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Texas Laws on Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

Posted in School Safety on 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.