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Ingraham et al. v. Wright et al.

"punishments So Barbaric And Inhumane"

Justice White, joined by Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Stevens, strongly disagreed with virtually every part of the majority argument. First, he said, there was no evidence that the Eighth Amendment was meant to apply only to criminals. Second, even though schools were more open places than prisons, that did not guarantee that no violations of the Eighth Amendment would ever occur there. Third, he did not see why schools could not offer an "informal give-and-take between student and disciplinarian," which would give students "an opportunity to explain [their] version of the facts" before corporal punishment was administered. In fact, this type of school hearing had already been called for in another Supreme Court case.

White did not see how applying the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendments in this way could possibly discourage teachers from continuing to exercise reasonable corporal punishment, whereas it might very well prevent them from exercising unreasonable punishments--punishments "so barbaric and inhumane that we will not permit them to be imposed on anyone, no matter how opprobrious the offense." White added, somewhat sarcastically, " . . . if it is constitutionally impermissible to cut off someone's ear for the commission of murder, it must be unconstitutional to cut off a child's ear for being late to class."

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"