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Utah Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

Physical discipline, or “corporal punishment,” in public schools has been subject to increasing scrutiny in recent years. Many states have strict statutes determining whether school administrators are permitted to hit, spank, or paddle students as a means of punishment. This is an introduction to corporal punishment in public schools laws in Utah.

Corporal Punishment Statutes in Utah

The majority of states, including Utah, prohibit corporal punishment in public schools, and the state only allows use of force or physical restraint for self-defense. The table below lists Utah’s corporal punishment in public schools statutes.

Code Section

Utah Code 53A-11-801, et seq.: Physical Restraint Guidelines

Punishment Allowed

Corporal punishment prohibited.

Circumstances Allowable

Use of reasonable and necessary physical restraint or force for self-defense or other appropriate circumstances listed in statute.

History of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

The United States has a long history of public school discipline during which popular opinion has swung from one extreme to the other, generally mirroring public attitudes toward corporal punishment in general. As more children began attending public schools in the mid-1800s, most U.S. educators employed European models of discipline, which suggested that learning occurred best with encouragement and kindness and therefore discouraged physical punishment in response to academic errors.

This perspective shifted at the beginning of the twentieth century, when education was considered a process of controlling student behavior while conveying information from teachers to students and model classrooms were filled with well-disciplined students sitting attentively and learning by rote. To a great extent, this concept continues to shape our modern ideas about classroom behavior and goals.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, media coverage focused on juveniles committing serious felonies on school property and portrayed schools as veritable war zones. Schools responded by instituting “zero tolerance” behavior policies as a means of more rigorous student control. At the same time, many schools have shifted their focus away from punishing students for bad behavior, based on emerging theories on discipline and punishment that suggested rewarding students for meeting or exceeding educational expectations instead.

Related Resources for Utah Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

The line between prohibited corporal punishment and reasonable physical force may be difficult to discern. If you would like legal assistance regarding an education matter, you can consult with a Utah education attorney. You can also find additional articles and information by visiting FindLaw's section on School Discipline.

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