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School CP - January 1991

The Olympian, Olympia, Washington State, 31 January 1991

State debate to ban spanking rages on

By Mike Oakland
The Olympian

For seven consecutive years Rep. Grace Cole, D-Seattle, has tried in vain to pass a bill banning spanking in public schools.

She got a majority vote out of the House last year, only to see the bill die in the more conservative, Republican-controlled Senate.

She's back this year with House Bill 1159, which would require all school boards to adopt, by Dec. 1, policies banning corporal punishment.

Under Washington law, students can be spanked if four conditions are met:

  • The parents or guardians are advised in advance.
  • There is a witness other than the student and the person administering the punishment.
  • No unusual or harsh punishment is used.
  • The student is not punished in front of anyone other than the witness.

Nearly 70 percent of the state's schools permit corporal punishment.

The bill received mixed reaction in the House Education Committee Wednesday, with Cole and most educators saying spanking is an archaic practice that destroys self-esteem and should be abolished.

But three teachers said that "prudent paddling" does modify student behavior. "Don't tie our hands behind our back (by banning spanking), Woodinville teacher Esther Milligan pleaded.

Cole, a former school board member, said 21 states now ban corporal punishment, up from nine states seven years ago.

Cole said studies show that spankings are ineffective in changing negative behavior but do result in low student self-esteem and repressed hostility.

The bill to ban spanking also was supported by the Washington Education Association -- the state's teachers' union, state School Superintendent Judith Billings, the State Board of Education and associations representing school principals and school directors.

The school directors, however, said they would prefer that the decision be made at the local rather than the state level.

Teacher Milligan said she has used corporal punishment about five times in her 26-year teaching career.

"Each time I've seen tremendous change," she said. "I used it primarily with younger children." Milligan said children are more secure when they know the limits and described paddling as "appropriate discipline."

Rep. Bill. Brumsickle, R-Centralia, an Education Committee member and himself a former educator, said he hasn't made up his mind how he'll vote on the bill. "I tend to believe it ought to be a local decision," Brumsickle said.

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