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Missouri Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

Missouri Corporal Punishment Laws at a Glance

Corporal punishment includes hitting, slapping, spanking, and other forms of physical contact meant to inflict momentary pain in the interest of discipline and/or control. Many states have banned the practice, but Missouri law explicitly allows for the use of corporal punishment in public schools. The law states that "spanking" or "the use of reasonable force to protect persons or property" is not considered abuse when administered properly.

If there are legitimate doubts about whether the use of force against a student was reasonable, the school district will perform the initial investigation. The statute does not provide a detailed definition of what is considered reasonable, but refers to the each school board's written disciplinary policy. State law requires such force to be applied by "certificated personnel" (such as credentialed teachers and principals) in the presence of a witness who is also a school district employee.

Of course, any kind of sexual misconduct arising from the use of force is strictly prohibited and will be reported to the Missouri Children's Division.

Missouri Corporal Punishment Policy: Two Examples

Each school district in the state is free to draft their own policy with respect to the reasonable use of force in public schools. Some, but not all, districts allow parents to opt-out of corporal punishment for their child. By comparing and contrasting the punishment policies of two different Missouri school districts, we can get a sense of how much they can differ:

  • Alton R-IV School District - Elementary students may receive spanks upon the second or third referral for classroom misbehavior (also given for assault, fighting, abuse, etc.). High school students are given a choice between paddling and suspension for certain offenses.
  • Arcadia Valley Middle School - Spanking may be administered instead of after-school detention; but while the student has the right to refuse spanks, it is not clear what happens after refusal. Paddling must be applied to the buttocks, in the principal's office. Parents may request in writing that their child not be paddled or spanked.

The basic language found in Missouri's corporal punishment in public schools law can be found in the following chart. See FindLaw's School Discipline section to learn more.

Code Section 160.261
Punishment Allowed "Spanking" approved and not considered child abuse when administered in reasonable manner and in accordance with written policy of discipline approved by board; where unreasonableness is alleged, initial investigation to be by school and not division of family services.
Circumstances Allowable -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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