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Massachusetts Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

The use of spanking, paddling, or other types of physical force as a means of school discipline is referred to as corporal punishment. Many states have moved away from corporal punishment, and Massachusetts has prohibited corporal punishment in the state.

Corporal Punishment Statutes in Massachusetts

The status of corporal punishment in Massachusetts public schools are listed below, with links to additional resources.

Code Section

Ch. 71 §37G

Punishment Allowed

Prohibits corporal punishment, but any member of school committee, teacher, or agent of school may use reasonable force to protect themselves, pupils, or other persons from an assault by a pupil.

Circumstances Allowable

-

America’s history of public school discipline has swayed from one extreme to the other, as our social attitudes regarding corporal punishment have shifted back and forth. In the middle of the nineteenth century, U.S. educators would generally rely on European models of discipline that urged against physical punishment in response to academic errors and instead suggested that encouragement and kindness fostered better learning environments.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the model classroom was made up of well-disciplined students sitting quietly while they learned by rote and repetition. The prominent idea during this era was controlling student behavior while information was transferred from teacher to student. To a large extent, this model continues to shape many current concepts about classroom goals and activities.

As media coverage in the 1990s and 2000s began to focus heavily on juveniles committing serious crimes on school property, schools were increasingly portrayed as war zones. In response, many people advocated for a return to more stringent student control, otherwise known as “zero tolerance.”

During the same time, emerging theories on discipline and punishment led many schools to shift their disciplinary focus away from punishing students for bad behavior and toward giving students a positive incentive for meeting or exceeding school administrators' expectations. This movement towards working with students to change their own behavior and away from punishment has led some states and school districts to reexamine the way they handle disciplinary issues at school. Many modern school administrators now seek to help students understand and change their behavior rather than hand out standard punitive consequences for violating school rules.

Related Resources for Massachusetts Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws:

State education laws are subject to change. If you would like legal help regarding and education matter, you can contact a Massachusetts education law attorney in your area. You can also visit FindLaw's School Discipline section to learn more.

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