The Kansas Legislature is brimming with lawmakers seemingly eager to turn back the hands on time as evidenced by the fervor being whipped up to bring back corporal punishment to Kansas schools.
Though Kansas school districts already have the latitude to spank students, if desired, state Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, proposed legislation to expand and better define what corporal punishment includes for the benefit of educators, parents and caregivers. The legislation — House Bill 2699 — if approved, would allow up to 10 swats on the buttocks of a clothed child with a bare, open-handed palm, which may leave bruising or redness. Besides spanking, the legislation also allows for restraint of a child to maintain control during the course of disciplining a child.
At a time when our society, and schools in particular, are attempting to eradicate bullying and the accompanying violence, it is mind-boggling that a legislator wants to expand the ability of Kansas schools and beyond to spank children — up to age 18. The expanded discipline is counter to what is considered child abuse or cruel and abusive in other sectors of life, which is why the legislation also amends statutes on battery, child abuse and related charges involving parents, step-parents, legal guardians and those who have written permission from the parent to use corporal punishment.
Despite the potential for school districts to expand their latitude to use physical violence, school superintendents in Franklin County said their policies won’t change. Why? Because hitting begets more hitting and educators and school administrators are doing all they can to mitigate such violence and other possible bullying. It is unlikely any teacher’s union would want to expose its membership to the kind of liability that would accompany such a change either. After all, one would have to consider where said spanking would occur — in front of the class, in a special spanking room, etc. And exactly what does any of this accomplish?
Using violence for conflict resolution doesn’t make any more sense for kids than it does for adults. Spanking, while sometimes utilized by parents, is bad policy for schools and should not be re-established as standard operating procedure at schools. To go back to inciting children to follow rules simply out of fear, rather than because of a need to follow rules cultivated through self-discipline, sends entirely the wrong message to children. Sadly this authoritarian perspective looks past all the positive ways teachers and parents can and do discipline children, helping them learn to distinguish right from wrong and good decisions from bad decisions.
Spare the rod and spoil the child might be a popular saying, but it clearly isn’t the only or the best way to teach kids about consequences and accountability. This bill should remain in permanent time-out.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher