Corporal Punishment of Schoolchildren:
The Problem and the Cure

By Jordan Riak, March 21, 2011

The Problem
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Some critics of our campaign have argued that government has no business telling people how to raise their children, and that corporal punishment in schools is merely an extension of prevailing family values that vary from region to region, from school district to school district.

Now, let's reflect for a moment on a few other behaviors that not long ago flourished under the banner of "family values":

  • spousal battery
  • marital rape
  • incest
  • polygamy
  • infanticide
  • involuntary servitude
And that's just the short list.

Justice Brandeis said: "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill it teaches the whole people by example."

Isn't it time that state legislatures set the right example by extending to schoolchildren the normal protections against felony assault and battery that applies to everyone else?

The ban against corporal punishment of schoolchildren is long overdue. It deserves swift, unanimous, unambiguous support.

The Cure
Model Legislation

The Legislature finds and declares that the protection against corporal punishment, which extends to other citizens in other walks of life, should include children while they are under the control of the public schools. Children of school age are at the most vulnerable and impressionable period of their lives and it is wholly reasonable that the safeguards to the integrity and sanctity of their bodies should be, at this tender age, at least equal to that afforded to other citizens.

(a) For the purposes of this section "corporal punishment" means the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil. This includes, but is not limited to, striking a student on the buttocks with a wooden board or other implement, denial of access to the restroom, forced exercise, harmful seclusion and restraint, forced medication. An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section. Physical pain or discomfort caused by athletic competition or other such recreational activity, voluntarily engaged in by the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section.

(b) No person employed by or engaged in a public school shall inflict, or cause to be inflicted corporal punishment upon a pupil. Every resolution, bylaw, rule, ordinance, or other act or authority permitting or authorizing the infliction of corporal punishment upon a pupil attending a public school is void and unenforceable.

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