Should Texas public schools use corporal punishment? The debate is ongoing. As of this writing, the Texas state legislature is working on a bill to more clearly define this practice and would require written permission from parents or legal guardian before using this type of punishment on students. The Texas Association of School Boards reports that more than half of the districts already require parental permission. Debate on the bill also centers on whether to exempt rural counties with fewer than 50,000 residents.
Corporal punishment is generally defined as occurring when a teacher deliberately inflicts pain for discipline or for punishment, but currently Texas has no legal definition. It is one of 19 states that permit some type of corporal punishment. With more than 1,000 school districts in the state, less than 100 prohibit the practice altogether.
How Hard is Too Hard?
Spanking is allowed under Texas laws, but problems occur over the amount of pain inflicted. The state has conflicting responses to an adult hitting a child. The Department of Family and Protective Services’ definition of abuse is “a physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child.” The state penal code gives educators immunity in these types of cases but this immunity does not preclude the filing a civil suit for using excessive force or negligence. The problems occur when trying to define “excessive force.” Investigation is required and the results of the investigation can lead to civil and criminal charges being filed which must be worked out in the Courts.
Educators Opt Out
Legal ambivalence on this issue between the Educators Code of Ethics, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Penal Code on child abuse and the Department of Family and Protective Services have created an atmosphere that is causing many educators to avoid this type of punishment altogether. The consequences for the accused can be very expensive and cause repercussions in their family life and careers. There are a number of cases of this type currently awaiting a judge’s decision.
There are a lot of eyes on this pending bill and many are hoping it will remove the legal risks for those involved. Don’t expect the debate to end any time soon. Many areas of Texas consider the right to spank a child tied to traditional family values and others consider spanking a form of abuse no matter what type of parental consent is given.