Ask The Lawyer, Is Spanking Allowed in Public School?


QUESTION: My 5-year-old son told me his teacher spanked him! When I contacted the teacher, he told me that spanking in school is allowed under a U.S. Supreme Court Decision. That cannot be right.

ANSWER: It’s only halfway right. In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ingraham v. Wright¸ 430 U.S. 651, that corporal punishment – such as spanking, paddling, or switching — does not violate the due process rights of students, or their right to be free of cruel or unusual punishment. But if your child goes to a public school, spanking as a form of discipline is against the law and his teacher could be disciplined – even fired – and also face a civil suit.

Michigan is one of 31 states that ban the use corporal punishment against public school students. Another 19, most of them in the South, allow physical punishment like paddling. It’s still legal in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Caroline, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

However, Michigan’s law is silent on the use of corporal punishment in private schools, which may establish their own policies. If your son goes to a private kindergarten, you should review school policies – the teacher might have acted within the scope of the school’s rules!

Even in the public school setting, teachers are allowed to use force in some situations. Under MCL 380.1312(4) school employees are allowed to use “reasonable” physical force to remove disruptive students who have refused requests to behave, to prevent students from harming themselves or others, in self-defense or defense of another, to obtain possession of a weapon or “other dangerous object,” to “quell a disturbance” that threatens to result in physical injury, and to protect property.

The lawyers at GWINN LEGAL PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN LEGAL PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
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[email protected]