Should spanking be allowed in school classrooms? Kansas bill would give more power to teachers

A Kansas lawmaker wants to give school teachers and caregivers more power to spank children when it comes to discipline.

The new bill is sparking conversation nationwide, including right here in Arizona.

Kansas House member Gail Finney, D-Wichita, said the bill is designed to restore parental rights.

It would expand a current Kansas law, which allows spanking without leaving marks. If Finney's bill passes, it would allow up to 10 strikes of the hand and smacks hard enough to leave redness and bruising.

Chris Thomas, spokesman for the Arizona School Board Association, says 18 Arizona school districts allow some form of corporal punishment. There are more than 200 districts across the state of Arizona.

That doesn't necessarily mean that officials within those school districts actually use corporal punishment, but that is more of an available option, he said.

Some schools require parents to sign permission slips allowing the use of corporal punishment, while other schools have it included in the students Code of Conduct.

Erin Copland, a mother in Arizona, was shocked to learn that spanking was still allowed in schools.

"It's scary, " the mother of two said. "I don't like that at all. I'd rather have a teacher tell me this is what you son did and then my husband and I can do the discipline on whatever we think is right."

Mother Amy Sims views spanking a little bit differently.

"As long as they're not paddling them really hard or something; a little swat is fine," said Sims.

Thomas believes spanking in Arizona schools is on the decline noting that the ASBA doesn't keep data tracking spankings.

"Twenty, 30 years ago, we didn't sit in car seats, and we do now. So maybe they did spank or were spanked as a child, but now we have research that shows it is less effective than time out. It tends to lead to more aggressive behavior with a child," pediatrics nurse Amy Terreros said. She is a child abuse expert at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas.

McPherson Deputy County Attorney Britt Colle introduced the idea to Finney.

The proposed bill suggests lightening the spanking laws, allowing parents or anyone given permission by a parent, to spank hard enough to leave redness or bruising.

"This bill basically defines a spanking along with necessary reasonable physical restraint that goes with discipline, all of which has always been legal," Colle said. "This bill clarifies what parents can and cannot do. By defining what is legal, it also defines what is not."

Kansas proponents of the bill say children are losing respect for authority and that parents need to be able to discipline without fear. But 30 other states disagree, and they've banned corporal punishment altogether.

The committee chair John Rubin said he isn't sure if he's going to even consider the bill.

Finney says if that is the case, she plans on re-introducing a similar proposal again next legislative session.

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