Education Law

Utah Rules on Corporal Punishment in Schools

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
Utah bars corporal punishment in its public schools, as well as any private schools that receive state funding.

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 banning corporal punishment in schools are in the majority. Utah is one of those states.

Below is a summary of Utah’s rules on corporal punishment in schools. (Because states can change these laws any time, it’s always a good idea to check the current statute using this search tool.)

No Corporal Punishment, Period

School employees in Utah may not use any corporal punishment on students (Utah Code § 53A-11-802(1)). The state used to allow this form of discipline on children whose parents gave written permission, but an amendment to the law eliminated that exception as of May 2017.

The law doesn’t apply to school district peace officers or other law enforcement officers working at schools (Utah Code § 53A-11-802(6)).

What Exactly Is Corporal Punishment?

The law defines corporal punishment as any disciplinary method that’s intended to cause physical pain (Utah Code § 53A-11-801(1)).

When Is Physical Restraint Allowed?

School employees may use reasonable physical restraint (immobilizing or limiting the student’s ability to move) when it’s necessary in certain circumstances, including:

  • self defense
  • taking a weapon or other dangerous object from a student
  • protecting anyone from physical injury
  • removing a student who’s violent, or
  • preventing property damage if there’s a risk to physical safety.

(Utah Code §§ 53A-11-802(2), 53A-11-801(3).)

What About Private Schools?

The prohibition on corporal punishment applies to any private or parochial schools that receive state funding for education. Other private schools may adopt policies to exempt themselves from the ban, but they must notify students’ parents that they’ve done that. (Utah Code §§ 53A-11-802(5).)

Talking to Your Lawyer

Consider talking to a lawyer about your legal options if a principal, teacher, coach, or other school employee has hurt your child while applying discipline or trying to control students. An attorney experienced in a field like personal injury or education law should be able to explain the legal reasons (or “grounds”) you might have for a civil lawsuit against the responsible employee and/or the school, including:

And if you believe that schools officials used improper discipline because of 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.

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