Corporal Punishment or Abuse?

Corporal Punishment or Abuse?

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 27-Jan-2014

A teacher telling a student off

Certain Florida School Districts Still Allow Corporal Punishment

Some Florida school districts continue to allow teachers to paddle students. But a number of national reports have found that students with disabilities are more likely than others to be paddled or suffer other forms of physical punishment. Their disabilities - something that is beyond their control - may lead to punishment.

Florida allows individual districts to decide for themselves whether to use corporal punishment, and most districts have chosen to cease the practice. In districts that allow physical punishment of students, teachers often do not need parental permission. While many school districts send home waivers asking for permission, these forms are not required.

What Are The Guidelines For Corporal Punishment?

There is no clarifying legislation on what instruments can be used on children in Florida schools, but NPR reports that paddles of choice are often made with wooden or fiberglass board.

The principal is supposed to be advised before corporal punishment is administered. The principal is also required to determine which offenses are physically punishable and authorize specific staffers to administer the punishment. The punishment should be carried out in the presence of another adult.

Although most parents would want to know if their children have been paddled, many schools don't have a policy on informing parents. State law requires a teacher or administrator to inform parents about the punishment only when the parent asks for the information.

Most Florida schools recognize there are far better ways to handle students. Those that opt for paddling run the risk of harming a child and becoming party to a personal injury lawsuit if a child is hurt.

Disabled Children Are Vulnerable To Corporal Punishment

The American Civil Liberties Union reported in 2009 that teachers are most likely to target disabled children for corporal punishment. Cases included disabled children being hit, pinched, kicked, and thrown to the floor. They have also been unnecessarily restrained and punished by the withholding of food or bathroom privileges, often resulting in embarrassing and traumatizing accidents.

Parents of children with autism or ADHD will tell you that they require extra patience on the part of adults. Their behavior is challenging, explains Nadine Block of the Center for Effective Discipline. As children with disabilities are integrated into regular classrooms, the average teacher may lack the training necessary to deal effectively with this population.

But this doesn't excuse abuse.

Just last fall, a teacher in the AEF School in Davie, outside Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse and was sentenced to five years probation. He was caught on camera abusing an autistic boy in his classroom, pulling his hair and throwing him to the ground.

In most cases, teachers have the patience of saints. But not everyone is cut out for teaching and not everyone is able to manage their temper. When it comes to being a positive model for children with disabilities, teachers need both the training and patience to make positive impacts in young lives.Some Florida school districts continue to allow teachers to paddle students. But a number of national reports have found that students with disabilities are more likely than others to be paddled or suffer other forms of physical punishment. Their disabilities may lead to punishment.


If you're child has a disability and has also experienced corporal punishment at school, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm today!


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