Effective Discipline: Is Spanking and Corporal Punishment Legal?
Spanking and Corporal Punishment
Gone are the days when a parent can spank a child wherever they want or however they want. No more.
The Texas Family Code explains the danger in hitting a child or “inflicting bodily injury” or “physical pain”. Well, spanking causes physical pain, right? Does that mean it is illegal to spank a child?
The short answer is “No.”
It is not illegal to spank your child. The Family Code and Penal Code for the state of Texas allows parents and guardians to spank a child. However, be aware of the blurred line. There is a fine line between spanking or corporal punishment and abuse. There is a Reasonable Discipline Defense against inflicting pain on a child.
Again, the pain or discipline should neither be excessive such as striking to bruise. Also, the instrument that you use to spank matters.
The Texas Attorney General has offered some guidelines to help parents and guardians identify potential abusive actions. Know when it may be illegal or wrongful to spank a child in Texas.
- Hitting a child in anger
- Striking a child above the waist
- Spanking with instruments other than a belt or brush, such as electrical or phone cords, yardsticks, ropes, shoes or wires
- Punishment that causes injury, such as a bruise, welt, or swelling or requires medical attention
According to a publication titled “School Crime Handbook” which was written the Office of the Attorney General, punishment should not be excessive.
“Corporal punishment has long been recognized as a method for disciplining students. In Texas, an educator entrusted with the care, supervision or administration of a student may use force, but not deadly force, against the student for the “special purpose” of School Crime and Discipline Handbook 32 Office of the Attorney General controlling, training or educating the student. However, the use of force is justified only when and to the extent that the educator reasonably believes the force is “necessary to further the special purpose or to maintain discipline in a group.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that a student’s liberty interests are implicated when corporal punishment is imposed by educators.194 However, the due process to which a student is entitled before corporal punishment is administered is not great. For example, a formal hearing is not required before corporal punishment is used. The Supreme Court has held that because of the “openness of schools” and the availability of common-law safeguards, the risk that corporal punishment would violate a student’s substantive rights is minimal. The fact that educators may be subject to both civil and criminal liability for the
unreasonable use of corporal punishment is one of the common-law safeguards.
Texas statutes prohibiting assault and injury to a child also provide protection against excessive corporal punishment. Under the Education Code, a professional employee of a school district is not personally liable for discretionary acts incident to or within the scope of the duties of the employee’s position, “except in circumstances in which a professional employee uses excessive force in the discipline of students or [commits] negligence resulting in bodily injury to students.
The goal of discipline is to correct an immoral or unwanted behavior. It is not for pleasure and should not be applied out of frustration.
Therefore, in order to protect the child, the Criminal Code and Family Code have penalties for violating these laws. Below is a video that you might find helpful on Effective Ways to Discipline.
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