Gov. Haslam not comfortable with paddling of kids with disabilities

NASHVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said he’s concerned public schools are paddling students with disabilities at a higher rate than their peers.

“The state is looking into some of the allegations around corporal punishment, particularly around kids with disabilities,” Gov. Haslam said during a visit to the Tri-Cities Friday. “The numbers that came out were concerning to us, so our education folks are digging into that to see what it is. I don’t think anybody in Tennessee really is comfortable with the idea of corporal punishment for kids with disabilities in almost any circumstance.”

A Nashville lawmaker said he plans on filing legislation that would ban the use of corporal punishment on students with disabilities. Rep. Jason Powell (D), District 53, said he thinks school districts need to show more love and compassion to those students, not show them physical punishment.

“Any use of corporal punishment in our schools on children with disabilities can have long-term effects on the child and we need to stop that practice in Tennessee,” Rep. Powell said.

The lawmaker first announced plans to pursue the legislation in May after a Nashville television station uncovered a disparity in Middle Tennessee.

Rep. Powell told us our Community Watchdog investigation is just more proof that “the time for action is now.”

Using local and federal data, we identified more than two dozen area schools that paddled students with disabilities at a higher rate than their peers during two of the last four school years.

“The application of corporal punishment on these students is extremely troubling and something that needs to be stopped in the State of Tennessee,” Rep. Powell said.

Prompted by our investigation, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office of Research and Education Accountability began a statewide review of the disparity, at the request of lawmakers.

Area school directors have defended the practice, saying corporal punishment is only used sparingly, only after other forms of discipline don’t work and only with the support of parents.

A Tennessee Department of Education spokesperson said the department will support the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office as it begins its initial look into the issue and the department “will conduct further analysis as needed.”

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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