State releases report on corporal punishment in schools - WSMV News 4

After I-Team investigation, state releases report on corporal punishment in schools

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The Tennessee Comptroller's Office has released its report on the use of corporal punishment statewide, confirming that what the News 4 I-Team discovered happening to Tennessee's most vulnerable students was just the tip of the iceberg.

The investigation found that students with disabilities received corporal punishment at a higher rate statewide than students without disabilities for two of the three most recent reporting years.

The report also found that for the schools that used corporal punishment for students with and without disabilities, about 80 percent used corporal punishment at a higher rate for students with disabilities in all three reporting years.

"We weren't able to come up with an answer as to why this was happening," said Lauren Spires, the legislative research analyst who wrote the review.

While the use of corporal punishment overall dropped statewide between 2009 and 2014, students without disabilities saw a much larger decline (46 percent change) compared to peers with disabilities (seven percent change).

This report comes almost a year after a News 4 I-Team investigation found students with disabilities received corporal punishment at a higher rate at more than 60 Midstate schools.

Spires said she found that out of 109 school boards across the state that relied on a corporal punishment policy, only one policy addressed students with disabilities.

One of the limitations of the data is that the numbers do not reflect the type of disabilities because districts do not report data by using a disability category, according to Spires.

The comptroller's office began its own research after two state lawmakers requested a review of corporal punishment across the state last year.

The report included several policy recommendations:

  • The General Assembly may wish to require the state Department of Education collect corporal punishment data by disability category. Districts already must report statistics to the federal government.
  • The General Assembly may wish to require that school board policies specifically address the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities.
  • Prohibition of corporal punishment for some or all students with disabilities.
  • Restrict the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities by requiring parental consent, a manifestation of disability assessment, and/or inclusion in an IEP or Section 504 plan.
  • Schools and districts should review and improve their data reporting methods.

"I've had people contact my office and see these reports and couldn't even believe we allow this, especially with students with disabilities," said Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville. "This is definitely something to be concerned about."

This year Powell introduced a bill that would ban corporal punishment for students with disabilities. The measure goes before a House committee next week. Similar proposals to ban the practice for all students have failed in previous years.

Click here to read the full report (PDF).


PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Students with disabilities punished at higher rate at 60 Middle Tennessee schools | Lawmaker calls to ban corporal punishment for students with special needs | TN Comptroller to investigate use of corporal punishment on children with disabilities


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