RALEIGH -- A bill to ban corporal punishment in North Carolina public schools failed late Wednesday, after a debate in which two lawmakers said they benefited from spankings they received in their formative years.
Rep. Ronnie Sutton, a Robeson County Democrat, said he averaged two spankings a week from first through eighth grades.
"I know I was a tough problem to handle in school as it was," he said. "I had one teacher that I told him later I think he whipped me like a rented mule. But I truly believe I would have served time in prison had I not had the discipline that I had in school."
Rep. John Blust, a Guilford County Republican, said he appreciated teachers who steered him to the right path when he went astray.
"I'm not going to say I'm a victim of corporal punishment. I would say very clearly that I am a beneficiary of corporal punishment," he said.
The bill passed in two House committees before being recommended for approval Wednesday. The House vote -- 66 opposed and 50 in favor -- did not follow party lines. The bill cannot be considered again this session.
A companion bill in the Senate failed to win committee support and won't be heard this session.
Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, was one of the bill's co-sponsors. Glazier said every industrialized nation except the United States and Canada has banned corporal punishment in schools.
Its use is banned in 29 states and the District of Columbia. In North Carolina, it is banned in prisons, jails, detention centers, day cares, group homes, foster homes and other institutions.
"Schools are the only institutions in some places in this country where striking another person is sanctioned," Glazier said.
Rep. Laura Wiley, a Republican from Guilford County, said she taught children with such severe behavioral problems that they attended a separate school. She said they threw chairs and swore, yet she never saw the need to spank them.
"As a matter of logic," she said, "we've had corporal punishment at our disposal for a number of years, and I keep hearing how kids are getting worse and worse. So, just deduction, it's not working."
Opponents argued that the use of corporal punishment should be decided by local school districts, and that it serves as an option to suspensions.
Some school administrators have said students would miss more class time without corporal punishment because paddling would be replaced with out-of-school suspensions.
Each of North Carolina's 115 school districts has had the authority to use corporal punishment for more than 50 years, although 47 districts, including Cumberland County, have policies against it.
Of the remaining 68 districts where spanking 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.
A Robeson County case was investigated by the District Attorney's Office two years ago after a seventh-grade boy received severe bruising from a paddling by a Rowland Middle School teacher. The district attorney declined to file a charge.
Critics in North Carolina say there is no formal protocol for paddling students, it is applied inconsistently and its uses often are undocumented.
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