More than two dozen House Democrats have proposed legislation that would impose a nation-wide ban on spanking and paddling kids at school.
The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act, from Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), is aimed at getting the 19 states that still allow spanking, paddling or other physical actions against students to ban these practices.
"According to Department of Education statistics, each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of school children are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools," the bill states. "School corporal punishment is usually executed in the form of 'paddling,' or striking students with a wooden paddle on their buttocks or legs, which can result in abrasions, bruising, severe muscle injury, hematomas, whiplash damage, life-threatening hemorrhages, and other medical complications that may require hospitalization."
The bill finds that black children are more likely to be on the receiving end of a paddle than white children.
"The most recent available statistics show that African-American students make up 17.1 percent of the national student population, but 35.6 percent of all students subjected to physical punishment at school," the bill reads.
And, it notes that even prisoners are protected from corporal punishment.
"Behavioral interventions for children must promote the right of all children to be treated with dignity," it says. "All children have the right to be free from any corporal punishment."
Under the legislation, state education agencies would not have any access to federal education funds as long as they allow corporal punishment.
According to the Center for Effective Discipline, the 19 states that allow corporal punishment are mostly southern states. As of 2006, the states with the highest percentage of children struck at school by adults were Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Georgia.
Other states that allow corporal punishment are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Wyoming.
The legislation would allow schools to use physical restraint against students when students pose an imminent danger to others, and when a less restrictive intervention would not be enough to avoid that danger. However, it says these restraints must end immediately once the danger posed by the student abates.
The bill would require all states to submit a plan to the Secretary of Education that describes how they will ensure corporal punishment is banned.
Any state that fails to submit an adequate plan would have their federal education funds withheld, and could be forced to comply.
McCarthy's bill also allows the federal government to provide grant money to help states develop programs to end corporal punishment.