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Is it a crime for a teacher to administer corporal punishment on students?

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Education law

There are several ways to discipline unruly child students, but none are as severe as corporal punishment. Physical punishment, such as paddling, may be able to discourage undesirable behavior, but it doesn’t change the fact that it can lead to injuries for children.

While corporal punishment in public schools is banned in many states, Texas is one of the few where the practice is still legal. But when does it become a crime?

Corporal punishment allowed, with a caveat

Per Texas rules, a district educator may use corporal punishment to discipline a student – unless the student’s parent or guardian supplied a written and signed statement prohibiting the corrective action. The parent or guardian provides this written statement to the board of trustees of the school district each school year.

If the instructor administering corporal punishment ignores this written statement, they may face charges for causing injury to a child.

Penalties for injuring a child

According to state rules, a person commits the offense of injuring a child if they intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence cause serious bodily injury, bodily injury or severe mental impairment to a child 14 years old or younger.

If the offense was committed intentionally or knowingly – as with the case in corporal punishment – and results in serious bodily or mental injury, it’s a felony of the first degree. A conviction for this offense leads to life or up to 99 years of imprisonment.

But if the instructor intentionally causes only bodily injury, the offense is a felony of the third degree. This offense carries up to 10 years of prison time on conviction.

Corporal punishment may be legal in Texas, but there’s a strict limitation on when an instructor can perform it. Breaking this law is a felony, and inflicting severe injuries could lead to life imprisonment. Those who face this charge shouldn’t underestimate what a conviction means.