Generally, school authorities may use hitting as a disciplinary measure if:
- it allowed by the state
- strictly for disciplinary reasons, and
- not cruel or excessive.
The burden is on the student to show that the hitting was not reasonable.
The states allowing corporal punishment or hitting of students are:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
If you do not live in one of these states, you might be able to sue the school and the teacher regardless of their reasons because the state has chosen to ban all forms of hitting as discipline.
Disciplinary reasons means that a student may only be hit in order to punish or prevent a serious offense. Examples of this include:
- Skipping school
- Attacking a teacher or another student
- Bringing a dangerous weapon to school
Cruel and excessive is a term without a clear definition, but in this case teachers can only punish students as far as their offense. Nearly every school district will lay out the suitable punishments. In general, any hitting that leaves marks such as cuts or bruises is excessive.
A court will consider many factors to determine if hitting a student was justified enough to be reasonable. These factors include:
- age of the child
- maturity of the child
- past behavior
- nature of the offense
- instrument used to hit
- evidence of lasting harm to the child
- motivation of the hitting person
- availability of less severe but equally effective means of discipline
Many states have banned hitting altogether because it can cause psychological damage and is almost never the only effective way to discipline a child. If you live in a state that has not banned hitting but have been hit, consult an personal injury attorney if you feel you have been wronged. A good attorney will be able to help protect your rights.