Oklahoma Republican Files Bill Ending Corporal Punishment for Students With Disabilities

KTUL - January 9, 2023 6:26 am

Oklahoma Representative John Talley-District 33.

Oklahoma is one of nineteen states in the nation that allows corporal punishment in schools.

One state lawmaker is hoping to change the conversation, introducing a bill to prohibit using that type of punishment on students with disabilities.

Representative Talley, (R)-Stillwater, believes that how parents decide to discipline their children is up to them. But when it comes to how a teacher disciplines a student, especially a student with special needs, that’s different.

Corporal punishment is an old school practice that’s become controversial.

The author himself experienced it in school.

“For the most part it means that you bend over and someone uses a board to hit you on the behind,” Rep. Talley said. “It can really hurt, because I had it used on me when I was a kid.”

The State Department of Education has a rule prohibiting the punishment for kids with disabilities. But this is a rule, not a state law.

When a constituent called to press that issue, Rep. Talley did his own research to look into how frequently the practice is happening here.

“Just over the last two years we’ve had 63 school districts, 455 times there has been a special needs student that has had corporal punishment used against them in the state of Oklahoma,” Rep. Talley said.

In the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education from 2017-2018, students with disabilities served under the “Individuals with Disabilities Act” were around 13% of enrollment nationwide, but 16.5% of the students who received corporal punishment.

The representative from Stillwater said preventing this type of treatment is close to home.

“I’m passionate about kids. My whole life I’ve worked with kids,” Rep. Talley said. “But my wife retired as a special ed teacher, district administrator and a principal of an alternative school. So she’s seen a lot of students be misused, mistreated through her work with special needs students.”

House Bill 1028 would not prevent parents from choosing how they’d like to discipline their kids, or ban the punishment for all students, but it would ensure that the physical harm for certain students would not happen inside the classroom.

“I just think a special needs student does not need to deal with that pain, because I think they would be wondering, why is this happening to me?” Rep. Talley said.

Although he added he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to ban corporal punishment for all kids, it’s not something he wants to tackle this session.

There isn’t a punishment if a school district were to break the law, but Rep. Talley said he’s working on adding that to his bill.



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