The bill's author, Sen. Phil Journey, concedes his effort to protect educators who spank students hasn't garnered much support.
TOPEKA - A bill to make it easier to spank kids in school is facing suspension in the state Senate.
The chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, and the bill's author, Phil Journey, R-Haysville, said they think the bill is done for, at least for the current session.
Senate Bill 280 would have shielded educators from liability for administering corporal punishment and would have established guidelines for spanking in schools.
Current law allows spanking if the local school board approves it by policy, but officials say corporal punishment is seldom used.
Schodorf said she allowed a hearing on the bill as a courtesy to Journey, but added: "I didn't see any enthusiasm to move it from the committee."
"I think it's dead," Journey said after the hearing.
Because of its subject matter, the bill was one of the more closely watched ideas to emerge in the current legislative session. Journey said he received calls from media from as far away as Iran.
It was also, according to Journey, "the most misunderstood bill filed this session."
"If you read the (newspaper) editorials, you'd think I wanted every child in the state to be spanked," Journey said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Journey told the committee that state law is largely silent on the issue of corporal punishment, leaving it up to individual school districts to decide. That could mean teachers in Kansas are not protected by a federal liability shield law, he said.
He said he's also talked to teachers who are leaving the profession, despite a growing teacher shortage, because of inadequate discipline in schools.
Opponents of the bill, including the Kansas National Education Association and Families United for Education, urged the committee to gut the bill and replace it with a statewide ban on school spanking.
Kathy Cook of Families United called spanking "ineffective" and said it sends children a message that using violence to solve problems is OK.
And KNEA lobbyist Mark Dessetti testified that association teachers have rejected corporal punishment in 10 separate votes since 1979.
He also said he thinks corporal punishment is irrelevant to teacher recruitment and retention.
"Nobody's going to become a teacher because they have the opportunity to whip kids," he said. Reach Dion Lefler at 785-296-3006.
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