Advocates of Utah's retarded citizens say a Senate bill that curbs the use of corporal punishment in public schools may be discriminatory because it treats handicapped children differently under the law.

"We think it raises that red flag. We just want them treated the same as other kids in school," said Ray Behle, executive director of Representatives of the Association of Retarded Citizens-Utah.But Rep. Grant Protzman, D-Ogden, said federal law categorizes children with disabilities. "That makes these children different."

Sponsored by Sen. David Steele, R-West Point, SB32 has passed through the Senate and is expected to be heard by the House Tuesday. The bill prohibits corporal punishment in public schools except in carefully delineated circumstances.

An amendment to the bill states that corporal punishment does not include "physical restraint or aversive therapy administered in accordance with individualized education programs," which must be approved by the child's parents, the school board and meet federal requirements.

"This bill does not mean you can beat handicapped children," Protzman said.

Since federal law governs how handicapped children are treated in an educational setting, Behle said he believes the bill is unnecessary. "We're saying why have it in the state law when it's already covered under federal law," he said.