THE OHIO SCHOOL CORPORAL PUNISHMENT LAW – A HISTORY
Prior to l985, no public school boards in Ohio banned corporal punishment. Among states, only Ohio, North Carolina and Florida prohibited local boards from doing so. In Ohio, an Attorney General’s opinion did not permit local boards to ban its use. School corporal punishment was heavily endorsed by the public and educators as being necessary and effective.
In l984, more than 68,000 students were paddled in Ohio public schools, many of them multiple times (US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights). The Ohio Coalition for More Effective School Discipline (now the Center for Effective Discipline) began and initiated a campaign to get legislation allowing local boards to ban corporal punishment.
In l985, the efforts of Senator Oliver Ocasek and the Ohio Coalition for More Effective School Discipline bore fruit and SB 385 became effective allowing local school boards to ban corporal punishment. Bexley City Schools became the first district to do so. All but one (Canton City Schools) of the largest city school boards banned it within the next three or four years.
In l987, the Center for Effective Discipline was founded to carry on the efforts of the Ohio Coalition for More Effective School Discipline. Nadine Block became the Executive Director, a position which she held until 2010 when the Center merged with the National Child Protection Training Center. She led the legislative and grass roots efforts for legislative reform in Ohio.
A l989 survey of superintendents in districts banning corporal punishment by the Center for Effective Discipline found that school boards were banning corporal punishment because of its ineffectiveness as a method of discipline, as protection from lawsuits, because of a perception of it not being a humane measure, community pressure to do so and as a reaction to bad incidents or abuse. The survey concluded that student behavior problems had lessened or remained stable after corporal punishment was banned and at least twelve interventions were more effective than corporal punishment. These included parent conferences, behavior contracts, conferences with students, in-school suspension, referrals to school psychologists or counselors, Saturday school and referrals to community agencies.
In l990, a school reform measure became law which created the EMIS (Education Management Information System). It required reporting of certain school district data to the Ohio Department of Education. Senator Dick Schafrath (R-Wooster) and the Center for Effective Discipline had it amended to require annual reporting of the number of incidents of corporal punishment administration and the number of students struck in each district.
In l992, the Center for Effective Discipline began an annual survey of superintendents of districts reporting corporal punishment to EMIS to verify numbers as reporting errors from the district level were found. The Center for Effective Discipline annually designated a “Top Hitter Award of Dishonor” to districts with high paddling rates.
In l990, a survey of Catholic Diocesan schools in Ohio by the Center for Effective Discipline found that all had banned corporal punishment.
Between l986 and l993 multiple bills were introduced to ban school corporal punishment. Senator Dick Schafrath-R Wooster sponsored many of the bills. Major education organizations fought the bills. They usually opposed it using the “local control” argument. According to records of the Center for Effective Discipline, no empirical studies supporting corporal punishment were offered in opposition testimony on the bills. Opposition testimony in addition to the “local control” position used arguments such as (l) anecdotal evidence -“I got hit when I was a kid and I turned out OK”, (2) conjecture - “If we stop hitting kids, there will be chaos in schools”, and (3) “The bible says so”.
Between l985 and l993, about l00/613 districts banned corporal punishment voluntarily.
In l992, the Ohio State Board of Education passed a resolution calling on school boards to ban paddling voluntarily.
In l993, a bill sponsored by Senators Dick Schafrath and Lee Fisher was passed banning corporal punishment September l, 1994 unless school districts followed a number of procedures. The law allowed parents, for the first time in Ohio, to opt out of corporal punishment for their children by following district notification procedures in districts maintaining its use.
In l997-98, an EMIS report and follow-up survey by the Center for Effective Discipline, found a total of 950 students were paddled in that school year, a decline from the 68,000 students paddled prior to the first corporal punishment law in l985 allowing local boards to ban its use.
In l999, a Center for Effective Discipline study using reports on incidences of corporal punishment in Ohio public schools in l999-2000 and standards reported on state report school report cards cards found that 66 percent of all paddlings administered were from schools that fell in the lowest quartile of standards met.
In 2005-06, an EMIS report and follow-up survey by the Center for Effective Discipline found 270 students were hit 453 times in l7 school districts.
In 2007-2008, an EMIS report and follow-up survey by the Center found 110 students were hit 131 times in six school districts. A bill to ban corporal punishment sponsored by Representative Jon Peterson (R-Delaware) was reported out of the House Education Committee but failed to progress in the legislature which was controlled by Republicans in both houses.
In 2008, the Ohio State Board of Education adopted a position calling for a legislative ban on school corporal punishment by a 17-4 vote.
In June, 2009, 29 states had banned school corporal punishment including nearby states West Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa.
On July 17, 2009 Governor Ted Strickland signed into law a ban on school corporal punishment in Ohio. The Governor proposed a ban on its use in HB 1, the state biennial budget bill, as one of his school reform measures in the budget. The Ohio House, controlled by Democrats passed the bill with the ban language intact. The Ohio Senate controlled by Republicans struck the ban from the bill. It went to a conference committee. The Governor's proposal included a ban on corporal punishment in chartered non-public schools. That part of the proposal was struck from the bill in conference committee but the ban remained. HB 26 sponsored by Representative Brian G. Williams (D-Akron), a mirror-image of the Governor’s proposal was ready to be sent to the Senate if the Governor’s proposal failed.
Corporal punishment was banned in all public schools effective October l5 2009 making Ohio the 30th state to do so. The Center for Effective Discipline led a coalition of 50 organizations supporting the ban. Many of the board members of the Center for Effective Discipline as well as the Executive Director and the President had been involved in the effort to ban corporal punishment in Ohio schools since the mid-l980’s. Ten bills leading to the ban were introduced during these twenty five years.
Prepared by Nadine Block, Founder of the Center for Effective Discipline, Updated July, 2011