SANTA FE — Public school principals in New Mexico can burn their paddles. They no longer can hit students as a form of punishment.

Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday signed a bill that outlaws paddling students in schools.

"The decision on whether or not to use corporal punishment on a child is one that is best left to a parent," said Martinez, a Republican in her first year as governor.

Thirty-six of the state's 89 school districts still permitted paddling of students, though many used the punishment sparingly.

For instance, the Alamogordo Public Schools allowed corporal punishment, but none of its 15 schools used it this year, Superintendent George Straface said.

With Martinez's decision, New Mexico became the 31st state to outlaw paddling students in schools.

In signing the measure, House Bill 172, Martinez broke with most legislators in her party.

Lawmakers approved the ban on paddling students in close votes, 22-17 in the Senate and 36-31 in the House of Representatives.

Of the 15 Republicans in the 42-member state Senate, only one, Sander Rue of Albuquerque, voted to ban corporal punishment.

Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, is an assistant superintendent of a school district with about 550 students. He said whether to permit paddling was a decision that belonged in the hands of school boards, not lawmakers in Santa Fe.

Sen. Cynthia Nava, D-Las Cruces, co-sponsored the bill to end paddling in schools.

Nava said prisons, the military and New Mexico's foster care system had barred those in authority from striking people they supervise.


Schools should do the same, she said.

Nava is superintendent of the Gadsden Independent School District, which has a longstanding policy against corporal punishment.

Martinez faced intense lobbying on the issue since the legislative session ended nearly three weeks ago.

Milan Simonich: