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Iowa Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

Many years ago, corporal punishment, or paddling in schools, was a normal form of discipline. Iowa is one of the 31 U.S. states and D.C. that has banned the infliction of corporal punishment on students. This practice was banned in Iowa in 1989. This corporal punishment law applies not only to public schools, but also to accredited private schools. Only Iowa and New Jersey also ban corporal punishment in private schools.

To be clear, schoolchildren in Iowa can be physically touched by a school employee in certain reasonable circumstances, specifically when:

  • Encouraging or disciplining (not paddling or spanking) the student
  • Protecting the employee, the student, other students, or school property
  • Getting a weapon or other dangerous item form a student
  • Stopping a disturbance or preventing a threat of physical harm to anyone (like breaking up a fight)
  • Preventing a student from self-inflicted harm
  • In self-defense
  • During any other legitimate educational activity

The following table lists the corporal punishment in Iowa schools law.

Code Section Iowa Code Section 280.21 – Corporal Punishment
Physical Punishment Allowed? Corporal punishment is the intentional physical punishment of a student and it is NOT allowed in Iowa. However, as stated above, physical contact with a student can be done when “reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.”

The vast majority of current research suggests that physical or corporal punishment is an ineffective disciplinary tool that harms, rather than helps children. The Society for Adolescent Medicine also holds the position that corporal punishment in schools is an “ineffective, dangerous, and unacceptable method of discipline.” Therefore, Iowans can be proud their state recognized this problem and doesn’t permit corporal punishment in its public or private schools.

If your child has been disciplined at school in a way you feel isn’t right, you should contact an experienced Iowa education lawyer to clarify what the law is and learn more about your options.

Note: State laws are updated regularly. It’s important to consult with a knowledgeable education law attorney in Iowa or conduct your own legal research to verify these school discipline laws.

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