Corporal Punishment Of Students Is Illegal in California


Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

School staff or teachers willfully inflicting physical pain to students is considered “corporal punishment.” Such actions are prohibited in California unless certain exceptions exist.  

Education Code Section Prohibits Corporal Punishment

In California Education Code section 49001, “Corporal Punishment” is prohibited by law.

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.  As such, hitting, pulling hair, pinching, kicking, and other forms of physically painful contact with a student, usually are unacceptable and illegal.

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 student corporal punishment under section 49001 so long as it does not fit under an exception.

Exceptions That Are Not Corporal Punishment

Education Code section 49001 lists exceptions of physical actions to students which are not considered corporal punishment as follows:

“An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person … to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purpose of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil is not … corporal punishment.  “

So, 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 corporal punishment 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 to a student 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 staff member, 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 school staff member could continue their improper conduct with even more dire consequences to students the next time.

Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps parents stop abuse and corporal punishment in schools and assists with filing various school complaints. Being a Sacramento parent and student attorney, Michelle can help families across the state, in places such as the Bay Area, San Jose, Santa Monica, Malibu, Anaheim, Visalia, Roseville, Tahoe and many other places.