After Vote on School Discipline: 'It's 1880 in Here'

Bill in Oklahoma House on barring corporal punishment against disabled students fails
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2023 11:05 AM CDT
After Vote on School Discipline: 'It's 2023 Outside; It's 1880 in Here'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/dannikonov)

It was a close vote in the Oklahoma state House this week, but a measure to bar teachers and staff from using corporal punishment against kids with disabilities failed. Despite GOP Rep. John Talley's best efforts to advance HB1028, which would've kept educators from hitting, spanking, paddling, or otherwise using physical force on children who receive services under an IEP or 504 plan, the bill he thought would be a bipartisan win failed Tuesday with 45 votes for, 43 against. That's six votes fewer than the 51 it needed to pass, per the Washington Post.

The surprise pushback came from lawmakers in his own party, who brought up the Bible to bolster their stance. "God's word is higher than all the so-called experts," Sen. Jim Olsen said during the floor debate on the measure. He then proceeded to read from Proverbs 13:24. "'He that spareth his rod hateth his son. But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes,'" Olsen said, per KOKH. "So it tells us that if you will not use the rod on a disobedient child, you do not love that child." Olsen also noted that he sees this particular bill as being a slippery slope that would lead to getting rid of corporal punishment in schools altogether, which he's against.

Oklahoma is one of 19 states that still allows this form of discipline—considered a human rights violation by the United Nations—in public schools. Corporal punishment is allowed in private schools in all states, save for New Jersey and Iowa, per the Post. Talley, who happens to be a minister himself, had a biblical retort of his own to Olsen's comments. "Why don't we follow all the other Old Testament laws?" he queried. "There's about 4,000 of them, and one of them is to not allow wives to wear jewelry, or stone your child if they're disobedient."

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Talley's own backstory suggests why he feels so strongly about the measure: He tells the Enid News & Eagle he was often spanked in school as a child due to an attention deficit disorder that got him into hot water. He adds that he's heard complaints from parents of kids with disabilities in all of the state's 77 counties, including from a dad who said his autistic daughter was spanked three times in one day when she didn't do her math correctly, per the Post. As for how most of the House's Democrats felt after the vote, Rep. Forrest Bennett expressed those views succinctly. "It's 2023 outside; it's 1880 in here," he tweeted Tuesday. Talley says he intends to bring the bill back up for a vote again next week. (More corporal punishment stories.)

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