State Actors Beating Children: A Call for Judicial Relief
46 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2008
Controversy over public school corporal punishment is at an all-time high. On August 20, 2008, the Human Rights Watch/ACLU brought public attention to the issue by releasing its report on corporal punishment of children in American public schools. Lawsuits challenging this state action on constitutional grounds continue to be filed, as advocates seeking to ban school paddling refuse to accept that beating students is constitutionally permissible, despite their repeated losses in the federal courts, and the Supreme Court's refusal to consider the issue again on June 23, 2008. Ignoring the uproar, nearly half of the United States continue to employ corporal punishment in public schools despite compelling evidence that it is counterproductive to state educational objectives and creates serious physical, emotional, and other risks to children. This article considers existing jurisprudence relative to public school corporal punishment and argues that the current majority rule is constitutionally infirm, and that no court has ever engaged a meaningful means-to-ends analysis in accordance with Meyer v. Nebraska and its progeny. Based on scientific and other evidence regarding the inefficacy of corporal punishment and its dangerous consequences for schoolchildren, this article concludes that it is a legislative deprivation of substantive due process and a denial of equal protection of the laws protecting all other citizens from assault and battery. In addition, because children are excluded from protection from physical punishment based on inaccurate, historical assumptions regarding their innate character, laws authorizing corporal punishment of children only are unconstitutional under a legislative motive equal protection analysis.
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