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TN lawmakers to vote on banning corporal punishment for students with disabilities

(Fox 17 News)

A bill that would ban corporal punishment, like spanking, against children with disabilities in public schools is making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly.

The vote, which was scheduled to happen in the Senate on Monday, has been pushed to Tuesday.

Representative Jason Powell, D- Nashville, introduced the measure. He said one of the driving forces behind the bill is a report released last month by the Tennessee Comptrollers Office.

The report found that disabled children in Tennessee schools were facing corporal punishment at a higher rate than traditional students.

“We said 'wow, this is something we really need to address to make sure that we protect those students who are most vulnerable in our state,' and so that’s where a lot of the support that we’ve gotten has come from,” Powell said.

Traci Foyster is the mother of 17-year-old Dylan Foyster. He lost his hearing at one and a half years old and is nonverbal.

Traci said it is terrifying to think of her son being hit at school as a form of punishment.

“So recently, we had a situation where my son got upset, and he threw something across the room,” Foyster said. "If he had been hit instead of talked to about that behavior, I think it would’ve been really negative for him."

Foyster said an experience with corporal punishment can have lasting impacts on a child with disabilities.

“Sometimes it can have consequences that cause them to not want to go back to school, to be traumatized by that experience,” Foyster said.

Corporal punishment is already banned for all students in Metro Public Schools, as well as some other districts across the state.

"But for those school districts that still allow corporal punishment, this bill would prohibit it for students with disabilities,” Powell said.

“I do believe that it should go without saying that we shouldn’t hit children with disabilities, but unfortunately that’s not the way it is so I think this is a really positive step,” Foyster said.

If the measure passes, it would apply to students with disabilities with an individualized education plan.

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