Typically, the law for teachers hitting students is that school authorities may use hitting as a disciplinary measure if:

  • It is allowed by the state
  • It is strictly for disciplinary reasons, and
  • It is not cruel or excessive

The burden is on the student to demonstrate that the hitting was not reasonable.

Corporal punishment in schools is a discipline method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a child in response to unacceptable behavior or inappropriate language.

Under the law for teachers hitting students in 19 states, it’s legal for teachers or principals to punish public school students by hitting them repeatedly instead of just giving them detention.

Which States Allow Hitting?

The states allowing corporal punishment or hitting of students are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wyoming

If you do not live in one of these states, you might be able to sue the school and the teacher because the state has banned all forms of hitting as a discipline.

Examples of corporal punishment under state laws may include:

  • Spanking (one of the most common methods of physical punishment)
  • Slapping, pinching or pulling.
  • Hitting with an object, such as a paddle, belt, hairbrush, whip, or stick.
  • Making a student eat soap, hot sauce, hot pepper, or other distasteful substances.

Even when corporal punishment is lawfully allowed in a state, school district superintendents and individual school principals within districts can determine whether to utilize corporal punishment as a form of discipline. States that legally allow school corporal punishment are primarily clustered in the southeastern United States. The nexus of school corporal punishment is seen in the contiguous states of Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, with more than half of schools in those states allowing corporal punishment. In 9 states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming), corporal punishment is almost eliminated, with less than 5% of schools in the states reporting any use of it. However, for Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Georgia, the proportion of schools using corporal punishment exceeds the proportion of students who attend those schools by more than two percentage points, suggesting that, on average, schools that use corporal punishment in these states have fewer students than schools that do not use it.

What Does “Disciplinary Reasons” Mean?

“Disciplinary reasons” in school corporal punishment mean that a student may only be hit to punish or prevent a serious offense.

Examples of this include:

  • Stealing
  • Skipping school
  • Fighting
  • Attacking a teacher or another student
  • Bringing a dangerous weapon to school
  • Cheating

What Does “Cruel and Excessive” Mean?

“Cruel and excessive” is a phrase without a precise definition, but in this case, teachers can only punish students as far as their offense. Nearly every school district will lay out suitable punishments. In general, any hitting that leaves marks such as cuts or bruises is cruel and excessive.

When Is Hitting a Student “Reasonable”?

A court will consider many factors to determine if hitting a student was justified enough to be “reasonable.” These factors can differ from case to case according to the facts surrounding the circumstances.

These factors include:

  • Age of the child
  • Maturity of the child
  • Past behavior
  • Nature of the offense
  • The instrument used to hit
  • Evidence of lasting harm to the child
  • The motivation of the hitting person
  • Availability of less severe but equally effective means of discipline

The Education Code recognizes that teachers (and other certificated employees) have a responsibility to intervene physically to protect students. A teacher may use reasonable force to quell a disturbance, protect others, in self-defense, or take possession of weapons.

As with most laws, there may be variations according to state laws and even city or municipality laws. Every educational district will be different from the next, and the laws and statutes governing them may vary.

What Is the Punishment for a Teacher Hitting a Student?

If an individual believes that their child was mistreated or abused at school by a teacher or another educational worker, there are several steps that they may take to get involved.

These steps include:

  • Immediately contact the school board and school officials;
  • Familiarizing themselves with school regulations and policies governing teacher conduct;
  • Requesting that the school district investigate the incident;
  • Filing for an investigation with a government agency, if necessary; and
  • Filing a private civil lawsuit.

If an individual discovers an incident at school, they should contact the school board immediately. A meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible to keep the incident fresh on the student’s mind. In addition, any delays in informing the authorities regarding an incident may negatively affect a future claim.

Individuals need to familiarize themselves with school regulations and policies that govern teacher conduct. They should also inquire if the school district has had previous incidents of abuse of students.

Next, the individual should request that the school district conduct an investigation. A written, formal explanation of the findings should be requested. An individual can report a teacher for harassment by filing a complaint with their school district.

If the school board cannot or does not provide an adequate solution to the issue, an individual may have to file a complaint with a government agency, such as the Department of Education. The Department will then investigate the alleged abuse and will prescribe corrective measures if they are appropriate.

If the investigation by the government agency is still not adequate, the individual may wish to file a private civil lawsuit to recover for any injuries or losses incurred. In some cases, an individual must file a claim with a government agency before they are permitted to file a lawsuit. There may also be criminal charges filed, depending on the circumstances.

It is essential to take any complaints about a child very seriously. An individual will not be penalized for filing a report with their school district or a government agency. Student safety is one of the top concerns of any state, so it is essential to file an accurate and timely report if an individual suspects abuse.

Unfortunately, in some cases, bullying occurs by a teacher and is directed at a student. While it may be possible to sue a teacher for abuse of power, it depends on the state’s specific laws and the school’s policies.

Do I Need an Attorney If My Child Was Hit at School?

Many states have banned hitting because it can cause psychological damage and is rarely the only effective way to discipline a child. If you live in a state that has not prohibited hitting but have been hit, consult a children attorney or personal injury attorney if you feel you have been wronged. A good attorney will be able to help protect your rights.

It can also be essential to have the assistance of a government lawyer if a teacher has abused your child. Besides the parent-child relationship, the teacher-student is one of the most critical relationships in your child’s life.

If you suspect that your child’s teacher has abused them, you should immediately contact school authorities. If you are unsure how to begin this process, a lawyer will gladly help. If you believe the situation may be dangerous for your child, it may be necessary to alert law enforcement.

Your attorney can review your situation, advise you of the laws in your area and your rights under those laws, and assist you with the complaint process. If necessary, your attorney can also help you file a civil lawsuit and represent you during any court proceedings.

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