School corporal punishment in the United States

Corporal punishment in public and private schools are not addressed by federal law in the United State. Instead, each state set the rules for corporal punishment in schools within the state. In 1977, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Eight Amendment clause prohibiting “cruel and unusual punishments” did not apply to school students, and the case also clarified that teachers did not require parental permission to carry out corporal punishment. The name of the case is Ingraham vs. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977). Through this case, the Supreme Court upheld the disciplinary corporal punishment policy of Florida’s public schools by a 5–4 vote.

Is school corporal punishment legal in every state?

No, many states have banned school corporal punishment, at least for public schools.

As of 2019:

  • Corporal punishment in public schools is prohibited in 32 states and the District of Columbia, either by state law or through school district regulations or similar. There is for instance no state ban against it in North Carolina, but in 2018, the last school district in the state banned it.
  • Only Iowa and New Jersey prohibits corporal punishment in both public and private schools.

Where corporal punishment in school is legal, students can be physically punished from kindergarten to the end of high school. This includes legal adults who are still in high school.

In the United States, each state has the authority to define corporal punishment in its state laws – including corporal punishment in schools. Therefore, laws and definitions regarding this issue will vary from state to state.

Alabama is one example of a state that permits corporal punishment in both private and public schools, but has a fairly narrow rule for exactly which corporal punishment that is permitted: the teacher is allowed to punish the student physically using a wooden paddle approximately 24 inches in length, 3 inches wide and ½ inch thick.

Texas is an example of a state where the rules give more flexibility, as teachers in both private and public schools are allowed to paddle children and to use any other physical force to control children in the name of discipline.


In the states marked blue on this map, corporal punishment is prohibited in public schools. In the states marked red, it is legal.



StateBan status for public schoolsBan status for private schools
New JerseyBanned since 1867Banned since 1867
MassachusettsBanned since 1971Not banned
HawaiiBanned since 1973Not banned
MaineBanned since 1975Not banned
District of ColumbiaBanned since 1977Not banned
Rhode IslandBanned since 1977Not banned
New HampshireBanned since 1983Not banned
New YorkBanned since 1985Not banned
VermontBanned since 1985Not banned
CaliforniaBanned since 1986Not banned
NebraskaBanned since 1988Not banned
WisconsinBanned since 1988Not banned
AlaskaBanned since 1989Not banned
ConnecticutBanned since 1989Not banned
IowaBanned since 1989Banned since 1989
MichiganBanned since 1989Not banned
MinnesotaBanned since 1989Not banned
North DakotaBanned since 1989Not banned
OregonBanned since 1989Not banned
VirginiaBanned since 1989Not banned
South DakotaBanned since 1990Not banned
MontanaBanned since 1991Not banned
UtahBanned since 1992Not banned
IllinoisBanned since 1993Not banned
MarylandBanned since 1993Not banned
NevadaBanned since 1993Not banned
WashingtonBanned since 1993Not banned
West VirginiaBanned since 1994Not banned
DelawareBanned since 2003Not banned
PennsylvaniaBanned since 2005Not banned
OhioBanned since 2009Not banned
New MexicoBanned since 2011Not banned
North CarolinaBanned since October 2, 2018 (in every school district but not on state-level).Not banned
MississippiBanned since July 1, 2019, for students with disabilities or special education plans. Not banned for other students.Not banned
AlabamaNot bannedNot banned
ArizonaNot banned, but no reported useNot banned
ArkansasNot bannedNot banned
ColoradoNot banned, but no reported useNot banned
FloridaNot bannedNot banned
GeorgiaNot bannedNot banned
IdahoNot bannedNot banned
IndianaNot bannedNot banned
KansasNot bannedNot banned
KentuckyNot bannedNot banned
LouisianaNot bannedNot banned
MissouriNot bannedNot banned
OklahomaNot bannedNot banned
South CarolinaNot bannedNot banned
TennesseeNot bannedNot banned
TexasNot bannedNot banned
WyomingNot banned, but no reported useNot banned