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Wisconsin Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws

In a legal sense, corporal punishment refers to physical discipline, which most of us think of as paddling or spanking. The majority of states, including Wisconsin have banned corporal punishment in public schools, with a few exceptions for preventing harm to others, obtaining a weapon or dangerous object from a student, and self-defense, among others. This is a quick introduction to corporal punishment in public schools laws in Wisconsin.

Corporal Punishment Statutes in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s corporal punishment statutes are listed in the table below.

Code Section

118.31

Punishment Allowed

Corporal punishment generally prohibited; reasonable and necessary force allowed in self-defense, to protect others, etc., and as proscribed by school board policy.

Circumstances Allowable

-

The long history of public school discipline in the United States goes from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other as societal attitudes toward physical punishment have shifted. Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, American public school educators generally modeled their discipline on European examples that paired learning with encouragement and kindness and urged against corporal punishment being used for academic errors.

At the start of the twentieth century, however, the ideal classroom consisted of well-disciplined students sitting quietly and learning by rote and repetition. In that context, teachers were more often tasked with controlling student behavior while transferring information. And to a large extent, this model continues to shape the majority of our current concepts regarding classroom activities and goals.

As media coverage in the 1990s and 2000s shifted to focus on juveniles committing serious crimes on and off school property, schools were described almost as war zones, and the response from many people was to advocate for an even more stringent form of student control. This call led to regulations that were popularly referred to as “zero tolerance” policies.

At the same time, many schools were relying on emerging theories on discipline and punishment and shifting their disciplinary focus to rewarding students for good performance and away from punishing students for bad behavior. Many states and local school districts have reexamined the way they handle school disciplinary issues in light of this movement away from harsh punishment and towards working with students to change their own behavior.

Wisconsin Corporal Punishment in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources

State education statutes can be complex. You can find more introductory information and resources by visiting FindLaw's School Discipline section. You can also contact a Wisconsin education attorney if you would like legal assistance regarding an education matter.

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