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Orlando Sentinel, Florida, 5 March 1987
Panel Won't Let Schools Ban Paddling
By Maya Bell
TALLAHASSEE -- A bill aimed at giving school boards the right to ban corporal punishment in public schools was narrowly defeated Wednesday by a House committee.
After debate, the House Youth Committee voted 6 to 5 against the bill that would have given school boards the option to ban corporal punishment. Only Florida and South Carolina do not give school boards that option.
The bill also proposed that parents be allowed to exempt their children from paddling, a policy a number of school boards already have.
Rep. Tom Tobiassen, R-Cantonment, a staunch opponent of the bill, moved to reconsider it at the committee's next meeting, a parliamentary move that technically keeps the measure alive.
Tobiassen said he made the motion only "as a courtesy" to committee Chairman Alzo Reddick and didn't think the bill had a chance.
"Nobody's going to change their vote," Tobiassen said. "That bill isn't going anywhere."
Reddick, D-Orlando, said he would try to come up with a compromise that would let parents have a say in their children's discipline at school.
At least two committee members who believe parents should have that right voted against the bill Wednesday and presumably would support a more limited measure.
Jack Levine, executive director of the Florida Center for Children and Youth, agreed that the close vote is an indication that the two issues in the bill need to be separated. He conceded it will be hard to sell the idea of giving school boards the authority to set policy on corporal punishment.
Advocates of eliminating corporal punishment had chosen to sell the issue as one of county choice, hoping to enlist the support of the more conservative members of the Legislature. It was clear Wednesday that the strategy will not work.
Rural Democrats and Republicans didn't want to hear about home rule. Nor did they care for the wisdom of Irwin Hyman, who founded the Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives in Schools at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Tobiassen said he resented someone from "Philadelphia coming to Florida telling us how to run our schools."
Hyman told the committee that school administrators commonly use corporal punishment because they got it as youngsters. He said scientific studies show that corporal punishment not only is counterproductive but ineffective.
He said paddling temporarily stops behavior but doesn't change it. In fact, he said, it teaches children that violence is the way to deal with problems.
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