Bill outlawing corporal punishment in NM public schools goes to governor
By Milan Simonich, Santa Fe Bureau
El Paso Times, March 18, 2011

SANTA FE Gov. Susana Martinez now must decide whether public schools should be able to paddle students.

The state Senate voted Friday to outlaw corporal punishment in New Mexico. Members of the House of Representatives previously approved the bill.

The measure goes next to Martinez, who can sign it into law or veto it.

Most of her Republican colleagues in the Senate fought to keep paddling as an option for school boards. They said legislators in Santa Fe should not set policies for school districts across New Mexico.

Sen. Cynthia Nava, D-Las Cruces, sponsored the bill to end paddling in schools.

Nava said 36 of New Mexico's 89 school districts still have corporal punishment on the books, though many may not use it.

A school superintendent herself, Nava said corporal punishment had been outlawed in the military and in foster care. Schools should follow suit, she said. Her Gadsden district does not paddle students.

Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana, said she was astonished to find that paddling still occurs in schools.

She said many kids are victims of violence in their own homes, and they would not be helped by more spankings in school.

"It's demeaning to the kids," Garcia said. "In this day and age, we don't need corporal punishment."

Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, said he also was disappointed that corporal punishment was being discussed in the Senate, but for reasons different from Garcia's.

"We have stripped the local school boards of any authority," he said.

Leavell also said that school administrators have told him that maintaining classroom discipline is their greatest problem.

Sen. Mark Boitano, R-Albuquerque, agreed with Leavell.

"Corporal punishment is something they need to have in their arsenal," he said.

This marked the second time that the Senate voted this year on whether to ban corporal punishment. The first vote a month ago ended in an 18-18 tie, derailing a Senate bill to ban paddling.

But the House version of the same bill advanced to the Senate, necessitating the second vote.

The measure to ban paddling students is HB 172.

Santa Fe Bureau Chief Milan Simonich can be reached at or 505-820-6898. His blog is at


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