A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky is one of 19 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools, but that could soon change


By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban spanking in schools. Kentucky is one of 19 states that continue to allow corporal punishment.

Glasgow family court judge Mica Wood Pence is responsible for placing children in foster care. She said when children have experienced physical violence in the home, hitting or spanking in school can do serious damage to a child’s well-being.

A 2014 survey published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found spanking in American households is on the decline, compared with data from 1985 and 1975. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“In our field, one of the recent focuses has really become trauma, and how trauma affects the brain, and how we need to deal with and treat children that have experienced traumatic events,” Pence said.

House Bill 22 is co-sponsored by 17 legislators of all political stripes. According to data from the Kentucky Department for Education, in 2018 there were more than 280 reported incidents involving corporal punishment in Kentucky schools.

Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates, said House Bill 22, like the School Safety and Resiliency Act passed in 2019, is part of a broader effort to keep kids safe.

“We cannot possibly be talking about building school cultures, of trauma-informed practice, of supporting kids and building their own resiliency, and at the same time, have schools as places where adults can hit kids,” Brooks said.

Pence added especially for children living in abusive households, school often is a refuge.

“So to think that something like corporal punishment being a possibility at the school, making these kids that have gone through so much already not feel safe at school, it’s just really concerning to me,” she said. “I need school to be their safe place, I need their teachers to be their confidants.”

New research also suggests spanking may affect child brain development and increase aggression in young children. Time-outs, setting limits and rewarding positive behavior are preferred methods for disciplining children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.


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