It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! What about corporal punishment?

The Toolbox is a full day training program addressing the legal requirements in serving students with disabilities who violate the school’s Code of Conduct.  In the Toolbox we offer ten “tools” that are available to administrators, all of which comply with the law and are designed to help you serve students appropriately.

Corporal punishment is not one of the tools.  But since it remains legal in Texas, I wanted to make a few points.

  1. Corporal punishment is legal in Texas public schools. Most of the states have abolished this practice, but not us.  However, many school districts have prohibited it through local policy.
  2. Parents can opt out of the use of corporal punishment by giving written notice to the school district. Many districts go further than that, and require affirmative parent approval.
  3. An educator who applies corporal punishment to a student runs the risk of personal liability. The immunity that protects educators from personal liability for personal injuries does not apply if the educator is negligent or excessive in the use of force in the discipline of a student.
  4. District policies on the subject vary, and educators are wise to be sure they know exactly what the policy says.
  5. There is no federal or state law that makes any distinction between general education and special education students when it comes to corporal punishment.

When I’m asked about this, my bottom line (pun!) is that corporal punishment is legal, but risky.  I don’t recommend it.

It sometimes comes as a shock to parents who have moved here from other states to find out that Texas still permits this controversial practice.  One time I got a phone call from a dad who had moved here from Michigan, and was skeptical when the school administrators explained to him that Texas permits paddling.  I told him how it was, and reminded him that he was now in the Confederacy.  He said he would take the matter up with his realtor, who had assured him that he was moving into a “progressive and enlightened school district.”  I said, “Sir, you missed ‘progressive and enlightened’ by about three counties.”


 Tomorrow: Does the disability “label” matter?