Bill to ban corporal punishment in public schools fails in Louisiana House

‘They may not understand suspension or detention, but they understand paddling’

By: - May 4, 2021 8:20 pm

“The board of education” by Wesley Fryer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A bill from Metairie Republican Rep. Stephanie Hilferty that would outlaw corporal punishment for public school students failed to pass in the House of Representatives by a 47-50 vote.

Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Oil City) said the state telling schools how to discipline their students could be a slippery slope that would soon lead to the state telling parents how to discipline their children at home.

“That’s not at all what this bill is looking to do,” Hilferty responded.

“I know that’s not what the bill does, but it sets a dangerous precedent,” McCormick said.

McCormick was one of several House members who, in expressing opposition to HB 324, said school systems should be able “to make their own rules” on how to discipline students.

Rep. Michael Firment (R-Pollock) read aloud  messages from his wife,  a teacher, and her assistant principal.

Reading the message from his wife, Firment said, “The state has our hands tied. Kids are disrespectful and defiant. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to punish them that bothers them except spank them.”

“Many times, (spanking) works on the young children when nothing else does,” Firment said, reading from the assistant principal. “They may not understand suspension or detention, but they understand paddling.”

Hilferty told the chamber that American Academy of Pediatrics supports his bill “because of some of the harmful effects that (corporal punishment) has on children.”

In arguing for her bill to the Louisiana House Education Committee last week, Hilferty told the committee that that group of pediatricians 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 last week. “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.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.