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State lawmakers target corporal punishment

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  • Staff Report 

New York state lawmakers have introduced a package of bills aimed at curbing the use of corporal punishment in schools across the state. The proposed measures come after a Times Union investigation revealed more than 1,600 substantiated cases of corporal punishment in public schools in recent years, as well as incidents in yeshivas in New York.

The bills seek to make it clear in state law that corporal punishment is illegal in all schools in New York. One bill introduced by Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher and state Sen. Julia Salazar, both Brooklyn Democrats, would add explicit language to state Education Law prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in any educational setting.

Another bill, introduced by Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat and chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, would classify “corporal punishment inflicting physical pain” or “the threat of inflicting physical pain” as child abuse.

The lawmakers have noted that their measures are aimed at preventing instances of corporal punishment and addressing the issue of under-reporting. The Times Union investigation found that not all cases of corporal punishment were reported to law enforcement, despite being reported to the New York State Education Department.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

“While the practice is legal in some states, corporal punishment has generally been banned in New York public schools since 1985. The regulation was expanded in 2007 to add other schools. But The New York Times’ reporting on yeshivas raised questions about whether some privately run schools may fall outside those regulations,” the report stated.

The bills also define the practice of corporal punishment differently. McDonough’s bill defines it as “any act of physical force upon a pupil for the purpose of punishing that pupil,” including aversive interventions like shock treatment or denial of food, and the inappropriate use of time out rooms. Gallagher and Salazar’s proposal notes that corporal punishment can include physical force for “modifying undesirable behavior,” with the exception of physical restraints, and does not address time out rooms or aversive interventions.

The bills also require school staff to report incidents of corporal punishment to a school superintendent, who would then report the case to law enforcement.

The lawmakers emphasized that their measures are necessary to protect students from physical harm and humiliation.

“We want there to be no more ambiguity: corporal punishment must be banned,” Gallagher said.

The bills are currently under review in the state legislature.