Louisiana House bill would ban corporal punishment in public schools

A thousand recorded instances of La. students being hit during recent school year

Representatives Aimee Freeman and Stephanie Hilferty discuss a Title IX reporting on higher ed bill to the Louisiana House Education Committee. (JC Canicosa/LA Illuminator)

A bill from Metairie Republican Rep. Stephanie Hilferty that would outlaw corporal punishment for public school students was moved forward by the Louisiana House Education Committee with a 9-2 vote Wednesday.

In arguing for her bill, Hilferty told the committee that the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that children disciplined through corporal punishment become more aggresive and have reduced levels of grey matter in their brains. Students subjected to corporal punishment also score lower on IQ tests, and such discipline is considered an adverse childhood experience, Hiferty said, that is a traumatic experience that is likely to have longterm implications. 

“We do not allow children in our juvenile detention system to be hit. We do not allow prisoners in our prison system to be hit. We do not allow children in early education to be hit,” Hilferty said to the committee. “For some reason, we’ve determined that during the K-12 time period of a child’s life that hitting is the way to change their behavior.”

The Louisiana Department of Education determined 744 students were disciplined by being hit during the last full school year before COVID-19, Hilferty said. There were also over 1000 recorded incidents of corporal punishment, meaning some students were spanked or paddled multiple times, she said.

“I’m just going to say this sounds like the beginning of teaching people how to abuse each other,” Rep. Aimee Freeman (D-New Orleans) said to the committee. “That’s horrific to me.”

Rep. Charles Owen (R-Rosepine) said school systems should be able to decide how to discipline their students. He and Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) were the only committee members to vote against Hilferty’s bill.