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8 States Weighing Limits on Corporal Punishment

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Policymakers in at least eight states are considering proposals to prohibit or limit corporal punishment in public schools.

In late February, Virginia legislators passed a bill making the state the first in the South and the 13th over all to adopt a full or partial ban on spanking. Similar measures are pending in Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

In Alaska, meanwhile, the state school board is scheduled to vote later this month on a draft regulation to prohibit physical punishment in schools. Under that proposal, private schools that continued using corporal punishment would also be required to develop written policies on the practice, a spokesman for the education department said.

The Iowa bill, which was approved by the Senate on Feb. 28 by a vote of 32 to 18, is wider in scope than most of the other proposed bans. According to its sponsor, Senator Joy Corning, a Republican from Cedar Falls, it would apply to all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and would allow educators to use physical force on students only when "reasonable and necessary" for self-defense or to protect others.

Senator Corning, a former local school-board member, said last week her bill was being opposed by the Iowa State School Boards Association, which contends that decisions on corporal punishment should be made at the local level. William Lepley, the director of the state education department, has also argued that paddling should be a "tool available to educators to make sure that students behave."

According to Adah Maurer, executive director of the California-based committee to End Violence Against the Next Generation, lo8cal public-school officials in Ft. Wayne, Ind., Springfield, Mo., and Warrensburg, Ill., have voted recently to outlaw paddling in their districts.

"I'm very hopeful that the whole country will come around to the position that it's better to persuade children that education is good, rather than to beat education into them," Ms. Maurer said.--dv

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