Kentucky House Votes to Stop Corporal Punishment in Schools

Kentucky would put an end to corporal punishment in public schools under a bill that has advanced to the state Senate.

House Bill 22 sponsor Rep. Steve Riley (R-Glasgow) said his legislation would prohibit any school district employee or non-faculty coach from using corporal punishment – including but not limited to striking, spanking, paddling, or shaking – to discipline public school students.

Riley, who is a retired state educator, said experience has taught him that corporal punishment “is not an effective form of discipline. The purpose of discipline in schools and other places is to change behavior in a positive way, and research shows (corporal punishment) does not do that.”

Three students who came up with the idea to end corporal punishment in Kentucky schools four years ago as seventh graders in Kentucky Youth Assembly and later spoke against the practice before the General Assembly were present for the bill’s passage.  Those students—identified as Alex Young, Elizabeth George, and Charlie Gardner—were introduced to the full House by Rep. Lisa Willner (D-Louisville).

“They have researched this, they have presented this bill now—and testified in committee—for four separate years … from seventh grade through 10th grade,” said Willner, voting in support of HB 22. “I hope the members of this body will join me in voting ‘yes’ on this very important piece of legislation.”

Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) said elementary-age students and students with disabilities are more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment than others. He also voted for HB 22, and asked his colleagues to do the same.

“The use of corporal punishment in our schools is antithetical to this body’s values and our efforts to create safe, trauma-informed schools that value positive relationships among our children and adults,” said Nemes.

House Education Committee Chair Regina Huff (R-Williamsburg) also voted for the measure. The former special education teacher said schools have less traumatic forms of discipline at their disposal when needed. 

“There is still discipline within the school system. We’re just eliminating this one,” said Huff.

HB 22 passed the House by a vote of 65-17.

From the Legislative Research Commission