US Supreme Court – Ingraham v. Wright (19 Apr 1977)

On the above date, Lewis F. Powell Jr. explained why corporal punishment (such as caning) does not equate to cruel and unusual punishment that is covered under the US Constitutional Eight Amendment.

The criteria for determining a reasonable punishment include: severity of the offence; age; body constitution (weak or sickly for instance); whether there are alternative types of punishment; whether the act was recurrent. (p.86)

Historically, the Eight Amendment was meant to protect criminals, and only ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.’ (By inference, necessary and reasonably painful punishment is acceptable.) Further, there had been no legal precedent that the Amendment was used outside criminal cases.

Since, students were not criminals, and they still had redress to common law as well as public oversight, the application of the Eight Amendment was found once more to be invalid.

Resultantly, states were allowed to decide whether corporal punishment was allowed. Things remained at status quo, in 2010, the US House Committee on Education and Labour refused to vote on a bill to push through country level prohibition on corporal punishment. In 2011, there were 19 US states that allowed corporal punishment. (p.88)

On another note, in 1994, the Gun-Free Schools Act, set a compulsory expulsion of at least 1 year for students possessing firearms.

Reference:

David Haugen and Susan Musser (editors).(2013). Discipline and Punishment. Farmington Hills. Greenhaven Press.

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