The 50-0 vote sends the measure to the House. The bill would ban corporal punishment for a student whose parent or guardian has stated that wish in writing at the start of the school year.
"It doesn't outlaw corporal punishment. It does make it a little more difficult to do," said Sens. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland. "Most research shows that hitting students won't modify long-term behavior."
North Carolina is one of 19 states that allow corporal punishment after New Mexico outlawed the practice last month, according to the Center for Effective Discipline, a Columbus, Ohio-based group that opposes the practice.
Even though North Carolina law allows paddling students, the choice is left to each of the state's 115 local school districts. Fewer than 20 rural districts in the state's southeast and west continue the practice.
Last year, the first for which school districts were required to report data on corporal punishment, there were 1,160 cases of the discipline measure statewide, led by Robeson County schools with 296 cases, the Department of Public Instruction said. That's up from 990 reported uses during the 2008-09 school year, led by 329 in Burke County.
Existing law requires paddling be administered away from view of other students, by a teacher or principal, under the observation of a witness.
A law passed last year allowed the parents of disabled students to opt-out if their local school district used corporal punishment, but the Senate measure would extend that option to all parents, said Tom Vitaglione of Action for Children North Carolina, a child advocacy group.
"Right now, a parent does not have the right to say that you can't hit my child," he said.