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  • Writer's pictureKristen Maurer McCarthy, Esq.

Corporal Punishment at School? WHAT?!?

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

This past June, the signing of House Bill 23-1191 ensures that no school considers corporal punishment in the discipline of its students. In addition, the bill provides clarity to schools on what is not regarded as corporal punishment.

After passing House Bill 23-1191, Colorado laws leave no doubt that corporal punishment in public schools is forbidden.

Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) 22-1-140 now mandates that any person employed by or volunteering in a public school shall not impose corporal punishment on a child.

C.R.S. 22-1-140 may raise some significant questions. Does that mean a teacher cannot protect themselves or another student if a child is trying to cause them harm? Does this mean a child participating in voluntary physical activity and feeling pain is experiencing corporal punishment?

Thankfully, C.R.S. 22-1-140 provides clear guidance to those very questions. The statute first defines corporal punishment: “the willful infliction of, or willfully causing, the infliction of physical pain on a child.”

It goes on further to state that “corporal punishment does not include an amount of force that is reasonable and necessary to quell a disturbance that threatens physical injury to persons or damage to property, necessary for the purpose of self-defense, or used to obtain possession of a weapon or other dangerous object within the control of a child; or physical pain or discomfort caused by athletic competition or other similar physical activity in which a child is voluntarily engaged.”

The statute allows for the use of self-defense to protect oneself or others. Moreover, it makes a crucial distinction for coaches and P.E. teachers. It emphasizes that mere pain or discomfort resulting from a child's voluntary participation in physical activity does not qualify as corporal punishment.

If you are thinking, “So what? Our school never even thought we could use corporal punishment so we are safe,” you're probably mistaken. House Bill 23-1191 also changed C.R.S. 22-32-109.1. Schools now must state in their conduct and discipline code that, per C.R.S. 22-1-140, a person employed by or volunteering in a public school shall not impose corporal punishment on a child.

This is where we can help. We are here to assist you in revising your conduct and discipline codes to meet the requirements of House Bill 23-1191 and ensure that your conduct and discipline codes align with the other provisions of C.R.S. 22-32-109.1.

If you need assistance with modifying or creating your school's student discipline policy, or if you have any questions about these changes, don't hesitate to reach out. As the education landscape evolves, we're here to support you. Let us assist you in focusing on the most crucial aspect of your role: shaping the future through education!

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