Corporal punishment is defined as deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping or any other physical force used as a means of discipline. It does not include physical pain caused by reasonable physical activities associated with athletic training, competition or physical education. It also does not include the use of restraint (subject to state law and TEA rules, click here).
Educators may use corporal punishment only if the board of trustees has adopted a policy allowing the use of corporal punishment, unless the student’s parent, guardian or other person having lawful control over the student has previously provided a written, signed statement prohibiting the use of corporal punishment for the student. Such a statement must be provided each school year. If you administer corporal punishment, comply strictly with your district’s policy, because it is a potential area of liability for educators.
Aversive techniques, techniques or interventions that are intended to reduce the likelihood of behavior reoccurring by intentionally inflicting on a student significant physical or emotional discomfort or pain, are explicitly prohibited following the passage of two bills (HB 3630/SB 712) in 2019.
Notably, in addition to some obvious techniques prohibited, these bills also prohibit using a technique or intervention that ridicules or demeans the student in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the learning or mental health of the student or constitutes verbal abuse; constitutes a use of timeout that precludes the student from being able to be involved in and progress appropriately in the required curriculum and, if applicable, toward the annual goals included in the student’s individualized education program, including isolating the student by the use of physical barriers; or deprives the student of the use of one or more of the student’s senses (unless it does not cause the student pain or discomfort or complies with the IEP or BIP). The bill makes clear that a teacher is not prohibited from removing a student from class under current discipline laws. Additionally, teachers should be aware that HB 3630 also prohibits denying a student adequate supervision.
A professional employee may not be subject to disciplinary proceedings for the use of reasonable force against a student to the extent justified under Section 9.62 of the Texas Penal Code. This provision allows an educator to use non-deadly force “when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is necessary to further the special purpose or to maintain discipline in a group.” A professional employee may be disciplined for violating a district’s policy relating to corporal punishment, but may not be disciplined for using reasonable force for such actions as breaking up a fight.