Oklahoma Republicans: Won't Someone Think Of Spanking The Disabled Children?
Oklahoma, which ranks 49th in education, is one of 19 states that allow corporal punishment in schools. This is defined as paddling, spanking, or other forms of deliberate physical pain imposed on a child. According to the Civil Rights Data Collection, Black students nationwide were 2.3 times more likely to receive corporal punishment than white students. Students with disabilities were also overrepresented: They make up 13.2 percent of student enrollment but 16.5 percent of corporal punishment recipients. (There is information available about pre-school students who receive corporal punishment, if you have a strong stomach.)
Although Oklahoma's board of education has a regulation that prohibits teachers from physically punishing students with disabilities, there is no state law against the practice. Republican state Rep. John Talley had introduced a bill in the Oklahoma House of Representatives that would've prevented corporal punishment against students with disabilities. Some of his fellow Republicans supported the measure, but a greater number of Republican representatives were pro-beating-kids so the bill failed.
The final vote for the measure—House Bill 1028—garnered 45 votes of support, while 43 voted against it. Despite that slight edge in"yeas," 51 votes are needed to advance bills. All 43 votes against the bill were cast by Republicans.
Of course, they were. Meanwhile, Oklahoma Republicans want to "protect" kids from seeing drag in public places. Maybe they could split the difference and send misbehaving kids to an on-site drag performance.
Talley explained earlier this year why he introduced the bill.
"I'm passionate about kids. My whole life I've worked with kids," he said. "But my wife retired as a special ed teacher, district administrator and a principal of an alternative school. So she's seen a lot of students be misused, mistreated through her work with special needs students."
Talley told KOKH-TV, "I just think a special needs student does not need to deal with that pain, because I think they would be wondering, why is this happening to me?"
That's true, but it probably also applies to all children. According to a 2006 study, "Two to three million incidents of corporal punishment are estimated to occur each year. Methods of corporal punishment include hitting, slapping, spanking, shaking, punching, kicking, choking, electric shock, confinement in small spaces, excessive exercise, and fixed postures for long periods" ... so literally torture or enhanced disciplinary tactics.
Instruments used in corporal punishment include leather straps, switches, baseball bats, and fists. As a result of corporal punishment, 10,000 to 20,000 students request/need medical treatment each year. Serious injuries and long-term damage have been documented as a result of hitting or spanking.
Opponents of corporal punishment argue that it promotes acceptance of physical violence and force from authority figures (probably a selling point for right-wingers). They also point out that there's no compelling evidence that corporal punishment results in positive behavior from students. Some researchers claim that perhaps beating the crap out of kids to "teach them a lesson" might instead teach them to use violence against their peers.
Republican state Rep. Jim Olsen, when rejecting Talley's bill, quoted the Bible and predictably not the Jesus parts:
"The rod and reproof give wisdom," Olsen said," but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." This charming passage is from Proverbs. You could argue that the "rod" is metaphorical. Most opponents of corporal punishment aren't suggesting that students run the show like spoiled child stars, but rather that there are more constructive and humane ways of correcting misbehavior.
Just seems weird that Republicans who think it's somehow abusive for teachers to discuss racism or gender identity with students are fine with school officials smacking kids upside the head. It's a disturbing set of priorities.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."