Idaho is one of only 19 states that does not forbid corporal punishment in K-12 schools.
OK, so what does that mean and what is corporal punishment?
The National Association of School Nurses defines corporal punishment as "intentional infliction of physical pain as a method of changing behavior." This can include hitting, shaking or slapping, either with the hand or with an object, such as a paddle or a belt.
Idaho Code, 33-1224, gives districts and teachers some latitude in administering corporal punishment, but a north Idaho school district and a Boise charter school say their schools would never use corporal punishment regardless if Idaho law does not forbid it.
Section 33-1224 reads, under the heading of powers and duties of teachers: “In the absence of any statute or rule or regulation of the board of trustees, any teacher employed by a school district shall have the right to direct how and when each pupil shall attend to his appropriate duties, and the manner in which a pupil shall demean himself while in attendance at the school. It is the duty of a teacher to carry out the rules and regulations of the board of trustees in controlling and maintaining discipline, and a teacher shall have the power to adopt any reasonable rule or regulation to control and maintain discipline in, and otherwise govern, the classroom, not inconsistent with any statute or rule or regulation of the board of trustees.”
Additionally, the Idaho Department of Education provides a “Safety and Discipline Manual” to Idaho schools, which contains a sample policy on corporal punishment. Among the guidelines included in the sample are the stipulations that students must be warned in advance that their behavior might bring about corporal punishment, that corporal punishment be administered only in the presence of a third party adult and that parents of the student receiving the punishment be notified.
A sampling of Idaho school districts indicates that none of districts contacted practice any form of corporal punishment, typified by the response from Laura Rumpler, spokesperson for the Coeur d’Alene School District. She told Idaho Reporter.com that “our district does not use corporal punishment at all.” She added that none of the district’s policies make any reference to the practice.
Don Keller, founder and executive director of Sage International Charter School in Boise, said he is “aware that Idaho does not forbid the practice, but I’ve never heard it brought up as a serious idea among my professional colleagues and I’ve never heard anyone advocate for it.”
Keller said “in both the academic research, and in my own professional experience, there’s no evidence that corporal punishment is productive. Empowering students and requiring them to participate in formulating the consequences of their own behaviors clearly does work, and I’ve always sought to incorporate these approaches in my own work.”
Nonetheless, the StopHitting.com website claims that in the 2005-06 school year, 111 Idaho students were “hit” in the process of receiving corporal punishment. Nationally, according to figures from the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, there were 250,000 cases of corporal punishment in 2006-07. Texas is one state where corporal punishment is legal and it reports the most use of that practice of any state.
Deborah Stendek, who describes herself as a trainer and spokesperson for nonprofit National Child Protection and Training Center in Winona, Minn., told Idaho Reporter.com that corporal punishment data for Idaho came from the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education, but she said that she did not know where in Idaho these alleged incidents of corporal punishment occurred.
Stendek’s group favors a ban on corporal punishment in all 50 states as is the case now in 31 states. She says that Idaho law is “vague” and “open to interpretation,” and state statutes leave it to local schools and school districts to determine appropriate means of discipline for their students. She believes an outright ban on corporal punishment would clear up Idaho law. She calls such a ban “a basic human right.”
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