William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


This Note will discuss the Supreme Court’s holding in Ingraham v. Wright, and the subsequent developments in public school corporal punishment practices. Rather than focus exclusively on the case law, this Note will dive into the statistical data outlining which students are most often subjected to corporal punishment. Often, it is Black students and Autistic students who are subject to the harshest treatment.

This Note will outline the different avenues that courts could and should take to overrule Ingraham. Because a circuit split exists—on the issue of how to resolve these claims—overturning Ingraham and declaring corporal punishment per se unconstitutional would provide much needed relief to public school students across the country. There are viable Eighth, Fourteenth, and Fourth Amendment challenges. Each will be discussed in turn. In a time where public education is dealing with residual issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, teacher shortages, and severe underfunding, corporal punishment needs to be removed from the disciplinary toolkits of teachers and administrators. Fundamental fairness demands that Ingraham be seen as what it is—a sign of times long past. Our evolving standards of decency demand a rejection of public-school corporal punishment.