A high school principal worked for a school district that permits corporal punishment of students but limits it to spanking or paddling that is “reasonable and moderate” and is not administered maliciously or for revenge. The policy requires that before administering corporal punishment, the educator must consider the student’s size, age and condition, the type of instrument to be used, the amount of force to be used, and the part of the body to be struck. The policy also incorporates a Texas Penal Code provision that states that an educator may use force against a student to the extent that the educator reasonably believes it is necessary to further the purpose of education or to maintain discipline.
 
The principal administered corporal punishment for two separate disciplinary infractions to a seventh-grade student by giving him two “swats” on the buttocks with a wooden paddle. The student had an extensive history of behavior problems and had received corporal punishment in the past. The principal initially intended to send the student to in-school suspension and then to the DAEP, but the student's father said he preferred that the student receive corporal punishment.
 
The student was a slightly built 12-year-old and was wearing gym shorts when the swats were administered. He developed large red marks and bruising on his buttocks from the swats. When he got home, his mother took him to the emergency room, where “moderate to severe” bruising was noted and staff contacted Child Protective Services.

The principal was reported to the State Board for Educator Certification, which sought to impose sanctions against his certificate. After a hearing, SBEC imposed an uninscribed reprimand on his teaching certificate. The principal appealed that decision to the district court, which upheld the decision, and he then appealed to the court of appeals in Austin.
 
The court of appeals held that the principal could be sanctioned with an uninscribed reprimand, which is the lowest form of sanctions that SBEC can impose. In reaching this conclusion, the court found that due to the severity of the student’s injuries, the amount of force applied was not reasonable. The court specifically said: “An educator must use professional judgment in determining the appropriate force to be used in the administration of corporal punishment, and if the educator is unable to make that determination, he may choose to administer another form of discipline.”
 
Editor’s Note: Even when authorized by policy, allegations resulting from use of corporal punishment can subject an educator to adverse employment action and certification sanctions, and can even be grounds for personal liability in some circumstances.