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NYS clarifies rules against corporal punishment in schools

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)— The New York State Board of Regents voted to update regulations when it comes to definitions relating to corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment is not legal in New York schools, which is when physical force is used on a student for discipline. On Monday, the New York Board of Regents voted to further update its regulations, making it clear what constitutes corporal punishment and what doesn’t.

“For example, if a teacher was trying to protect him or herself from a student that is lunging at a teacher, or a student lunging at another student, any type of restraint that would be involved in that interaction would not constitute corporal punishment because you’d be protecting another human being,” explained Jay Worona, Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel for the New York State School Boards Association.

In the past, a student could be restrained if they were causing damage to physical property.

“If we had someone knock over a filing cabinet or knocked over a desk—if a child had done that then the staff or the faculty, if properly trained, were technically able to restrain that child. Now that’s been taken away. They have limited the ability to restrain a child,” explained Leslie Silva, a partner at Tully Rinckey.

The New York State Education Department released a statement saying in part,“ The Department’s updated regulations continue to prohibit the use of corporal punishment and aversive interventions and, consistent with federal guidance, add a prohibition on the use of seclusion.”

“It really basically follows a whole bunch of studies that indicate that when you put kids in secluded rooms, you lock the door– you place them in a position where you are really engaging in a whole bunch of emotional harm. The state is indicating that that is not any way, shape, or form pedagogically appropriate,” said Worona.

The New York State Education Department said the changes were based on reports of corporal punishment from school districts, state and federal guidance, and local and national reporting on trauma experienced by students.

According to Silva, the definition of corporal punishment was vague and these new regulations will close legal loopholes.

“Schools are going to have to tell the what’s been going on, what they’ve been doing, if they have had to use any restraints of seclusion, and that is really important. We haven’t had that type of data collection before, and that’s going to give the state some insight to make sure these loopholes are closed and that these points are only being used under the appropriate circumstances.”

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