This case involves a thirteen-year-old student who was waiting with a group of students to enter his middle school at the south entrance of the building. A teacher who was arriving for work that morning approached the entrance and attempted to enter the building. The teacher tried to explain to the students that they were not allowed to enter so early in the morning. As the teacher proceeded to open the door, the group of students began pushing the teacher and the door to enter the school. Some of the students placed their feet in the threshold of the doorway to prohibit the teacher from closing the door. One of the students pushed his friend into the teacher from behind. When the teacher turned around, the group of settled down and moved away from the teacher. The teacher placed his hands on the student’s chest, told him to stop pushing and told him that his behavior was “dangerous” and unacceptable. The teacher then put his hands around the student’s neck and choked him for approximately 30 seconds. The teacher then grabbed the student by his nipple and led him to the Dean’s Office. The student had to see a doctor who diagnosed him with an injury of the neck and upper torso area. The student also had to see a psychologist for emotional and psychological treatments. The psychologist performed a biofeedback and diagnosed him with posttraumatic stress disorder as the result of the school violence from the teacher. The student’s parents sued the school for use of force and negligence in causing their son’s injuries.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. How much force is a teacher allowed to use on a student to maintain order in a school?
Expert Witness Response
In general, a teacher is allowed to use reasonable force, which includes physical force, with students if the teacher believes it is necessary to maintain order at school. A teacher is not allowed to “assault” a student or use so much force that it displays a clear lack of self-control and that severely injures the student. When the issue involves maintaining order on school property, a teacher has the authority to manage disruptive students in locations within the school building. A teacher can use reasonable physical force to control a student’s behavior or to remove a student from the scene in situations when necessary. In this case, the teacher may have had the authority to use some physical force to get the student to stop pushing on his friend’s backpack. The problem is that the teacher used excessive force when he placed his hand on the student’s neck and grabbed him. This was excessive physical force since the students had already settled down and had moved away from the teacher. In this case, the teacher’s conduct of grabbing the student by the nipple and choking him was an assault, since it caused the student to suffer physical and emotional injuries.