State school board approves regulation limiting paddling

Decision draws praise from advocacy groups

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – The state Board of Education took steps Wednesday to sharply limit or control the use of paddling in the state’s schools.

The decision drew praise from advocacy groups.

According to the KBE, 156 school districts explicitly prohibit the use of corporal punishment in their district policy manuals. Four school districts have permissive policies and 11 have no clear corporal punishment policy.

The new regulation requires schools that choose to permit corporal punishment to require a student’s legal guardians to provide written consent within the first five days of the school year if the guardian wishes to allow corporal punishment to be used as a behavior intervention for their child. Before administering corporal punishment, the school must receive an additional affirmative verbal consent.

The corporal punishment must be administered by a principal or assistant principal and must be in the presence of at least one additional certified staff member who is the same gender as the student. Each corporal punishment incident must be recorded in the student information system.

After administering corporal punishment, the school must ensure the student receives a minimum of 30 minutes of counseling provided by the school guidance counselor, school social worker, school psychologist or other qualified mental health professionals by the end of the next school day.

A state statute from 1982 permits the use of corporal punishment by teachers for classroom discipline, while a 2019 state statute requires the Kentucky Department of Education to provide resources related to trauma-informed discipline and requires school districts to adopt trauma-informed discipline policies. Corporal punishment is not a trauma-informed discipline resolution.

Matthew Courtney, policy advisor in KDE’s Office of Continuous Improvement and Support (OCIS), said KDE has advocated for a prohibition against corporal punishment for about 30 years.

“There is a persistent rub between our requirement for trauma-informed discipline and this ability to use corporal punishment in schools,” said Courtney. “Based on KBE’s responsibility to regulate student discipline, as well as to promulgate regulations related to student welfare, we have seen fit to bring this regulation before you today and before the board next week.”

Since corporal punishment cannot be viewed through a trauma-informed lens, KDE applied a harm reduction approach in drafting the new corporal punishment regulation, a framework that usually is applied to substance use policy.

Courtney said KDE pointed to four harm reduction principles in the draft regulation:

— Accepts that the action will occur and seeks to minimize harmful effects;
— Acknowledges that some forms of punishment are safer than others;
— Ensures those involved have a voice in the situation; and
— Does not seek to minimize the real harm and danger associated with the activity.

The regulation defines corporal punishment as the deliberate infliction of physical pain by any means upon the whole or any part of a student’s body as a penalty or punishment for student misbehavior. It also exempts from corporal punishment students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), 504 plan and those who are classified as homeless or are in foster care.

Courtney noted that KDE is against corporal punishment, but since it is still allowed by state statute, the agency is seeking to limit the harm.

“If we are going to introduce trauma into the lives of students, we should take steps to actively undo that trauma,” he said.

“While cases of paddling have been declining in recent years, for children in schools that use corporal punishment, the classroom can become an environment that instills fear, anxiety, and distrust. It reinforces using physical aggression as a way to address unwanted behavior and creates a threatening atmosphere that permeates school culture, which can lead to immediate and long-lasting impacts on the child’s physical and mental health, behavior, and educational outcomes,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

“Corporal punishment is not how we build resilient students; a trauma-informed approach to school discipline instead emphasizes building positive relationships with students so that incidents of misbehavior can be used as opportunities for reflection and growth. While this decision by KBE is not an outright ban on the archaic practice of corporal punishment in schools, it is an important step in building more trauma-informed learning environments and protecting Kentucky’s public school students from physical punishment,” Brooks added.

“We applaud KDE Commissioner Jason Glass, KBE Chair Lu Young, and the entire board for their thoughtful consideration of this critical child safety measure. We now hope that every local school board adopts the policy to explicitly prohibit the use of corporal punishment in their district,” he concluded.

In other action Wednesday, the state school board:

KDE Chief Academic Officer Micki Ray discussed Kentucky’s early literacy initiatives and ways KDE’s Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) is working to support local schools and districts in addressing students’ literacy needs.

According to Ray, between 2015-2019, approximately 118,000 Kentucky students in 3rd grade performed below proficient on the K-PREP reading assessment.  In 2019, a total of 47.3% of Kentucky’s 3rd-grade students did not meet proficiency on the K-PREP reading assessment.

Ray said this issue goes beyond assessment scores. Students who are proficient in reading by the 3rd grade are more likely to have continued academic success; less likely to have problems with attendance, dropout rate and juvenile crime; more likely to feel higher self-esteem and feelings of adequacy; and more likely to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Ray discussed early literacy initiatives, including the Read to Achieve (RTA) grant. The RTA grant is a two-year, renewable grant that, per KRS 158.792, was “created to help teachers and library media specialists improve the reading skills of struggling readers in the primary program.” Applications are currently being taken for the next round of Read To Achieve grants.

At its Sept. 30 meeting, the Reading Diagnostic and Intervention Grant Steering Committee approved the grant size and range of awards and the request for applications (RFA) notice as specified in KRS 158.794 and 704 KAR 3:408. Since the time the RFA was released, KDE has received questions and concerns about the current RFA.  Some of those questions were from potential applicants through the RFA question-and-answer process.  Other concerns have been sent more informally through the KBE’s public comment documents.

KDE is committed to the success of RTA programs to assist struggling readers throughout the state.  KDE does have the option of amending the RFA and extending the deadline to apply.  At the close of the RTA question period, KDE anticipates amending the RFA to provide clarity and address some concerns.  As it has done to date, KDE must continue to comply with statutory requirements regarding RTA grants, regulatory requirements of the KBE and state procurement requirements for RFAs.

Since this involves an active RFA, KDE is unable to provide details of exactly how the RFA may be amended.  However, KDE is committed to the successful implementation of reading intervention programs for struggling readers throughout the Commonwealth.

In other business, the board:

  • Presented the Kevin M. Noland and Mary Ann Miller Award for Outstanding Public Service to Kentucky Schools to Reeca Carver, state advisor for the Family Career and Community Leaders of America at KDE;
  • Heard updates from AdvanceKentucky Executive Director Anthony Mires and KDE’s Ray;
  • Heard an update from KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney on the KDE Employment Report;
  • Heard from KDE Associate Commissioner Kinney and Division Director Karen Wirth on the audit update and expense reports;
  • Heard an overview of the recommendations of the School Facilities Task Force;
  • Heard a report from the Council on Postsecondary Education;
  • Heard a report from Deputy Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Mary Pat Regan;
  • Heard Glass present the commissioner’s report;
  • Approved consent agenda items:
    • New District Facility Plans;
    • Amended District Facility Plans;
    • 2020-2021 school year Local District Working Budgets and Local District Tax Rates Levied;
    • 702 KAR 1:115, Annual In-Service Training of District Board Members;
    • Amendments to 704 KAR 19:002, Alternative Education Programs;
    • Request to withdrawal emergency regulations 702 KAR 1.191E and 702 KAR 7.125E;
    • 704 KAR 3:395, Extended School Services;
  • Heard a year in review update from 2021 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, Donnie Piercey;
  • Listened to a presentation from Kentucky School for the Deaf Principal Toyah Robey and KSD students;
  • Approved the recipient of the 2021 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award;
  • Approved KBE’s legislative priorities;
  • Approved the federal Carl D. Perkins Consolidated Annual Report;
  • Approved emergency regulation 702 KAR 1:191E, District Quarantine Leave, which allows any fully vaccinated district employee that is quarantined by a licensed treating physician, physician’s assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, local health department, the Department for Public Health or the local school district to be eligible for paid leave;
  • Approved certification of 702 KAR 7:140, School Calendar, to prevent expiration; and
  • Heard a litigation report from KDE General Counsel Todd Allen.
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