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Bill banning Oklahoma schools from using corporal punishment on students with disabilities advances

 Lawmakers gather for the 2024 State of the State Address by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Kriea Arie
Oklahoma Legislative Service Bureau
Lawmakers gather for the 2024 State of the State Address by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

A bill that would prohibit schools from using corporal punishment on children with certain disabilities passed the Oklahoma Senate Tuesday.

House Bill 1028 by Rep. John Talley (R-Anadarko) and Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) was introduced last year and garnered national attention when the House failed to pass it.

Similarly to last year, discussion on the bill often turned into religious debate. Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) asked how the bill can be rectified with biblical scripture that says, “those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.” Rader responded.

“Jesus said, ‘Bring all the little ones unto me,’” Rader said. “He also said that if you harm one of these little ones, you’d be better off to have a stone cast around your neck and thrown into the water. I don’t want to be thrown in the water with a stone around my neck. I want to protect these kids.”

Jett repeatedly called the bill “communist ideology.”

The measure defines corporal punishment as “hitting, slapping, paddling, or any other means of inflicting physical pain on students.” Students who qualify for protections under the bill must be on an individualized education program (IEP), and listed disabilities range from autism to blindness to intellectual disabilities.

Sen. Mary Boren (D-Norman) said in debate she “never understood why a parent would need the school to spank their child.”

“In my Christian parenting classes, the relationship was an integral part in the use of corporal punishment to have a… tender, loving relationship if corporal punishment was ever going to be effective,” Boren said. “If you don’t have that relationship and that tenderness and ‘this hurts me more than it hurts you’ kind-of attitude, all you’re doing is giving swats, and they’re moving on with their day.”

Sen. Paul Rosino (R-Oklahoma City) said his grandchild is autistic, and hitting him for discipline doesn’t work, but rather “makes him go into a space that we all hate to see.”

“Taking children, especially children with disabilities, and using corporal punishment as a way to keep them in line is an awful way to discipline them,” Rosino said. “I heard something about… ‘this is a motivational tool.’ It’s not a tool. It’s hitting.”

The bill passed 31-11. Because it was amended, it returns to the House for consideration.

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Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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