California Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
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Corporal punishment, or the use of physical force (such as spanking) as a means of discipline, is regulated at the state level. Some states permit corporal punishment in public schools -- including Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina -- but California and the majority of states do not. In fact, public school teachers in California may be charged with child abuse or assault and battery for spanking students.
Reference the code section below to learn more about California corporal punishment laws or read our summary below the table. See State Laws Regarding Corporal Punishment to learn more.
|Code Section||Educ. §§49000, 49001|
|Punishment Allowed||Corporal punishment prohibited.|
History of Corporal Punishment
In 1977, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that corporal punishment was allowed in public schools despite parental objection. Before that, very few states prohibited corporal punishment. That court decision motivated many states to pass laws prohibiting physical punishment in public schools. California's response to this decision came in 1986, when it banned corporal punishment in public schools.
California Laws on Corporal Punishment
Unlike the laws of some other states, the two sections of California law that address corporal punishment do not allow corporal punishment even when a parent consents to it. There may be many justifications for this decision, and the legislature states that a child's young age and impressionable nature make it unreasonable to punish them with physical force. It is important to note that California's prohibition on corporal punishment applies to public schools, and does not mention corporal punishment in private schools.
California Definition of Corporal Punishment
California law defines corporal punishment as the intentional infliction of physical pain on a pupil by a person employed or engaged by a public school. Corporal punishment does not include acts like breaking up a fight between students, preventing damage to property, forcefully taking objects away from a student, or self-defense. As well, any pain or discomfort that comes as a result of voluntary engagement in athletics does not constitute corporal punishment.
Legal Remedies for Unauthorized Corporal Punishment
If a teacher or school employee uses corporal punishment as a school discipline, one remedy for the harm caused can be achieved through a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on each circumstance, corporal punishment can be both an assault and a battery. An assault is generally a threat or attempt to inflict injury to a person. Actual physical contact is not required in order to recover damages for harm caused by an assault. A battery is an unwanted touching in an offensive manner. Actual physical pain does not need to be caused for a battery to occur, but the damages that a plaintiff can recover increase for the amount of pain caused.
Corporal punishment can be either a violation of education laws, or a personal injury. Both issues are handled by attorneys in different disciplines. If you are interested in the possibility of a personal injury suit, there are many attorneys throughout California with personal injury experience who may be able to help. As well, the Findlaw Lawyer Directory has attorneys with education law experience who may be able to provide you with guidance.
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