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Legislature Votes to Continue Corporal Punishment in Schools

In a 12 to 2 vote during Friday’s legislative session, a bill prohibiting corporal punishment in a school setting was struck down by legislators. Though the overall bill by Sen. Janelle Sarauw’s passed an amendment by Sen. Kenneth Gittens prompted a vote to take down the section of the bill that pertained to corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is defined as a discipline method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a child in response to a child’s unacceptable behavior and/or inappropriate language. Senator Sarauw pleaded with her constituents about the many negative effects that research has found as a result of physical punishment.

Senator Sarauw stated, ” “There is science, and science, and science behind the need to remove corporal punishment from school,” Sarauw said. “As a matter of fact, corporal punishment is tied to slavery. If some of us in here like history, when a slave in here didn’t behave properly they would beat them, and it has continued in our culture. We just beat children,” instead of using effective communication Sarauw said.”

Gittens responded by stating he advocates for the use of physical punishment on children in school. He further stated, ” We don’t use timeouts in the Virgin Islands.” “If this measure wants to see my support going forward, I certainly will not support this measure with section four being in there with regards to the prohibition of corporal punishment. This has been attempted by many legislatures, and I will not be hypocritical now to change my mindset to that end.”

Department of Education legal counsel Cynthia Moore said the department agrees “with the family law bill; corporal punishment should be prohibited.”

According to a 2015 report by The Source many corporal punishment victims were found to be boys with special needs.