We had some time to talk to Senator Rachel Zenzinger about her corporal punishment bill that was killed by partisan politics. We were shocked that anyone would oppose legislation protecting our children in this way. SJK is grateful to have collaborative relationships with so many of our Jeffco legislators.
Following is a guest editorial from Senator Zenzinger on the subject:
Our moral responsibility
By Senator Rachel Zenzinger
I believe that public schools are important places for nurturing and developing the knowledge and skills our children need to grow and thrive in our democracy. And in order for schools to foster educational growth, we must first ensure that no harm occurs to the students entrusted into its care. That is why I sponsored House Bill 17-1038, to end the practice of in-school corporal punishment.
In-school corporal punishment means the willful infliction of physical pain on a child. Generally it entails school personnel intentionally inflicting pain in an attempt to change the child’s behavior or as a punishment for breaking rules or acting out.
I know what you’re thinking: “We don’t still do this, do we?” Unfortunately, the answer is yes. According to the Colorado Department of Education there were 480 documented instances of corporal punishment in schools in Colorado in 2012. And while many school districts have already adopted policies prohibiting the practice, we need a consistent and uniform law throughout Colorado.
Overwhelmingly, research shows that the practice of corporate punishment is harmful, ineffective, and disproportionately applied to students of color and children with disabilities. Often, when this type of punishment is used as an attempt to compel behavioral change, it has the opposite effect, resulting in more aggression, more defiance, and more opposition.
Unfortunately, three Republican Senators from the Senate Judiciary Committee disagreed. Without any known opposition and without explanation they voted down the bill 3-2. From questions posed during testimony, we can infer they were not convinced that the practice didn’t occur outside of districts that already prohibit the practice. The rationale behind this is that if one of the documented cases came from a district that already prohibits the practice, why create a law?
To begin, not all districts have policies to prohibit the practice. Second, one instance of in-school corporal punishment, regardless of where it occurred, is too many. And third, the consequences for breaking a state law are far heftier than breaking a district rule. Therefore, outlawing the practice for the entire state would have prevented districts without the policy from continuing and would have aided deterring incidents in districts with a policy already in place.
A safe, supportive school environment is critical to support effective teaching and learning. Rather than cling to an old, outmoded way of punishing kids, we should be leading the way in fostering positive school climates and improving discipline practices through proven strategies. As former Secretary of Education John King noted in a department white paper on the topic: “As the evidence against corporal punishment mounts, so does our moral responsibility to eliminate this practice.”
We applaud Senator Zenzinger for this important piece of legislation and we hope that she will sponsor it again next session. In the meantime, please spend some time writing to your legislators about ending partisan politics when it comes to legislation that protects our children and tell them you expect them to pass it next time. This is an example of extremely silly politics; 480 incidents of corporal punishment occurred to our children in schools.
As a side note, Senator Zenzinger is having another town hall you may want to attend. Though she had her last over the previous weekend, in coordination with other legislators, we heard reports of several attendees upset regarding that town hall.
Per one SJK friend: “Senator Lumberg was there to discuss the state budget. When the conversation turned toward school funding, we were asked to keep our questions focused on the state budget issues. An amazing Bear Creek teacher stood up and said ‘School funding IS A STATE BUDGET ISSUE!’ Then Lumberg tried to shut her conversation down by telling her we didn’t have time for this discussion.”
Here’s the information on Senator Zenzinger’s Town Hall we think you may want to attend! The Colorado Fiscal Institute has well-educated economists and is a nonpartisan organization. We have found their resources extremely beneficial!