Takeaways From Interim Study on Corporal Punishment
By Rep. John Talley - October 16, 2023 6:00 am
Oklahoma Representative John Talley-District 33.
Last week, I mentioned hosting my interim study examining the use of corporal punishment on students with disabilities, and I want to review some of my main takeaways and thoughts moving forward.
As you may recall, I filed a bill last year to ban the use of corporal punishment on public school students who were identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). House Bill 1028 did ultimately pass the House, although with amendments, but it was not heard before the full Senate.
When I began to research this issue, I learned that corporal punishment according to state statute includes “hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.” There are currently no guidelines regarding the frequency or severity of corporal punishment on students or the type of physical items that can be used to punish a student.
While pursuing this legislation, I was contacted by former students as well as family members of students with disabilities who experienced corporal punishment in school and described to me the long-lasting negative effects it had on them.
Whenever I talk about this legislation, people are typically surprised how often corporal punishment is used against students with disabilities in our public schools. However, we have statistics which are self-reported by schools in Oklahoma showing hundreds of incidents each school year.
The Senate author on the bill, Senator Kay Floyd, and I decided to host an interim study to find out more about the impacts of corporal punishment as well as the effectiveness of other methods of discipline.
One presenter at the study, University of Central Oklahoma Professor Dr. Scott Singleton, emphasized the importance of looking at the overall consensus of the research rather than focusing on one or two studies.
The body of research available strongly indicates that corporal punishment is not as effective in the long-run as alternative methods of correction or punishment. There are many situations when students with disabilities may not understand why physical pain is being inflicted upon them. Studies show corporal punishment does not teach children appropriate behavior to handle a similar situation in the future.
Another presenter, Dr. Andrea Kunkel, general counsel for Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) and executive director for Oklahoma Directors of Special Services (ODSS), highlighted the legal risk associated with schools using corporal punishment. Any time an employee of a school is inflicting pain on a child, that school district runs the risk of a lawsuit due to the lack of guidelines on what is permissible when using corporal punishment and what is considered going too far. She also highlighted each of the 13 categories of special needs that fall under IDEA and how each one requires an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) specifically for those needs.
We learned a lot of valuable information in this study, and I want to thank each presenter who took the time out of their day to attend and offer their perspective as we come together to protect Oklahoma’s disabled children in public schools.
Before I close out my column this week, I want to clear up a few areas of confusion. First, the legislation I’ve been pursuing is specifically for students under the federal IDEA law, not an absolute ban on corporal punishment for individual districts who choose this course of action. Second, this legislation only applies to school settings and does not apply to a parent’s right to spank their own child.
I do plan to pursue this legislation again next year, though Senator Floyd and I are reexamining the wording of the bill in light of findings from the interim study.
As always, feel free to reach out to me at 405-557-7304 or [email protected]. It’s an honor to serve House District 33!
Rep. John Talley, a Republican, serves District 33 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which covers Logan and Payne Counties.