Educators: What You Need to Know About the Legal Rights of School Districts and Corporal Punishment

As you can imagine, districts must be highly attuned to the law, as well as to the legal rights and responsibilities of the district. Most districts employ an attorney to ensure that they are within their legal rights as they initiate policies, procedures, and practices to guide the district’s schools.

Corporal punishment is still prevalent in school districts across the country. But the legality of corporal punishment is not clear, and the matter has been left to the states to work out. Corporal punishment was put under the spotlight in 1979 when two states initiated its banning. Today, a whopping 31 states are opposed to corporal punishment for students. From a teacher’s perspective, several aspects must be considered when faced with the potential of delivering corporal punishment. These include:

  • Teachers should have complete knowledge of existing state and school district’s rules and regulations on corporal punishment.
  • Teachers should have knowledge of the conditions under which corporal punishment can be directed.
  • Teachers should only use corporal punishment in moderation, and only when it’s completely necessary to maintain control in the classroom or school environment.
  • The punishment must be strictly driven by motives of maintaining discipline in the class or for the student’s betterment. Punishments triggered out of revenge, spite, or anger are unacceptable.
  • The scale of the punishment given must be in strict appropriateness to the misbehavior.

If corporal punishment (wherever it is allowed) is considered to exceed acceptable punishment, a teacher could be liable to a lawsuit. In deciding whether the act was within the bounds of law or not, courts will look at such factors as the instruments of punishment and on the body parts on which the punishment was inflicted. Needless to say, the use of fists, switches, or canes in delivering punishment is simply unacceptable. Likewise, blows inflicted on body parts that are highly susceptible to injuries are not acceptable. Apart from that, before punishing a student in any manner, but particularly before using corporal punishment, ethical considerations must be taken into account.

All in all, in states where no definite rules on the issue exist, teachers must apply discretion and ethics in the matter of corporal punishment for students.

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