Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
School staff willfully inflicting physical pain to students is considered corporal punishment and prohibited in California unless certain exceptions exist. As such, hitting, pulling hair, pinching, kicking, and other forms of physically painful contact with a student, usually are unacceptable and illegal.
In California Education Code section 49001, “Corporal Punishment” is defined as: “willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil.” This means that any PHYSICAL PAIN caused intentionally to a student, by a person employed or engaged by a school, is not okay. Would purposefully slamming a student into a wall, spanking a student, slapping their hand with a ruler, and/or lifting a student out of a pool by their hair be considered “corporal punishment?” To determine this, ask yourself: was physical pain caused to the student? Was the physical pain intentionally caused by the school representative? If the answer is yes, the conduct could constitute prohibited corporal punishment under section 49001 so long as it does not fit under an exception.
Education Code section 49001 lists the exceptions to corporal punishment as follows:
If a student were pulled by their hair to prevent drowning, knocked into a wall in an attempt to obtain a gun, or hurt when the staff member was trying to stop them from being punched, causing physical pain might not be considered prohibited under the circumstances. But we can all see how that is different from going after a kid to cause them pain with no legitimate reason. If there were harm caused in a justified situation, the only question then would be, was the physical pain caused “reasonable and necessary?” That may be a matter of opinion as even in “self-defense,” staff can go to far.
If parents encounter what they believe to be intentionally caused physical pain and/or harm by a teacher or other school representative, they may want to file a personnel and/or other type of complaint to ensure the person involved is corrected and the matter resolved. Otherwise, the staff member could continue their improper conduct with even more dire consequences the next time.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.