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Wyoming lawmakers could repeal lawsuit immunity for school officials who dole out corporal punishment

Sheridan Media
Tongue River Middle School principal Jeff Jones poses for a photo earlier this year. Jones studied the topic of corporal punishment in Wyoming schools for his 2021 doctoral dissertation.

Corporal punishment is rarely used in Wyoming schools these days, but there's still a law on the books providing immunity for teachers and administrators who use it. A new bill before the Legislature seeks to end that protection.

Jeff Jones, a middle school principal from Ranchester, provided testimony in support of the bill during the senate education committee's meeting Friday, Jan. 13. Jones wrote his 2021 doctoral dissertation about corporal punishment in Wyoming schools. He found that just three of Wyoming’s 48 school districts even still allow it. And of those remaining three, they basically never use it.

And yet, in previous years, bills seeking to end corporal punishment have been rejected by lawmakers, who argued there's just no point if it's not used that much anymore. Jones disagrees.

"I believe that's flawed justification for inaction," he said. "Ask yourself, 'What if corporal punishment was being used in today's society in our Wyoming public schools?' I would argue there would be backlash and it would be significant. And ironically, it would probably make passage of this kind of legislation even easier."

Jones added the weight of evidence also lines up against the use of corporal punishment.

"The research on the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment is staggering at this point," he said.

The bill this year would not ban corporal punishment. Rather, it would eliminate the legal immunity that protects school officials from being sued for spanking a child or administering any other form of corporal punishment.

The committee unanimously approved the bill, sending it to the senate floor. It's now passed its second of three readings.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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