Let’s talk about corporal punishment.

Dear Dawg: Corporal punishment is legal in Texas….right?  JUST WONDERING.


Right.  It is legal, but risky.  The most important thing about corporal punishment is compliance with your local policy. Study your policy FO Local. You will find that:

1. Some districts have prohibited corporal punishment;

2. Some districts require parents to give consent before corporal punishment can be used;

3. Some districts impose restrictions, such as a) who can administer it; b) how it is administered; 3) where it is administered; 4) how parents are notified.

The easiest way for an administrator to get into trouble over this issue is to fail to comply with local policy.  Even the failure to comply with a part of the policy that seems unimportant can lead to legal problems.

I recently looked at one district’s FO Local and found that it allowed corporal punishment, unless the parents have provided a written statement prohibiting its use. State law requires that parents be given that opportunity.  The district’s policy had these restrictions:

1. Only “spanking or paddling” are allowed;

2. The student must be told the reason for the paddling;

3. Only the principal or assistant principal can paddle;

4. The principal must approve the instrument to be used;

5. It must be done in a designated area out of the view of other students;

6. There must be a professional district employee serving as a witness; and

7. There must be a disciplinary record to document all of the above.

It’s my impression that most districts that allow corporal punishment require written parent consent.  Remember that state law requires that parents be allowed to opt out of corporal punishment, but many district have taken the extra precaution of limiting this practice to those parents who have affirmatively given their consent for its use. The Dawg thinks that this is the better practice.

Limiting corporal punishment to situations where parents have given written consent is sure to lower your risk of litigation over this controversial practice, but it does not eliminate that risk. Parents can give consent; and then sue over it.

You may wonder: how can they do that?  How can they say it’s OK, and then file a lawsuit over it?  Easily.  The suit will allege that parents gave consent for reasonable corporal punishment, and that what happened in fact was not at all “reasonable.”  No one can precisely define the line of demarcation between “reasonable” and “excessive” corporal punishment. Thus this is a risky practice, and one of the few instances in which a campus administrator can be held personally liable for damages.  You can be held liable for the excessive or the negligent use of physical force while disciplining a student.

So read your FO Local.  Comply with it. Be careful.