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Ingraham et al. v. Wright et al.


The Court upheld the principle that corporal punishment is permissible in the public schools, that excessive corporal punishment is not usually a constitutional violation though it may be a criminal one, and that students and their parents are not entitled to a formal hearing before corporal punishment is administered. Generally, the decision has made it far more difficult for parents and students concerned about corporal punishment to turn to federal courts for relief.

In October of 1970, James Ingraham was attending eighth grade at Charles R. Drew Junior High in Dade County, Florida. Roosevelt Andrews was enrolled in the ninth grade in the same school. Corporal punishment, allowed throughout the 237 schools in Dade County (as well as in most of Florida), was especially severe at Charles Drew.

Technically, corporal punishment was supposed to be limited to one particular authorized punishment:

. . . paddling a student on the buttocks with a flat wooden paddle measuring less than two feet long, three to four inches wide, and about one-half inch thick . . . limited to one to five "licks" or blows with the paddle and [resulting] in no apparent physical injury to the student.

Ingraham and Andrews received punishments far more severe than that, as did many of their classmates. For example, Ingraham, who had been slow to respond to his teacher's instructions, was given more than 20 licks with a paddle while being held over a table in the principal's office--a beating so severe that he suffered a hematoma and had to stay out of school for several days. Andrews had been paddled several times for minor misbehavioral problems. Twice he was struck on his arms, once so hard that he lost the full use of his arm for a week.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Ingraham et al. v. Wright et al. - Significance, Cruel And Unusual Punishment?, "the Openness Of The School Environment", "punishments So Barbaric And Inhumane"