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Texas Laws on Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

Monday, November 6, 2017

Corporal punishment used to be common in classrooms – whether it was paddling or hitting a student’s hands with a ruler. As we’ve evolved, however, so have our views about hitting children – and many states have since passed legislation that outlaws corporal punishment in schools. Texas, on the other hand, is one of the few states left in the union that allows corporal punishment in schools. If you’re aghast at this idea, you’re not alone. Fortunately, as a parent, you can “opt out” of corporal punishment for your children in schools. Here’s what you need to know about corporal punishment in local Texas schools.

What Is Corporal Punishment?

The state of Texas defines corporal punishment as any deliberate infliction of pain that involves spanking, hitting, slapping, or any other physical form of discipline. State law allows anyone who is involved in a child’s care or supervision to use any reasonable amount of force that an adult believes is required to maintain disciple. What the law views as “reasonable” can be subjective, however.

Where Is It Legal in Texas?

While state law allows corporal punishment in schools, they also give local school districts the authority to make their own ruling. As such, many of the urban and suburban areas in Texas have prohibited the use of corporal punishment. However, large swaths of rural areas throughout the state can and do still use it.

What Can I Do About It?

To many parents, the idea of corporal punishment is disturbing. If you’re in a district that condones the use of corporal punishment but do not agree to it, you have the right to opt out. In fact, Texas law prohibits the use of corporal punishment on any student whose parents have signed a statement explicitly prohibiting it. These “objections forms” go out at the beginning of the school year, and parents must sign them each year.

Private Schools

Is corporal punishment allowed in private schools? They do not receive public funding so they are not subject to state specific educational laws. As such, they are free to create their own policies.

Is It Actually Common?

The Three Rivers Independent School District made national headlines this summer when the school board voted unanimously to allow corporal punishment for misbehavior at school. The school administrators use wooden paddles to administer punishment, but only when they have express written consent from the parents.  The city, which is about halfway between Corpus Christi and San Antonio, was the subject of ire and controversy during that news cycle.

This flies in the face of the U.S. Department of Education, which sent letters out to state leaders condemning the practice, and urging states to prohibit it. Their stance is that students who experience corporal punishment are more likely to react aggressively with defiance in the short term, and are even more likely to have mental health issues and substance abuse problems later in life.

Still, corporal punishment is allowed in parts of Texas. Parents have the option of “opting out,” but anyone with concerns should contact an education attorney.

Posted by admin at 10:49 pm

What Does a School Liability Waiver Actually Do?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

If you are a parent of a school-age child, you probably sign many, many permission slips. If you don’t, your child will be left at school, sitting alone in a near-empty classroom, missing out on all the fun of a class field trip or other off-campus activity or unable to participate in an after-school sport program. A permission slip typically contains a waiver of liability; you agree not to hold the school responsible for any harm that might come to your child. But isn’t it the responsibility of the teacher or other supervising adult to take reasonable care to avoid a child coming to harm—regardless of where the class is?

Signing permission slips has become so routine that parents may give little thought to them—until their child is injured. Then, they often assume that since they signed the liability waiver, their hands are tied, and they are unable to sue, even if a teacher or other member of the school staff was negligent. Simply requiring that parents sign these waivers serves as a deterrent to parents who might otherwise be inclined to initiate a lawsuit against a school district.

You May Still Have Legal Recourse

Having signed a waiver, however, does not automatically mean that you are without legal recourse if your child has been hurt. Why? Because state courts frequently will not uphold a waiver. Schools and their staff still have a legal responsibility to supervise their charges and keep them from harm, regardless of anything a parent may have signed. You have the right to sue for negligence by showing:

  • That school personnel had a duty to keep watch over your child
  • That they failed in this duty of care
  • That as a direct result of their failure to supervise, your child was injured
  • That your child and you suffered actual damages as a result.

Inherently Dangerous Activities

The refusal of courts to uphold waivers typically does not extend to activities that come with inherent risk of injury, for example certain team sports or gymnastics (including cheerleading). While a sports waiver may preclude you from suing the school for an injury that occurred during the activity, and possibly may include claims of negligent supervision or transportation of your child to a sports event, it does not protect the school from liability for injuries arising from gross negligence on the part of the staff—that is when the injury was caused by failure to exercise any care whatsoever, or from a deliberate or reckless act on the part of the person in charge—an act that that person knew or should have known came with a high likelihood of causing harm. A possible example would be a football coach requiring a team to run for an hour in ninety-degree heat without a water break.

Get a Qualified Legal Opinion

If your child has been injured during a school-related activity, don’t let the fact that you signed that permission slip deter you from consulting an attorney. You may very well be able to recover monetary damages, regardless of the waiver. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you as to whether you and your child have a valid claim for damages, and how a court is likely to rule in a situation like the one you are dealing with. Your attorney will examine the circumstances surrounding the injury and counsel you as to what legal options might be available and how best to proceed.

Posted by admin at 5:56 pm