Paddling, spanking, and other forms of corporal punishment used to be common in classrooms. But as views about the wisdom of hitting children changed over time, many states passed laws prohibiting or restricting the practice in their schools. By now, states that allow corporal punishment in schools are in the minority. Mississippi is one of those states.
Below is a summary of Mississippi law on corporal punishment in schools. (Because states can change their laws at any time, it’s always a good idea to check the current statute by using this search tool.)
Reasonable Corporal Punishment Allowed
Mississippi allows public school teachers and principals to administer reasonable corporal punishment (Miss. Code § 37-11-57).
The state requires local school boards to adopt their own disciplinary policies (Miss. Code § 37-11-55). Some school districts set limits on corporal punishment (such as requiring parental permission or a witness), while others prescribe paddling for misbehavior as minor as tardiness and dress code violations. According to the Society for Research in Child Development, corporal punishment remains widespread in Mississippi schools, making the state an outlier in the national trend away from the practice.
What Exactly Is Corporal Punishment?
The state’s law defines corporal punishment the reasonable use of physical force by a teacher or principal when it’s needed to maintain discipline, enforce school rules, or protect the teacher or other children from disruptive students (Miss. Code § 37-11-57(2)).
Legal Protections for Disciplinarians
It isn’t considered child abuse or negligence in Mississippi when teachers or principals use reasonable corporal punishment or any other method to discipline or control students. Except in cases involving excessive force or cruel and unusual punishment, these employees won’t be liable for any actions that meet federal, state, and local rules on school discipline. The law protects teachers and principals from civil lawsuits based on corporal punishment or other discipline, unless they acted maliciously or showed “wanton” disregard for safety or human rights. (Miss. Code § 37-11-57.)
What About Private Schools?
The state law on corporal punishment in schools doesn’t mention private schools, so they’re free to adopt their own policies on the use of physical discipline.
Talking to Your Lawyer
If your child was injured when a teacher or other school employee didn’t follow disciplinary rules or used excessive force, consider talking to a lawyer about your legal options. Attorneys experienced in a field like personal injury or education law should be able to clarify the rules that apply in your local school. They could also explain the legal reasons (or “grounds”) you might have for a civil lawsuit against the responsible employee and/or the school, including:
- personal injury
- assault and/or battery, or
- a violation of your child’s constitutional right to liberty under the Fourteenth Amendment.
And if you believe school officials used improper discipline because of behavior related to your child’s disabilities, an attorney experienced in civil rights or disability law can explain the federal and state laws that apply to your situation, including the possibility of suing the school district for violating these laws.