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Corporal Punishment (Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Edition): Punishment; punishment that is inflicted upon the body (including imprisonment).

Reasonableness: The term has usually been determined by assessment of the following: child’s age, maturity, past behavior, nature of the offense, the amount and type of harm inflicted on the child, the instrument used to administer the punishment and the motivation of the person inflicting the punishment.

Spanking: To hit with the flat of the hand on the buttocks as punishment. The term is sometimes used to mean hitting with a board (paddling).

Paddling: To hit on the buttocks with a short, flat-bladed wooden instrument for punishment.

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A majority of states have banned corporal punishment of school children while maintaining the rights of school authorities to use reasonable force and restraint to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to others, to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon or with the control of the student, in self-defense or for the protection of persons or property. In states where corporal punishment is allowed, local districts can ban corporal punishment as well establish conditions beyond those established by state laws and regulations for its use. Where state law permits, courts generally uphold the "reasonable" application of corporal punishment and have been reluctant to find that such punishment violates student due process rights or rights to be free from "cruel and unusual punishment".

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Important Federal Court Decisions

Opponents of school corporal punishment have advanced arguments that it is unconstitutional. These arguments are based on (l) violation of Fifth Amendment rights of substantive due process which prohibits deprivation of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law" and procedural due process involving notice, a clear statement of the alleged offense, hearing with right to counsel and cross-examination of witnesses and (2) violation of Eighth Amendment rights against state imposition of "cruel and unusual punishment".

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 51 L.Ed.2d 711 (1977), involving the use of corporal punishment in public schools. It was a narrow decision (5-4) which upheld the beating of two Florida students.

The complaint said that Ingraham was beaten twenty times with a paddle for moving too slowly to leave the stage of an auditorium. The other student was beaten four times in a 20-day period for being late. The beatings led to medical and hospital care. The parents’ attorneys argued that the beatings were "cruel and unusual punishment" according to the Eighth Amendment. The Court sided with Dade County school officials in the case. It found that prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, while necessary for criminals in jail, was not necessary for school children who justices said are better protected by the surveillance of the community and the openness of the school system.

The Court also said stated that, to the extent that the force is excessive or unreasonable, educators in most states are subject to possible civil and criminal liability.

Garcia v. Miera, 817 F.2nd 650 (10th Cir. 1987) involved a nine-year old New Mexico girl who court documents say was held upside down and struck five times with a broken wooden paddle leading to bleeding and permanent scarring. The child was paddled again some three months later causing severe bruising. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment of a lower court providing that school officials are shielded from liability and found that school officials had used such excessive force in administering corporal punishment that they violated the student’s federal constitutional right of substantive due process. Both the school district and the administrators were liable for damages suffered by the student and attorney fees. Garcia makes clear that school officials can be sued and the results can be time-consuming and expensive. The Supreme Court refused to hear the Garcia case so it still stands.

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State Year Present Statute
Alaska 1989 AK Statutes 4 AAC 07.010(c)
California 1986 CA Education Code Section 49000-49001
Connecticut 1989 CT Penal Code Sec. 53a-18
Delaware 2003 DE Education Code Sec. 702
District of Columbia 1977 DC Municipal Regulations, Regulation 2403
Hawaii 1973 HI Rev. Statutes Sec. 302A-1141
Illinois 1993 IL Compiled Statutes, School Code
Sec. 5/24-24
Iowa 1989 IA School Code Sec. 280.21
Maine 1975 ME Criminal Code Sec. 106
Maryland 1993 MD Code Education Sec. 7-306
Massachusetts 1971 MA General Laws , Education Sec. 37G
Michigan 1989 MI Compiled Laws, Rev. School Code Sec. 380.1312
Minnesota 1989 MN Statutes Sec. 121A.58
Montana 1991 MT Code Annotated Sec. 20-4-302
Nebraska 1988 NE Rev. Statutes Sec. 79-295
Nevada 1993 NV Rev. Statutes Sec 392.4633
New Hampshire 1983 NH Rev. Statutes Ann. Sec. 627:6
New Jersey 1867 NJ Permanent Statutes,
Education 18A:6-1
New Mexico 2011 N.M. STAT. ANN. Sec. 22-5-4.3
New York 1985 NY Regulations of the Board of Regents, 8 NYCRR 19.5
North Dakota 1989 ND Century Code, Elem. and Sec. Education Sec. 15.1-19-02
Ohio 2009 Oh. Rev. Code Sec. 3319.41
Oregon 1989 OR Rev. Statutes Sec. 339.250
Pennsylvania 2005 22 PA Code CHS. 7 and l2, Sec. l2.5
Rhode Island 2002 Section 3.6 of the RI Board of Regents' Physical Restraint Regulations
South Dakota 1990 SD Codified Laws, Sec. 13-32-2
Utah 1992 UT Administrative Rule R277-608
Vermont 1985 VT Statutes, Education Sec. 1161a
Virginia 1989 VA Code, Education Sec. 22.1-279.1
Washington 1993 WA Administrative Code 180-40-235
West Virginia 1994 WV Code Sec. 18A-5-1 (e)
Wisconsin 1988 WI Statute Sec. 118.31


*Dates listed are when the law was enacted, unless otherwise noted.

Some states banned corporal punishment through laws passed by state legislatures. Some banned corporal punishment through regulations passed by state boards of education. In some cases, the bans came about because legislatures removed statutory permission for its use. Contact for specific information.

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State Laws Granting Authority For Use Of School Corporal Punishment


State Statute
Indiana IND. CODE IC 20-8.1-5.1-3
Arkansas ARK. CODE ANN. Sec. 6-18-503-b.1, and
Sec. 6-18-5505-c.1



State Statute
Arizona ARIZ. REV. STATE. Sec 15-843
Florida FLA. STAT. Sec. 230-23- (6) (c) 1
Georgia GA. CODE ANN. Sec. 20-2-730, Sec. 20-2-731
Kentucky KRS. Sec. 158.150, Sec. 160.290 and
Sec. 160.345-2(I)(7)
Louisiana LA. REV. STAT. Sec. 17:233 and Sec. 20-2-732
Missouri MO. REV. STAT. Sec. 160-261.1
North Carolina N.C. GEN. STAT. Sec. 115C-391 (a)
South Carolina NC CODE of LAWS Sec. 59-63-260
Tennessee TCA. Sec. 49-9-103

Corporal punishment is part of an information data base requirement in Florida schools and stats can be found at this link:


Corporal punishment is not directly addressed but may be addressed indirectly through powers given to school boards for control of discipline or through immunity from suit for educators using corporal punishment.

Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Wyoming


Use of ordinary (not excessive) force as a means of discipline is not prohibited.
State Statute
Arizona ARIZ. REV. STAT. Sec. 15-843
Kansas KRS Sec. 503.110
Texas TEX. PENAL CODE Sec. 9.62
Missouri MO. REV. STAT. Sec. 5763.061.1
Oklahoma OKLA. STAT. Sec. 21-844-808
(Includes spanking, switching or paddling)



State Statute
Alabama AL CODE Sec. 16-28A-1 and Sec. 16-28-A-2
Arkansas A.R.C. Sec. 6-17-112(a)(b)
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. 22-32.109
Georgia GA. CODE ANN. Sec. 20-2-732
Indiana I.C. 34-13-3-3(20), *IC 4-6-2-1.5
Mississippi M.C.A. Sec. 37-11-57
North Carolina G.S. 115c-391(h)
Missouri Missouri Rev. Stat. 160-261
Texas T.E.C. Sec. 22.0511
Wyoming WY. STAT. 21-4-308


State Statute
Arkansas ARK. CODE. ANN. Sec. 6-15-807
Georgia Code 20-2-740
Kentucky KRS 158.444
New York 8 NYCRR 100.2 (l) (3)
Note: Kentucky Center for School Safety collects/publishes annual reports on discipline including corporal punishment:

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State Laws -- Private Schools

280.21 Corporal punishment--burden of proof.

  1. An employee of an accredited public school district, accredited nonpublic school, or area education agency shall not inflict, or cause to be inflicted, corporal punishment upon a student. For purposes of this section, "corporal punishment" means the intentional physical punishment of a student. An employee's physical contact with the body of a student shall not be considered corporal punishment if it is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances and is not designed or intended to cause pain or if the employee uses reasonable force, as defined under section 704.1, for the protection of the employee, the student, or other students; to obtain the possession of a weapon or other dangerous object within a student's control; or for the protection of property. The department of education shall adopt rules to implement this section.
  2. A school employee who, in the reasonable course of the employee's employment responsibilities, comes into physical contact with a student shall be granted immunity from any civil or criminal liability which might otherwise be incurred or imposed as a result of such physical contact, if the physical contact is reasonable under the circumstances and involves the following:
    1. Encouraging, supporting, or disciplining the student.
    2. Protecting the employee, the student, or other students.
    3. Obtaining possession of a weapon or other dangerous object within a student's control.
    4. Protecting employee, student, or school property.
    5. Quelling a disturbance or preventing an act threatening physical harm to any person.
    6. Removing a disruptive student from class or any area of the school premises, or from school-sponsored activities off school premises.
    7. Preventing a student from the self-infliction of harm.
    8. Self-defense.
    9. Any other legitimate educational activity.
  3. To prevail in a civil action alleging a violation of this section the party bringing the action shall prove the violation by clear and convincing evidence. Any school employee determined in a civil action to have been wrongfully accused under this section shall be awarded reasonable monetary damages, in light of the circumstances involved, against the party bringing the action.


New Jersey
New Jersey Permanent Statutes, Title 18A Education, 18A:6.1. Corporal Punishment of Pupils.

18A:6.1. Corporal Punishment of pupils

No person employed or engaged in a school or educational institution, whether public or private, shall inflict or cause to be inflicted corporal punishment upon a pupil attending such school or institution; but any such person may, within the scope of his employment, use and apply such amounts of force as is reasonable and necessary:

  1. to quell a disturbance, threatening physical injury to others;
  2. to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon the person or within the control of a pupil;
  3. for the purpose of self-defense; and
  4. for the protection of persons or property;
and such acts, or any of them, shall not be construed to constitute corporal punishment within the meaning and intendment of this section. Every resolution, bylaw, rule, ordinance, or other act or authority permitting or authorizing corporal punishment to be inflicted upon a pupil attending a school or educational institution shall be void.


Compiled by: The Center for Effective Discipline, Columbus, OH
Updated July 2009

Please help our staff keep current on state school corporal punishment laws by informing the Center of legislation which would alter current laws in your state. The summaries here represent excerpts of laws. Readers should seek verification in state laws for current and full information.

The Center For Effective Discipline
327 Groveport Pike, Canal Winchester, Ohio, U.S.A. 43110 | Telephone: (614) 834-7946 | Fax: (614) 321-6308