The Florida Board of Education is considering giving teachers more physical power to control students by using “reasonable force.” The proposed rule says reasonable force is defined as appropriate physical response necessary to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment and should not be used as an instrument for the teacher’s anger or frustration. It also should be limited to the minimal force necessary to prevent undue harm or injury to the student. Parents do not need to be notified if force is used against their child.
While the proposed rule does not exactly spell out what when “reasonable force” is not allowed, it does say that it should only be used with consideration of a list of factors, including the size and physical abilities of all parties, the mental and psychological abilities of the student, and availability of assistance to control the situation with force.
Corporal punishment is already allowed in Florida schools, provided the punishment is approved in advance approval by the principal, another adult must be present, and an explanation must be provided to parents. The proposed rule includes a statement that it should not be construed as applying to corporal punishment.
In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled in Ingraham v. Wright that schools could use corporal punishment despite parental objection. The decision allowed states to address the issue individually and presently twenty-five states have statues covering corporal punishment. A plurality of the states with statutes prohibit all forms of force: California, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. Only six states -- Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri -- allow corporal punishment at a statewide level.
A handful of other states, including Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, allow the use of reasonable force to control an unruly student or situation, but do not allow corporal punishment.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming direct local school boards to develop their own policies regarding corporal punishment and uses of force.
Disappointing many across the nation, corporal punishment of school board officials is still unlawful in all states.