‘No place in our educational system’: OK Senate passes bill prohibiting the use of corporal punishment on students with disabilities

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Despite a multitude of biblical reasoning to allow the use of corporal punishment on students with disabilities, the Senate has passed a proposal that would prohibit it.

House Bill 1028, co-authored by Representative John Talley (R-Stillwater) and Senator Dave Rader (R-Tulsa), states, “School district personnel shall be prohibited from using corporal punishment on students identified with the most significant cognitive disabilities according to criteria established by the State Department of Education unless addressed in an annual individualized education program (IEP) developed in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

According to Sen. Rader, the “most significant cognitive disabilities” include:

  • Autism

  • Deafness

  • Blindness

  • Emotional Disturbance

  • Hearing Impairment

  • Intellectual Disability

  • Multiple Disabilities

  • Orthopedic Impairment

  • Speech/Language Impairment

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Other health impairment

House Bill 1028 failed the first go-round in 2023, but Rep. Talley brought the legislation up once more before last year’s session adjourned. It passed.

The bill was then sent over to the Senate, but it wasn’t heard until Tuesday morning.

“Proverbs 13:24. Whoever spares the rod hates their child, but he who loves them, disciplines them,” said Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee). “Are children who are differently abled capable of misbehaving?”

Sen. Rader responded by saying, “[Jesus] also said that if you harm one, 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.”

“Yesterday, the Senate recognized that there is no need for schools to use corporal punishment to discipline disabled students,” Rader said. “The support of fellow senators for backing this important bill that protects some of our most vulnerable children is most appreciated.”

Sen. Rader added the capabilities of one student may not be the same for another student and the definition of “capable” cannot be applied to all.

We’re talking about the schools here. We’re not talking about the parents and how they raise their children.

Sen. Jett said, “We’re removing it from the parent’s prerogative and saying… ‘The state of Oklahoma knows what’s best for your child and we’re removing an entire motivational tool from discipline in the classroom right now.'”

Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, said corporal punishment towards these students makes school appear hostile, limiting their ability to grow.

“Students with disabilities may not be able to control their actions or understand why they’re being punished,” Talley said. “When a teacher administers corporal punishment to these students, it sends the message that school is a hostile environment and limits their ability to thrive emotionally, socially and academically. I’m grateful my colleagues in the Senate saw fit to approve legislation protecting Oklahoma students with disabilities from corporal punishment at school, and I look forward to continuing to advocate for these students before the House again.”

Currently, there is no state law regulating the use of corporal punishment on students with disabilities. There is an Oklahoma State Department of Education administrative rule prohibiting it.

However, as provided by OSDE to News 4, 43 school districts used corporal punishment on students with disabilities 247 times during the 2021-2022 school year. These 247 times were allegedly with a legal guardian’s permission.

The four school districts who used corporal punishment against kids with disabilities during the 2021-2022 school year the most include:

  • Holly Creek Public Schools, 20 times

  • Albion Public Schools, 23 times

  • Blair Public Schools, 23 times

  • Calera Public Schools, 29 times

“Hitting, slapping, paddling, or any other means of inflicting physical pain have no place in our educational system,” said Sen. Carrie Hicks (D-OKC).

Senator Blake Stephens (R-Tahlequah) said the legislature needs to step in and help educators with the lack of discipline.

With a vote of 31 for and 11 against, the bill passed the Senate Tuesday morning.

Because there was an amendment to the proposal, it will have to go back to the House for another vote before heading to the Governor’s desk.

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