PUBLIC EDUCATION in the United States has come a long way since the one-room schoolhouse days. This phenomenal growth has been paced by the controversy surrounding the use of corporal punishment as a means of enforcing discipline in the schools. From the oldest reported case reaching the issue of corporal punishment' back in 1833 down to the present, the proponents of corporal punishment have had to defend their actions in the courts from a wide variety of attacks based on criminal law, tort law, state statutes, school board regulations and, most recently, constitutional guarantees. Although the attacks on corporal punishment have been largely unsuccessful, the recognition by the courts of the substantive and procedural constitutional rights of students who attend public schools in the last fifteen years has sparked new constitutional challenges. The early cases generally treated corporal punishment in one of three contexts: (a) in criminal prosecutions by the state against a teacher for assault and battery on a pupil, (b) in civil actions for damages for physical injuries resulting from the use of corporal punishment on a pupil, and (c) in cases where a teacher is a party to an action arising out of his dismissal for use or misuse of corporal punishment. The Supreme Court did not rule directly on the regulation of student behavior per se until Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. in 19696 and the first appellate "hairstyle" decision was not decided until 1965. Although the most litigated area recently concerns student expulsions the topic of corporal punishment has been in the courts, and with more litigation pending, needs careful scrutiny.
Arbuckle, William Irwin III
"Corporal Punishment in the Public Schools: The Legal Question,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 7
, Article 9.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol7/iss3/9