ban corporal punishment in North Carolina public schools advanced to the House after narrowly winning committee approval Tuesday.
If the bill is to become law for the upcoming school year, it must be approved in the House before a deadline passes at the end of this week.
“I was afraid we were going to run out of time,” said Peggy Dean, a Charlotte-area nurse who serves on the board of a national group that opposes corporal punishment. “I’m elated. This has run its course in North Carolina, and it’s time to put this to rest.”
The bill’s opponents on the House Education Committee said the ability to paddle disruptive children should remain an option.
“We’ve got a serious discipline problem in our schools,” said Rep. Mark Hilton, a Catawba County Republican. “Teachers are frustrated, administrators are frustrated. We’re just taking away another tool.”
Corporal punishment has been allowed by state law since 1955, and each of North Carolina’s 115 school districts has the authority to use it, although 47 districts, including Cumberland County, have local policies against it.
Of the remaining 68 districts where the use of a paddle is allowed, not all of them use corporal punishment. According to the state, 24 school districts used it during the 2005-06 school year, led by Burke County, where it was used 508 times. Robeson County was second, where it was used 297 times that year.
Dean became involved in a Robeson County case two years ago when a seventh-grade boy received severe bruising after being paddled by a teacher at Rowland Middle School.
She serves on the board of Alamo, Calif.-based Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, which believes corporal punishment sends a misguided message that condones violence and abuse. It is banned in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
Dean also has reviewed corporal punishment in North Carolina, saying there is no formal protocol, it is applied inconsistently and its uses often are undocumented.
Schools are the only place where corporal punishment may be used. It is banned in day cares, detention centers, foster homes and other institutions for children.
Dean did not attend the House Education Committee meeting Tuesday but was at the committee’s meeting last week when a bill to prevent bullying at school was approved.
“How can you allow a zero tolerance for bullying but allow a teacher to walk around with a wooden paddle?” she said Tuesday.
State schools Superintendent June Atkinson supports the bill, as does the state’s teacher association. The state Association of School Boards opposes the ban, saying it erodes local control.
An amendment Tuesday to keep the law on the books but allow parents to opt out failed, 24-15.
If the bill passes in the House this week, it would be sent to the Senate. Otherwise, it could not be considered again this year.
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