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Delaware Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

Delaware became the first state in the nation to effectively outlaw corporal discipline of children by their parents in 2012. It is a controversial law that also bans corporate punishment in Delaware schools.

As you can imagine, corporal punishment in school can be a delicate issue. Corporal punishment refers to spanking, paddling, or other forms of physical discipline in schools. Many states have banned corporal punishment in public schools. And Delaware has done the same.

Delaware Corporal Punishment Statute

Let's take a look at Delaware's corporal punishment in school law:

(a) ‘Corporal Punishment’ means the intentional infliction of physical pain which is used as a means of discipline. ‘Corporal punishment’ includes, but is not limited to, paddling and slapping, when used as a means of discipline.

(b) No public school teacher, administrator, official employee or agent of the School Board may subject a student enrolled in the school district to corporal punishment.

(c) Subsection (b) does not prohibit a public school teacher, administrator, official employee or agent of a school board from:

(1) Using reasonable and necessary force to quell a disturbance or prevent an act that threatens physical injury to any person;

(2) Using reasonable and necessary force to obtain possession of a weapon, or other dangerous object within a pupil’s control;

(3) Using reasonable and necessary force for the purpose of self-defense or the defense of others under §§464 & 465 of Title 11;

(4) Using reasonable and necessary force for the protection of property under §466 of Title 11;

(5) Using reasonable and necessary force to prevent a pupil from inflicting harm on himself or herself;

(6) Using reasonable and necessary force to protect the safety of others; or

(7) Using reasonable and necessary force to maintain order and control.

(d) In determining whether or not a person was acting within the exceptions in subsection (c), deference shall be given to reasonable, good faith judgments made by the teacher, administrator, official employee or agent.

(e) Nothing in this section shall prohibit, permit or otherwise affect any action taken by the teacher, administrator, official employee or agent of the School Board with regard to a person who is not a pupil enrolled in the school district.”

History of Public School Discipline

The history of public school discipline in America has gone from one extreme to the other as social attitudes toward corporal punishment and other, non-physical approaches have shifted back and forth. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the model classroom was more focused on having well-disciplined students sitting quietly while learning by repetition.

Media coverage in the 1990s and 2000s tended to focus on juveniles committing serious felonies on school property, and schools were portrayed as war zones. This caused many people to advocate for a return to more stringent student control, often referred to as “zero tolerance.”

On the other hand, emerging theories on discipline and punishment also led many schools to shift their disciplinary focus to rewarding students for meeting or exceeding school administrators' expectations and away from punishing students for bad behavior.

Many modern administrators now seek to help students understand and change their behavior rather than handing out standard punitive consequences for violating school rules. This movement away from punishment and towards working with students to change their own behavior has led many states and school districts to reexamine the way they handle disciplinary issues at school.

Delaware Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources

State education laws are constantly changing. You can learn more by visiting FindLaw's School Discipline section. If you would like legal assistance with an education case, you can contact a Delaware education attorney in your area.

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