Lesson 5: Student/Youth Due Process Middle
Should schools have the right to engage in corporal punishment?
As a result of both Tinker and Goss, it became clear that constitutional rights extended beyond the "schoolhouse gate." But this was not a sure victory for students. Each time an issue concerning students' rights came before the Supreme Court, the Court interpreted the Constitution as broadly or as narrowly as they wanted to define the right. Thus, although the Court held that students should have substantial due process rights when faced with suspension or expulsion, significantly less protection was afforded them where corporal punishment was used as a means of discipline.
In Ingraham v. Wright, the Court considered a case in which students were routinely paddled in a Florida school for incidents of misconduct. Under Florida law, the school had the latitude to determine the circumstances in which corporal punishment should be administered. The only two restrictions were that the principal should be consulted first and the punishment should not cause severe physical injury. In this instance, students alleged that the paddlings were inflicted without prior notification of the principal and caused serious harm. While the Court did not condone the conduct of the school, they did not condemn the use of corporal punishment either. Instead, the Court felt that the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment was not applicable in student corporal punishment cases. In principle, this meant that states could continue to sanction the use of corporal punishment by statute and teachers could continue to inflict such punishment with impunity. As for the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which formed the basis of relief in Goss, this was satisfied by the existence of common law remedies. In other words, if after the punishment was administered, the student felt it was either given by mistake or unnecessarily severe, the student could sue the school for damages. The Court maintained that the holdings in Goss and Inqraham were not in any sense inconsistent; the facts of the case were just different.
This lesson introduces students to Ingraham v. Wright through the case study method of analyzing legal decisions. Students engage in several tasks which replicate aspects of the teaching technique used in law school. In this way, the Project Legal method challenges students to learn important legal concepts in an innovative and exciting format.
After engaging in a case-study analysis of a landmark Supreme Court decision on corporal punishment, students will be able to:
Handout 5A "Ingraham v. Wright"
1-2 class periods
Distribute Handout 5B "Ingraham v. Wright: A Case Study Analysis." After students have read and studied the fact pattern and completed the exercise, have them explain their answers to the following questions:
Distribute Handout 5C "The Ingraham Case Goes to the Supreme Court." Have students read the opinions and complete the exercise. After completing the exercise, have students explain their answers to the following questions:
Distribute Handout 5D "Corporal Punishment Guidelines." Divide the class into groups of three. Assign each student one of the roles on the Handout. Have the groups meet and decide the corporal punishment restrictions they wish to adopt, and write a proposal with those guidelines. After the groups have completed the activity, have students explain their answers to the following questions.
Tell the class that the School Board in their district is deciding whether to pass a resolution allowing corporal punishment. Divide the class in two equal groups. One group will take a position in favor of corporal punishment and the other group will take a position against corporal punishment. Each group will prepare a petition urging the School Board to either pass or not pass the resolution.
Based on multiple intelligence theory.
Linguistic: Write a short story involving an individual falsely accused of violating school rules. Each student should prepare a different ending.
Spatial: Have students create a cartoon that may consist of stick figures, to demonstrate support or opposition to corporal punishment.
Logical/Mathematical: Students should gather nationwide statistics that tell how many states use corporal punishment and how frequently it is used. Tabulate results and convert into a percentage. Compare and contrast results on a state by state basis. Determine if there are any rules about corporal punishment that apply to your school. Compare the data from your own school with the state by state results.
Handout 5A: STUDENT/YOUTH DUE PROCESS
Handout 5B: STUDENT/YOUTH DUE PROCESS
Ingraham v. Wright: A Case Study Analysis
Facts of the Case
In 1970-71, the state of Florida allowed for the physical or corporal punishment of students. In Dade County, the school board permitted the paddling of students with a flat wooden paddle. The normal punishment was limited to one to five "licks" or blows with the paddle.
Students at Drew Junior High School claimed that some teachers gave them more than twenty "licks" with the paddle and never told the principal about the beatings. Students decided to go to court, because they believed that the beatings were "cruel and unusual" which was not allowed under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. They also felt that students should have a hearing before the punishment was given.
Before beginning the exercise, use the space below to summarize the facts in your own words.
Exercise: These questions are based on the actions, values and laws in the case you have just studied. Answer each of the following questions in the space provided.
What action did the students from Drew Junior High School take?
The students tried to stop corporal punishment because they valued:
Which two amendments serve as the legal basis for the students' actions and values?
FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARD
What action did Florida and the Dade County School Board take?
The Florida School Board allowed corporal punishment because they value:
Which amendment serves as the legal basis for the state of Florida to allow corporal punishment? (Think about the powers reserved to the states)
4. Legal Values Conflict
The students value of ____________________________________________________________
conflicts with the state and school board’s value of ____________________________________
5. Main Issue in the Case
Every court case contains an issue question. The issue question is the main problem that must be solved by the court. There are two sides in each case. Each side will have taken an action based on a value that they hold, and this action and value will have a legal basis. Since only one side can win a case, the question for the court becomes:
Do the actions, values and laws of one side prevail (win out) over the actions, values and laws of the other side?
Based on all of the information that you have about this case and writing issue questions in general, write a complete issue question for the case:
The main issue in the Ingraham case is:
Does the ________________________________________________________________
(action of the state and school board)
based on ________________________________________________________________
(amendment that is the legal basis for the action)
violate students' right to ____________________________________________________
(action or value)
based on the _____________________________________________________________?
(amendment which is the legal basis for the action or value)
Handout 5C: STUDENT/YOUTH DUE PROCESS
The Ingraham Case Goes to the U.S. Supreme Court
In 1976, the nine justices of the Supreme Court reviewed the arguments in the Ingraham case and handed down a 5-4 decision. Below are portions of the majority and dissenting opinions. Read both opinions and select the one you prefer. Which opinion do you think expresses the views of the majority?
The Eighth Amendment has never been confined to criminal punishments. [If] only criminal punishments are covered by the Eighth Amendment, [then] if a prisoner is beaten [severely] for a breach of discipline, he is entitled to the protection of the Eighth Amendment, while a schoolchild who commits the same breach of discipline and is similarly beaten is simply not covered ... [As for due process under the Fourteenth Amendment], the reason that the Constitution requires a State to provide "due process of law" when it punishes an individual for misconduct is to protect the individual from mistaken punishment. The "traditional common-law remedies" do nothing to protect the student from the risk of reasonable good-faith mistake in the school disciplinary process ... The cases have "consistently held that some kind of hearing is required at some time before a person is finally deprived of his [liberty] interests ..."
We hold that the Eighth Amendment does not apply to the paddling of children as a means of maintaining discipline in public schools ... The schoolchild has little need for the protection of the Eighth Amendment ... The openness of the public school and its supervision by the community afford [protection] against the kinds of abuses from which the Eighth Amendment protects the prisoner ... Public school teachers and administrators are privileged at common law to [use only such corporal punishment as is reasonably necessary for the proper education and discipline of the child; any punishment going beyond [this] may result in a [lawsuit against the school] ... [Therefore], the Fourteenth Amendment's requirement of due process is satisfied by common-law remedies.
Summarize the arguments in each opinion.
Arguments for Students
Arguments for School Board
Handout 5D: STUDENT/YOUTH DUE PROCESS
Corporal Punishment Guidelines
The principal has formed a committee to determine the specific conditions that must exist before corporal punishment can be administered. The committee is composed of a representative of the Parent's Association, the Teacher's Union, and the principal. Each student will represent one of those persons on the committee. At all times during the group meeting, the student should remain within his role and support the ideas of that person.
Parent Representative: You are a civil liberties lawyer and personally opposed to corporal punishment. You will support as many restrictions as you can.
Teacher Representative: You believe that within reason, corporal punishment is a viable means of punishing students and reducing student misconduct.
Principal: You feel there should be some restrictions on corporal punishment, but have an open mind on the type and number.
Each group will discuss the list of proposals below. The principal will hear the position of each constituency (parents and teachers) and make the final decision on what proposal to adopt.