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School CP - January 1995

Los Angeles Times, 10 January 1995


Conroy files bill to allow the paddling of students

The Orange lawmaker's proposal is designed to undo a 1986 ban on corporal punishment in public schools

By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- He's back.

Orange County Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, who pushed unsuccessfully last year for a law requiring that juvenile graffiti vandals be paddled in court, on Monday introduced a measure to reinstitute corporal punishment in California's public schools.

Conroy's measure, designed to reverse a 1986 ban on corporal punishment in the state's schools, would allow individual districts to craft their own paddling policies. The Republican from Orange said he believes the state "has to get back to the basics when dealing with juvenile offenders and school students who misbehave."

But the measure drew harsh criticism from state educators, who fear that reimposing corporal punishment would be a step backward for California schools.

Susie Lange, a spokeswoman for state Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, said the state's top education official feels Conroy's proposal could cause problems.

"She's concerned about other people having the right to physically punish someone else's children," Lange said. "She's especially concerned about teachers having that sort of responsibility, let alone the liability. And she believes there are more constructive ways to discipline kids."

Although a district would not be required to practice paddling, it could draw up guidelines identifying punishable offenses, how the corporal punishment would be administered and what members of a school staff would be authorized to mete out a paddling.

The measure would require teachers or principals to administer a paddling in the presence of another adult. A pupil's parent would be provided with a written explanation of the reason for the punishment. The measure also would protect the paddler from civil and criminal liability except in the case of excessive force or cruel and unusual punishment.

Conroy said he decided to pursue the measure after receiving several letters from teachers last year, while pushing his previous paddling bill. The teachers suggested that corporal punishment was an excellent deterrent to bad behavior.

Civil libertarians and others have long criticized corporal punishment in schools because there are no due process guarantees that a paddling is being administered for an appropriate reason and such discipline amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Conroy captured international headlines last year when he pushed his paddling measure in the wake of the Singapore caning of American Michael Fay. The bill was defeated in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, but Conroy has already reintroduced it for this year's session.

The assemblyman contends both measures have a better chance for success this year because of the new makeup of the Assembly, which includes 40 Republicans in the 80-member body.

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