As a parent in Kansas, you might assume that you are the only person who can lawfully spank or use force to punish your child. If your child is enrolled in a public school, however, this is not the case. Kansas is one of 19 states that allow corporal punishment in public schools. There are limits and guidelines, however, to what a teacher can and cannot do to physically punish a child. If a teacher crosses this line, he or she may be charged with child abuse, battery or child endangerment. Learning the legal distinction between corporal punishment and child abuse by a teacher is important.
What Are Kansas’s Corporal Punishment Laws?
“Corporal punishment” is the legal term for physical punishment, or inflicting pain using physical force with the intention of making a child correct his or her misbehavior. Historically, it has been used to refer to caning, flogging or punishments imposed by law, such as imprisonment or the death sentence. At school, corporal punishment may refer to smacking, hitting, slapping, spanking, shaking, or rapping a child on the knuckles with a ruler.
Kansas law does not specifically address corporal punishment in public schools; it is not technically legal or illegal. With no statutory restrictions on using physical force as a means of punishment at a public school, teachers and administrators in Kansas are free to physically discipline children as they see fit – within limits. While a teacher’s actions cannot reach the level of abuse, neglect or endangerment, the teacher can lawfully inflict physical punishment at a public school without legal ramifications.
How Common Is Corporal Punishment in Public Schools?
Corporal punishment is not very common in Kansas, in part due to the lack of reference to this issue in state law. The vagueness of the law on physical punishment dissuades most schools and teachers from creating any specific protocols addressing corporal punishment. According to one study, less than 1 percent of schools in Kansas report the use of any corporal punishment. Several surrounding states report higher amounts, including Texas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma. Three states – Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama – report that more than 50 percent of their public schools use corporal punishment.
What a Teacher Can and Cannot Do to Punish Kids in Kansas
With no specific laws or guidelines pertaining to corporal punishment in Kansas, it can be difficult to define exactly what a teacher can and cannot do to physically punish children in public schools. The best way to set boundaries is by learning Kansas’s definitions of child-related crimes. For example, the definition of child abuse under Kansas Legislature Section 21-5602 is any of the following actions against a child under the age of 18:
- Torturing or cruelly beating
- Shaking that results in great bodily harm
- Cruel and inhuman corporal punishment
Many different acts and omissions by a teacher that inflict mental, physical or emotional harm against a child to the extent that it endangers the child’s health or emotional well-being constitute child abuse. This includes sexual abuse. Another crime that may apply to corporal punishment is child endangerment. This is to knowingly and unreasonably place, cause or permit a child to be in a situation where his or her life, body or health may be endangered.
Criminal and Civil Consequences of Child Abuse at a School
A teacher may be held criminally and civilly accountable for inflicting physical punishment against a child in a public school in Kansas if the acts meet the definition of a crime. While the law does not have specific examples of what a teacher can and cannot do, physical abuse and sex crimes are never permitted. The courts decide on these issues on a case-by-case basis.
Being convicted of child abuse is a level 5 felony in Kansas. This can lead to significant fines and jail time. The abusive teacher can also face civil liability for the damage suffered by the child, such as pain, suffering and emotional distress. If you believe that your child has been physically or sexually abused by a teacher, contact DRZ Law for a free and confidential case evaluation. You may have grounds to file a lawsuit.