Exercise as Punishment Packet

 

This packet provides information on the importance of not using exercise as a form of punishment.

Table of Contents

 

California Attorney General Letter

California Memo #1

California Memo #2

California Memo #3

CAHPERD Position Statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 8, 1988

Jordan Risk
Chair and President
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education
560 South Hartz Avenue #408
Danville, California 94526

Dear Mr. Risk:

This responds to your letter of November 30, 1987, wherein you inquired as to whether the recently enacted ban on corporal punishment in California public schools (Education Code sections 4900 and 49001) should be read to prohibit all types of pain infliction techniques (e.g., push-ups and other forms of forced exercise). You further indicated that your inquiry did not encompass push-ups as part of a physical education program or other such voluntary recreational activity.

 

We believe that the prohibition against corporal punishment extends to any and all forms of willful pain infliction, and that this conclusion is clear from the plain language of the statute, particularly the definition of "corporal punishment" contained in the first paragraph of section 49001(a). We further note that the prohibitory language in section 49001(b) extends not only to the direct infliction of pain (e.g., by paddling) but also to causing pain to be inflicted.

 

Our conclusion is bolstered by the exclusion of "physical pain or discomfort caused by athletic competition or other such recreational activity, voluntarily engaged in by the pupil," contained in section 44901(a). It would seem clear that willfully causing physical pain through forced exercise is prohibited in all school contexts with the exception of the pain or discomfort which is inherent in certain types of physical education, intramural or interscholastic sports programs -- and then only to an extent which would be consistent with an appropriate training regime. It is the causing of pain which is prohibited -- not the particular method or methods by which it is caused.

 

Our conclusion Further derives from the statement of legislative intent found in Education Code section 49000 which emphasizes the vulnerability and impressionability of school children, the integrity and sanctity of their bodies, and the need to prevent such forms of punishment which would not be tolerated if inflicted upon adults. Obviously, should there by any doubt concerning whether or not a particular action by a school district employee has the effect of causing physical pain on a pupil, the course of action most consistent with the legislative intent would be to forego such action.

 

While we offer no opinion as to whether or not forced physical exercise of the type in question would give rise to civil or criminal liability on the part of school districts and/or their employees, in this litigious age a suit for money damages in tort is clearly a possibility under the right set of circumstances -- and this fact alone should serve to alert all concerned to proceed with caution with respect to any nonexempt activities which may cause physical pain to a pupil.

 

Very truly yours,
 
John K. Van de Kamp
Attorney General
 
Harland E. Van Wye
Deputy Attorney General
 
HEV:CAB
 
cc:William Honig
State Superintendent of Publish Instruction

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TO:District and County Superintendents
School Administrators
Other Interested Parties
 
FROM:Milton P. Wilson, Ph.D.
Consultant, Pupil Personnel Services
School Climate and Student Support Services
 
SUBJECT:PHYSICAL EXERCISE AS PUNISHMENT

 

In response to your request, here is some additional information on the use of physical exercise as punishment. This material supplements the information provided in the Program Advisory of October 10, 1989. The intent of this bulletin is to help school administrators make sound decisions that are in the best interest of students, parents, teachers, school staff, and employees.

 

The following sections include background information, some points of view, and suggested guidelines of school administrators.

 

Background Information

 

The 1988 Program Advisory on Corporal Punishment included the following actions as examples of physical activities that are permitted under the definition of corporal punishment:

 

·Requiring an athletic team to participate in strenuous physical training activities designed to strengthen or condition team members or to improve their coordination, agility, or physical skills.

·Engaging in group calisthenics, team drills, military maneuvers, or other physical education or voluntary recreational activities.

 

The following action was listed as an example of a prohibited activity (considered corporal punishment):

 

·Making unruly students do push-ups, run laps, or perform other physical acts that cause pain or discomfort.

 

News articles published during the summer of 1989 revealed that many school employees, especially coaches, were unaware of the Program Advisory, and that there was some difference of opinion regarding the use of physical exercise as punishment. As a result of Superintendent Honig announced that the original Advisory would be rewritten, and the prohibition against using physical exercise as punishment would be rescinded.

(Sacramento Bee, July 12, 1989)2

 

Professional Organization -- The California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD), the state organization that includes physical education professionals and coaches, is strongly opposed to the use of any form of physical exercise as punishment in school or recreation programs. In March 1987, CAHPERD issued a formal Position Statement opposing the use of physical activity as punishment. (A copy of the CAHPERD position statement is enclosed.)

 

CAHPERD believes that physical conditioning can and should be done in a positive environment with a clear understanding of the benefits of such activity in promoting healthy lifestyles. It is necessary to have children participate in strenuous physical training to improve and maintain their levels of physical fitness.

 

The President of CAHPERD, M. Kathryn Scott, says:

 

If a child is required to do push-ups or run laps, this should be done as part of an organized program in which all children are performing these activities as part of a conditioning aspect of the program. To single out students and have them perform push-ups or run laps as a form of discipline is contrary to sound educational practice. It is not going to teach discipline or respect. Unruly students, required to perform acts causing pain or discomfort, are not going to change behavior. This form of discipline does not address the actual behavior problem, but instead creates a deep-rooted dislike for any physical activity, which over a period of time will be more detrimental to the child's long-term health. That is a lot to sacrifice for what will be achieved in a few minutes of disciplinary lap running. (Letter to Superintendent Honig, August 10, 1989).

 

 

District Coordinator -- The Coordinator of Physical Education and Health Education in Montebello, a district of 31,000, reports that the majority of physical educators in California support the CAHPERD position and disagree with the decision to allow the use of physical activity as punishment. Dr. Bonnie Mohnsen states:

 

Not only are we against the physical and psychological damage imposed on the child, but we want children to see exercise as joyful and rewarding. There are many disciplinary measures available to teachers; exercise as punishment is not as appropriate choice. As stated in the CAHPERD position paper, "Teachers do not punish children with reading and then expect them to develop a joy for reading." We need an educational and legal commitment against the use of exercise as punishment, so that the few individuals who still insist upon using it can be persuaded to change their methods. (Letter to Superintendent Honig, August 4, 1989)

 

University Faculty -- According to Dr. Linda Carpenter, an attorney and Professor in the Department of Physical Education at the City University of New York, the practice of using physical exercise as punishment is unsound. She writes:

 

One of the primary reasons for including physical education within the curriculum is that students will be able to obtain the skills and appreciation necessary for a lifetime involvement in health-promoting aspects of exercise. This is laudable. However, when teachers convert into punishment the same activity which they are trying to have students interpret as valuable to their lifelong health, all positive educational and logical principles have been abandoned. This is foolish, inappropriate, and abusive to students. (Letter to Superintendent Honig, August 24, 1989)

 

Children's Rights Organization -- Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), an international advocacy group, reports that some school districts still permit a variety of abuses to students to occur. Regarding the use of physical exercise as punishment, PTAVE feels that the law was meant to prohibit all degrees of forced exercise. According to Jordan Riak, Executive Director, "It's not good enough to say that a few push-ups or a single lap is acceptable. It's like saying what threshold of wife-beating is acceptable?" (Sacramento Bee, July 12, 1989)

 

Attorney General's Office -- In response to the question of whether the ban on corporal punishment prohibits all types of pain infliction techniques (e.g., push-ups and other forms of forced exercise), Deputy Attorney General Harlan Van Wye wrote:

 

We believe that the prohibition against corporal punishment extends to any and all forms of willful pain infliction, and that this conclusion is clear from the plain language of the statute, particularly the definition of "corporal punishment." It would seem clear that willfully causing physical pain through forced exercise is prohibited in all school contexts with the exception of the pain or discomfort which is inherent in certain types of physical education, intramural or interscholastic sports programs -- and then only to an extent which would be consistent with an appropriate training regime.

 

Should there be any doubt concerning whether or not a particular action by a school district employee has the effect of causing physical pain on a pupil, the course of action most consistent with the legislative intent would be to forego such action. (Letter to Jordan Riak, January 8, 1988, a copy to Superintendent Honig)

 

Parent -- A northern California parent of two school children, Mrs. Christine Sideris, offers this personal point of view:

 

My daughter and her 6th and 7th grade P.E. class were force to do extra burpees and mountain-climbers when just one student was talking or not cooperating. Often they would have to do double the normal amount of exercises and then run extra laps as well. This caused my daughter severe pain to her legs and knees. As a matter of fact, her knees dislocate easily, causing cartilage damage. Now, my daughter is told she can't walk uphill and must be careful going upstairs and bending. She must also wear a knee brace, and she has been out of P.E. for two years.

 

Fewer that half of all kids get enough exercise for minimal levels of fitness. This may explain why many children have risk factors associated with heart disease. If children learn to enjoy exercise, good fitness will follow. How can a child learn to enjoy exercise if it is used as punishment? My daughter never wants to go back into P.E. again, and her friends consider her lucky that she does not have to participate.

 

Our children's physical as well as educational well being should be a concern of the SDE. Don't advise teachers that exercise as punishment is O.K. We need activities that can be enjoyed throughout life and not thought of as punishment. (Letter to Superintendent Honig, August 19, 1989)

 

Suggested Guidelines for School Administrators

 

1.School administrators should consider all of the educational, psychological, and physical implications of using physical exercise as punishment before allowing such a practice.

 

2.While the use of physical exercise as punishment may not be illegal, it certainly seems unwise. Administrators should be cautious about authorizing school personnel to force unruly students to perform any physical act that may cause pain.

 

3.The law has not been tested. The point at which performing push-ups or running laps becomes corporal punishment is not clear. Administrators are urged to use good judgment.

 

4.Administrators and governing boards should be aware that school employees who administer corporal punishment of pupils under any circumstances may be liable for civil lawsuits as well as prosecution for child abuse.

 

5.District governing boards are urged to review their discipline policies and procedures. State law requires that district discipline rules and school-level rules and procedures must be developed and adopted in accord with Education Code Sections 35291 and 35291.5 (copy enclosed).

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TO:All County and District Superintendents
 
FROM:James R. Smith, Deputy Superintendent
Curriculum and Instructional Leadership Branch
 
SUBJECT:PHYSICAL EXERCISE AS CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
 

Purpose

 

On December 23, 1988, the Department issued a Program Advisory on corporal punishment that presented legislation, background information, an opinion from the state Attorney General's Office, examples of physical activities permitted and prohibited, and guidelines for county and district superintendents. During the summer of 1989, however, it became evident that (1) many school employees were unaware of the information included in that Program Advisory, and (2) there was considerable diversity of opinion regarding the use of physical exercise as punishment for unruly behavior.

 

The purpose of this advisory is to provide information regarding the use of physical exercise as punishment and to clarify the implementation Education Code Sections 49000 and 49001 which prohibit the use of corporal punishment in California public schools.

 

49000. The Legislature finds and declares that the protection against corporal punishment., which extends to other citizens in other walks of life, should include children while they are under the control of the public schools. Children of school age are at the most vulnerable and impressionable period of their lives and it is wholly reasonable that the safeguards to the integrity and sanctity of their bodies should be, at this tender age, at least equal to that afforded to other citizens.

 

Contact Persons in the Department of Education

 

For further information or answers to questions on the use of physical exercise as corporal punishment, contact:

 

Joyce EckremMilton Wilson, Consultant
Staff CounselPupil Personnel Services
Legal Office School Climate and Student Support Services Unit
(916) 445-4694(916) 323-0567

 

Nothing in this advisory should be considered to be legally binding, regulatory, or mandatory on any local agency. This advisory contains information regarding corporal punishment that is advisory only and should not be construed to supersede law in the event of a conflict. For any interpretation of the law itself. You may wish to consult your legal counsel.

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TO:All County and District Superintendents
 
FROM:James R. Smith
Deputy Superintendent
Curriculum and Instructional Leadership Branch
 
SUBJECT:Corporal Punishment

 

Purpose

The purpose of this communication is to provide information to school district and county personnel to clarify the implementation of the provisions of Education Code Sections 49000 and 49001, which prohibit corporal punishment in California public schools. Following are sections which present the legislation, background information, an opinion from the state Attorney General's Office, examples of physical activities permitted and prohibited, guidelines for county and district superintendents, and names of contact persons in the Department of Education (SDE).

 

The intent of this bulletin is to help district administrators make decisions in the best interest of students, parents, teachers, and school principals.

 

Legislation Prohibiting Corporal Punishment

 

Most school and district personnel are aware that since January 1, 1987, the infliction of corporal punishment upon any pupil is now prohibited, and that every local rule or regulation permitting corporal punishment is now void. These provisions appear in Sections 49000 and 49001 of the Education Code, as follows:

 

49000. The Legislature finds and declares that the protection against corporal punishment, which extends to other citizens in other walks of life, should include children while they are under the control of the public schools. Children of school age are at the most vulnerable and impressionable period of their lives and it is wholly reasonable that the safeguards to the integrity and sanctity of their bodies should be, at this tender age, at least equal to that afforded to other citizens.

 

49001. (a) For the purposes of the section "corporal punishment" means the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil. An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section. Physical pain or discomfort caused by athletic competition or other such recreational activity, voluntarily engaged in by the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section.

 

49001. (b) No person employed by or engaged in a public school shall inflict, or cause to be inflicted corporal punishment upon a pupil. Every resolution, bylaw, rule, ordinance, or other act or authority permitting or authorizing the infliction of corporal punishment upon a pupil attending a public school is void and unenforceable.

 

Background Information

 

Recent complaints to the State Department of Education indicate that, while most school personnel know that paddling has been banned, they may not know the kinds of behavior the Education Code permits or prohibits.

 

Letters to the state Superintendent, telephone calls from parents, inquiries from attorneys, and correspondence with Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education -- an international children's rights advocacy organization -- allege that some school districts still permit a variety of abuses against pupils to occur. These include: making students perform push-ups for discipline, not allowing them to urinate when they need to, restraining them from movement, taping their mouths shut, locking them in "time-out" cubicles, allowing them to be bullied, forcefully grabbing them, strip-searching them, and using various forms of hitting, slapping, pinching, ear-pulling, and kicking.

 

Opinion of the State Attorney General's Office

 

In a letter to Jordan Riak, President of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, Deputy Attorney General Harland Van Wye concluded that the prohibition against corporal punishment extends to any and all forms of willful pain infliction, and that it is "the causing of pain which is prohibited -- not the particular method or methods by which it is caused." (A copy of the Deputy Attorney General's letter is enclosed for your information.)

 

Examples of Physical Activities Permitted and Prohibited

 

Any kind of act that causes any kind of physical pain or discomfort in a pupil is prohibited, except for the specific situations cited in Education Code Section 49001(a). For clarification purposes, the following examples are offered for direction and guidance of school personnel:

 

1.Examples of PERMITTED Actions (NOT corporal punishment):

·Stopping a student from fighting with another student.

·Preventing a pupil from committing an act of vandalism.

·Defending yourself from physical injury or assault by a student.

·Forcing a pupil to give up a weapon or dangerous object.

·Requiring an athletic team to participate in strenuous physical training activities designed to strengthen or condition team members or improve their coordination, agility, or physical skills.

·Engaging in group calisthenics, team drills, military maneuvers, or other physical education or voluntary recreational activities.

 

2.Examples of PROHIBITED Actions (corporal punishment):

·Hitting, shoving, pushing, or physical restraining a student as a means of control (except actions allowed by Education Code Section 49001(a), stated above).

·Making unruly students do push-ups, run laps, or perform other physical acts that cause pain or discomfort.

·Paddling, swatting, slapping, grabbing, pinching, kicking, or otherwise causing physical pain.

 

When in doubt, the following course of action is recommended by Deputy Attorney General Van Wye (quoted from the letter dated January 8, 1988): "Obviously, should there be any doubt concerning whether or not a particular action by a school district employee has the effect of causing physical pain on a pupil, the course of action most consistent with the legislative intent would be to forego such action."

 

Guidelines for County and District Superintendents

 

1.District administration and governing boards are urged to revise their discipline policies in accord with these provisions and to make sure that local school rules and procedures related to school discipline are consistent with board policies and with this statute.

 

2.Administrators and governing boards of school districts should be aware that if local school employees continue to administrator corporal punishment to pupils under any circumstances they may be liable for civil lawsuits as well as prosecution for child abuse.

 

3.Administrators should notify all school employees that it is the duty of each of them to enforce local rules and procedures on school discipline.

 

Contact Persons in the Department of Education

 

For further information or answers to questions on corporal punishment, contact:

 

Joyce EckremMilton Wilson, Consultant
Staff CounselPupil Personnel Services
Legal Office School Climate and Student Support Services Unit
(916) 445-4694(916) 323-0567
 

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Position Statement

on The Use of Physical Activity as Punishment

 

The California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance is committed to the development of positive attitudes toward activity and active lifestyle habits in children and adults.

 

One of the prime goals of physical education programs is to provide students with positive experiences which will motivate them to pursue and develop active lifestyles. CAHPERD supports the California Physical and Health Related Fitness Test and the objectives of teaching youth about the importance of fitness and active lifestyle to their health.

 

The practice of utilizing physical activity (running laps and doing calisthenics) as punishment develops student attitudes that are contrary to the state objectives of CAHPERD.

 

Teachers do not punish children with read and then expect them to develop a joy for reading. Neither should teachers punish with exercise and expect children to develop a love of activity.

 

Not only is the use of physical activity as punishment contrary to the philosophy of CAHPERD, it is illegal. The California State Education Code states that: "No person employed or engaged in a public school shall inflict, or cause to be inflicted corporal punishment upon a pupil." The Code defines corporal punishment as "the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain in a pupil." Punishing a child with lap running or push-ups imposes both physical and mental stress on a person. The physical and psychological damage is immeasurable.

 

THEREFORE, CAHPERD takes a position opposing the use of any form of physical activity as punishment in school and recreational programs.

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