Like corporal punishment by parents, corporal punishment by teachers is rooted in the historical belief that caning, whipping, strapping and other forms of physical punishment or threats of such punishment are essential for teaching and maintaining discipline in schools.
The 1968 Ontario Hall-Dennis Report on Education recommended ending legal approval of corporal punishment in schools. Since then, an increasing awareness of its potential for harm has led some provinces to amend their education acts to expressly prohibit this method of discipline. In 1973, B.C. was the first province to do so.
The Jan 30/04 Supreme Court of Canada decision on the constitutional challenge to section 43 held that schoolteachers can no longer use the section as a defence to assault for correcting students. Section43, however, can still be used as a defence where teachers use reasonable force for restraint. See Constitutional Challenge chapter for information.
Provincial education acts
Eleven provinces/territories prohibit corporal punishment
Beginning in 1973, the following 8 provinces and 3 territories amended their education acts to ban corporal punishment. These amendments seem to apply only to public schools.
1973 B.C. School Act
1989 Nova Scotia Education Act
1990 New Brunswick Schools Act
1990 Yukon Education Act
1993 P.E.I. School Act
1995 North West Territories and Nunavut Education Act
1997 Newfoundland Schools Act
1997 Quebec Education Act
2005 Saskatchewan Education Act
2009 Ontario Education Act
Because the Supreme Court of Canada decided in 2004 that schoolteachers can no longer use S. 43 as a defence to corporal punishment of students, such punishment is now illegal throughout Canada. All education acts should therefore be amended to make them consistent with the Court’s decision and to make this change known as widely as possible. The education acts of Manitoba and Alberta are the only two that have not yet made this clear. We have written ministers of education in these provinces requesting such an amendment but neither act has been changed.
Complete ban in 1998
Corporal punishment in state schools was banned in 1986 and in all schools in 1998. The 1998 amendment to the UK Education Act expressly allows teachers to use reasonable force to restrain students from committing an offence, causing personal injury or damage to property, or engaging in behaviour prejudicial to good order and discipline.
In introducing the 1998 ban, the Department of Education reminded teachers that the power to use reasonable force for restraint and control was not new but derived from the common law. It explained that physical contact with a child was lawful and appropriate, for example, in order to restrain children from hurting themselves or others and that the removal of the reasonable force defence to assault did not affect this.
Ban challenged by religious schools
A Christian school in Liverpool brought action in an English court on behalf of several independent religious schools to have the 1998 ban overturned. It claimed that the ban breached the freedom of conscience provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Passages from the Old Testament were cited to support the claim that corporal punishment of children is an essential part of Christian belief.
The action was dismissed by the court in November 2001 on the basis that a belief in corporal punishment for religious reasons was not a manifestation of religion and not one of the articles of the Christian faith.
All European countries have banned corporal punishment in schools. In Austria, it was banned as long ago as 1870.
Thirty-one American states have banned corporal punishment in schools, the latest being New Mexico in April 2011. The states in which it is still legal are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. In some cases, children are struck three or more times on the buttocks with a paddle half-an-inch thick and over two feet long. The U.S. Dept. of Education reports that black students are paddled at 2 1/2 times the rate of white students.
There is a growing world-wide movement to end legal approval of corporal punishment in schools. As a result, the following countries have recently banned corporal punishment by legislation or judicial decision.
Trinidad and Tobago
Corporal punishment in schools is prohibited in at least 80 other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.