Corporal punishment, an education staple of yesteryear, is a rare occurrence in Colorado public schools, but state Rep. Susan Lontine of Denver says even one spanked child is too many.

“If you do this at home, it’s child abuse,” Lontine said. “If it happens at school it’s allowed.”

Lontine is sponsoring a bill to impose a statewide ban on corporal punishment in public schools, state-licensed child care facilities and specialized group homes. House Bill 1038 passed the House Education Committee Monday afternoon, 11-2. Republican Reps. Justin Everett of Littleton and Tim Leonard of Evergreen voted against it.

Experts told the committee that corporal punishment doesn’t work to moderate bad behavior, while it could do lasting harm to children’s learning and mental health.

Colorado is one of 19 states that haven’t yet banned corporal punishment statewide. New Mexico banned corporal punishment in 2011.

In practice, whipping a kid for bad behavior is uncommon in Colorado. Youth corrections, group homes and nearly all of the state’s school districts already prohibit corporal punishment.

The committee relied on a national report that indicated less than 1 percent of the state’s student population had been paddled in 2011, when enrollment was 854,265. Of the 485 students cited in the report, 431 were in the Sheridan School District.

Colorado’s number of incidents could be highly inflated in the report, however. Michael Clough, superintendent of the Sheridan School District, said the district does not permit corporal punishment at all.

“You can scratch out 431 and put zero,” he told the committee.

The high number, Clough suspects, was a data-entry mistake.

“I think ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ has no place in our school system,” Clough said, who didn’t expect any changes to the current policy based on the bill.

Lontine said even if the occurrence is rare, the legislature routinely takes “arcane and obsolete” laws.

“Bottom line it’s not OK for me to hit one of you guys, so why should it be OK for an adult to hit a little kid,” she said to the committee.

The bill defines “corporal punishment” as broader than paddling. It includes anytime an employee or volunteer willfully inflicts physical pain on a child. Exceptions include the force needed to suppress a disturbance, self-defense, take away a weapon held by a child and “pain or discomfort caused by athletic activities in which a child is voluntarily engaged.”

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