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School CP - November 1993

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The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, 20 November 1993

Fewer Swats Wins State Recognition

By Jim Killackey

Oklahoma is being recognized as the top state in the country for reducing swats and paddlings in public schools.

The recently completed National Conference to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools cited Oklahoma for "making the most progress toward eliminating corporal punishment" among the 24 states that have school districts with policies governing swats.

Twenty-six states have abolished corporal punishment.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Oklahoma Department of Education show Oklahoma had incidents of corporal punishment involving 7.9 percent of its students in 1986, 2.61 percent in 1990, and 1 percent in 1993.

"Our society is more sensitive to the issue of violence," said Nancy vonBargen of Norman, vice president of Oklahomans Opposed to Corporal Punishment.

"We need to teach our children to resolve conflicts in nonviolent ways. Paddling children in schools is giving the wrong message," vonBargen said Friday.

The threat of lawsuits and more sophisticated training in methods of alternative discipline also have lowered the use of corporal punishment in Oklahoma public schools, educators say.

"Some districts that were reluctant to abolish corporal punishment have found no negative outcomes from eliminating its use," vonBargen said. "Some districts have reported an improvement in school atmosphere when they consistently oppose violence of any kind. " Educators opposed to corporal punishment have praised Gov. David Walters, Sandy Garrett, state school superintendent, and the state Board of Education for requesting in 1992 a two-year moratorium on swats.

A second report on the use of corporal punishment in Oklahoma public schools could be released early next year.

This year's initial report indicated that five of six students in Oklahoma public schools are taught in districts that don't use corporal punishment as a form of discipline.

Of the approximately 600,000 public schoolchildren in the state, 500,000 are being taught in school districts that have either prohibited corporal punishment, or have kept it on their books but no longer use it.

In Oklahoma, 150 districts employ corporal punishment.

Those districts - mostly in rural areas - have about 100,000 students.

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