Plan: protect educators who discipline students

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wants more legal protection for educators who discipline students to keep order in their schools.

A news release issued this morning announced the governor's plans to work with lawmakers in the coming legislative session to pass a law providing legal immunity for those teachers and school staff members who, in good faith, discipline students. He also wants the Indiana Attorney General's Office to use its statutory authority to defend any teacher who becomes the target of unreasonable litigation.

The Republican governor made the announcement in Fort Wayne, one of several spots he's visiting this week to unveil a series of announcements about proposed K-12 and higher education policy he hopes for if re-elected in November. This issue is one the governor has heard about from teachers statewide, according to spokeswoman Jane Jankowski.

In the release, the governor cited three examples: a central Indiana student who filed a tort claim notice for injuries against a gym teacher who required the student to do push-ups over an infraction; another student in the Indianapolis area filed claims against school personnel after teachers tried to separate two students involved in a fight; and a northern Indiana student sued the school and principal for attempting to restrain that student during a fight.

The governor noted that a number of states have laws protecting teachers. Those state statutes are being examined as potential models, according to the governor's office.

Student discipline is an issue the Indiana Court of Appeals recently addressed in State v. Paula J. Fettig, No. 49A02-0709-CR-807, a Marion County appeal that came down in April involving a Beech Grove teacher's discipline of a student in gym class. The court upheld the trial judge's dismissal of a battery charge against the teacher, writing that Indiana Code sections 20-33-8-8(b) and 20-33-8-9 protect the teacher from prosecution by stating that teachers "can take any action that is reasonably necessary to carry out or to prevent an interference with an educational function that an individual supervises."

The appellate court noted that "a dearth" of modern caselaw exists on this issue and most of its authority dates to the late 19th century. As a result, appellate courts have removed teacher corporal punishment mostly from jury discretion and put that responsibility in the courts' hands.

That decision drew a dissent from Judge James Kirsch, who wrote that times have changed since that precedent was established and that he has serious doubts that today's Supreme Court would uphold that precedent. Many countries and states now ban corporal punishment in schools, he wrote.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.