4. LEGAL ISSUES AND DEFINITIONS

LEGAL ISSUES AND DEFINITIONS

The following is not intended to be a source for legal advice or case law. If one is looking for legal advice, they should consult with an attorney in their community.

We at TWP want to “clear the air” concerning the legal issues with regards to corporal punishment in school. Our first step will be to dispel some myths about paddling and schools.

MYTH 1 Corporal punishment was abolished many years ago in U.S. public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court.

FACT Not only did the nation’s highest court NOT outlaw corporal punishment, but in Ingraham v. Wright (1977), the court held that corporal punishment did NOT violate the constitutional rights of school children. As of this date though, only 22 states still legally allow paddling in school.

MYTH 2 Teachers can be charged with assault and battery by the parents for paddling their children.

FACT While legal protection for teachers vary among the paddling states, no teacher, who has followed all the school policies and legal requirements, has ever been criminally or civilly convicted for paddling a student.

MYTH 3 State laws and school policies strictly regulate the severity of corporal punishment.

FACT Unfortunately, there are no statewide standards (not a good idea-TWP) and local districts vary widely on specifics ranging from vague to paddle sizes and dimensions. ( We at TWP will present our own ideas for better policy guidelines in a future blog.)

MYTH 4 If a child is bruised, Children’s Protective Services can file charges against the teacher.

FACT Not on is it a waste of time to call these agencies, but if they even take your call, the only thing they will do is file a complaint with the school district- something the parent could just do themselves. Also, keep in mind that there are jurisdictional boundaries- both the state agencies AND the school district are in the PUBLIC domain and schools have their own investigative procedures as per state law. The best first move is to go to the principal and teacher, show them your proof- such as photos, and you will be positively supprised at the response. Understand though, the teacher/principal will most likely not be fired or even reassigned but your child will be given another teacher or school assignment-PRONTO. Such a situation is the nighmare of all educators-99.9% who never set out to bruise any child intentionally.

MYTH 5 Parents have little or no say in if their child is paddled or not.

FACT Unlike a few decades ago in which the assumption was: Register your child for school and while child is on school grounds, the school has total discretion. However, the present legal climate has changed- for the better. Below are some terms in a range from permissive to restrictive with TWP’s comments.

PERMISSIVE

Implied Consent: The oldest and most traditional policy that we alluded to above. The understanding is that if the parent enrolls their child in a school- the principal of in loco parentis ( means “in place of the parent”)is strongly emphasized and the parent is to have no part in how the school disciplines. While in loco parentis still exist, most schools today do not generally use corporal punishment under implied consent.

Default Consent: This is the most widely used and accepted policy on corporal punishment in schools today. The key is that parents, if they do NOT want their child to be paddled- All they need to do is state in writing or sign a form when enrolling their child- and the child will be exempted from all corporal punishment for that school year. But if no opting out of paddling is requested, then by default, the child will be subject to paddling if the occasion warrants it. This places the burden on the parent to decide at the start of the school year what their wishes are as to corporal punishment. This, in the opinion of TWP, is the best policy concerning school discipline.

Parent/Teacher Conference: This means just what it says-a meeting between parents and the teacher which most all teachers wished more parents would do and not only when “Billy” is in trouble. This is usually informal and can be just a phone conversation but is not considered by this blog to be a means to give or receive permission to paddle. Also, this can occur with Default Consent as a step in discipline policy.

Parental Notification: Used sometimes to supplement the Default Consent policy or, in cases of miscommunication problems between educators and parents, to replace the aforementioned. Sometimes, parents attempt to create this policy themselves and when that fails-all hell breaks loose! Unless specifically stated in policy, no parent should take it on themself to modify a policy form. School boards have been increasingly inclined to adopt this policy. While we at TWP want open communication- we also dislike the idea of notification/consent “lite” when state law allows paddling and where parents refuse to exercise their right to opt out on corporal punishment at the start of the school year.

Parental Consent: This is the most restrictive policy and as in Parental Notification, we at TWP do not believe this is the best policy. It must be understood that states, which have enabling laws concerning corporal punishment, already give disciplinary authority to educators. In our opinion, parental consent is a default ban policy because it overturns clear state law and places the parent in the position of vetoing corporal punishment without having to opt out officially. Finally, we at TWP believe that any parent who insists on Consent should be “administratively opted-out” and their child placed on the “Do not paddle” list. After all, educators have enough to do without the policy games some grownups like to play.

^^^RESTRICTIVE^^^

Administrative Opt-Out: This term is completely our idea, because of the reluctance of parents about corporal punishment. Simply put, if a parent openly disapproves of paddling and/or the child resists the paddling whatsoever- the disciplinary status of that child will be changed by the school w/o the parent’s approval. Example 1 : Parent makes derogatory remarks about paddling policy or demands to be “consulted” beforehand. Result-The child is placed on “Do Not Paddle’ list. Example 2 : The child refuses to accept a paddling or resists during the paddling. Result- The paddling immediately stops and status is changed as in #1 with the addition of suspension from school as an alternate sanction.

SPECIAL NOTE: IT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD BY ALL PARTIES THAT THE OPT-OUT PROVISION CONCERNS PADDLING- NOT SCHOOL RULES. IN AN OPT-OUT SITUATION, THE NEXT OPTION BELONGS TO THE SCHOOL AND WILL MOST LIKELY BE SUSPENDING THE CHILD FROM SCHOOL.

SEE OUR NEXT POST FOR IMPLEMENTS AND TECHNIQUES

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