‘Trauma-inducing.’ State school board passes rules to limit paddling in Kentucky schools.

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After decades of controversy over paddling, the Kentucky Board of Education on Wednesday approved a regulation that puts new limitations on the use of corporal punishment in the state’s public schools.

The regulation prohibits corporal punishment for certain students such as those who are homeless and requires layers of guardian and parental permission.

The Kentucky Department of Education is against corporal punishment, but since it is still allowed by state law the agency is trying to limit harm, officials said.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass on Wednesday said the state school board could not overturn state law, but he called corporal punishment “a harmful practice, a trauma-inducing practice.”

A Kentucky state law from 1982 allows the use of corporal punishment by teachers for classroom discipline. Corporal punishment is defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain on a student’s body as a punishment for misbehavior and has traditionally included paddling. Board chairwoman Lu Young said there’s an effort to convince the General Assembly to ban the practice.

There currently are 156 school districts in Kentucky that explicitly prohibit the use of corporal punishment in their district policy manuals, including Fayette County. Four school districts -- Bell, Hazard Independent, Perry County and Raceland-Worthington Independent -- -- have permissive policies, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman said.

Eleven districts do not have corporal punishment policies. That is not to say that they do not address corporal punishment somewhere else – they do not have a policy called “corporal punishment,” Tatman said. Those include Allen, Butler, Caverna Independent, Elliott, Grayson, Henderson, Hopkins, Lewis, Lincoln, Nelson and Todd.

From 2016-17 to 2021-22, the number of corporal punishment incidents dropped from 317 to 13 so far this school year.

The new regulation:

Exempts from corporal punishment students classified as homeless or who are in foster care and students with an Individual Education Plan that makes sure that a child with an identified disability receives specialized instruction, and those with a 504 plan that assures that a child who has a disability identified under the law receives accommodations.

Requires schools that choose to permit corporal punishment to require a student’s legal guardians to provide written consent within the first five days of the school year if the guardian wishes to allow corporal punishment. Before administering corporal punishment, the school must receive additional verbal consent. The consent can be withdrawn anytime during the school years.

The school has to try to fix the problem through non-physical means.

The corporal punishment must be administered by a principal or assistant principal and must be in the presence of at least one additional certified staff member who is the same gender as the student. Each corporal punishment incident must be recorded in the student information system. No staff member can be compelled to administer or witness the corporal punishment.

After administering corporal punishment, the school must ensure that the student receives a minimum of 30 minutes of counseling provided by the school guidance counselor, school social worker, school psychologist or other qualified mental health professionals by the end of the next school day.

Matthew Courtney, a Kentucky Department of Education policy advisor, said the state department of education has advocated for a prohibition against corporal punishment for about 30 years.

There is “a persistent rub” between a requirement for trauma-informed discipline and the ability to use corporal punishment in schools, Courtney told school board members Wednesday.

“If we are going to introduce trauma into the lives of students, we should take steps to actively undo that trauma,” he told superintendents at a meeting a few weeks ago.

The regulation could be implemented in early 2022.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, praised the state board’s unanimous vote.

“While this decision by KBE is not an outright ban on the archaic practice of corporal punishment in schools, it is an important step in building more trauma-informed learning environments and protecting Kentucky’s public school students from physical punishment,” Brooks said.

Prior to Wednesday’s state board meeting, Chris Gorman, Kentucky’s attorney general from 1992 to 1996, sent state board members a letter saying the Kentucky Board of Education has the authority to pass a regulation fully banning the use of corporal punishment in public schools.

“While I am appreciative the Board is taking action to limit the use of corporal punishment, I believe it should use its authority to fully ban the use of corporal punishment in schools,” Gorman said. “Corporal punishment has no place in our education system, and all Kentucky students deserve a safe and welcoming learning environment.”

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