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Can a Day Care Center Be Sued for Corporal Punishment? Legal Rights of the Injured Child

By David Wolf, Child Injury Lawyer

Duct-Tape-300x202In day care centers in Missouri and across the nation, children are unfortunately subjected to various forms of corporal punishment in day care centers.  Most states have a prohibition according to the day care center government regulations against corporal punishment.  Despite these regulations, some day care center workers, for some reason or no reason at all, subject a child to corporal punishment.

In St. Louis, Missouri, there was a lawsuit filed against the Zion Lutheran Church, its daycare, and its employees, for the alleged abuse of a four-year-old girl. It was reported that the teacher at the daycare wrapped the child’s legs in duct tape after saying “I have some shiny red duct tape with your name on it.” The child admitted to running around when she was supposed to be napping, which is said to be the reason the teacher put duct tape on her legs in the first place. After the tape was put on, another member of the staff told her the tape would be removed when she behaved, which shows it was intended as a means of punishment. When the parents addressed the situation to staff, the situation was laughed over, and comments were made about how hyper their daughter can be.  It was reported that the daycare teacher has been said to have used duct tape as a means of controlling a child with two much energy. As a result, this family’s lawsuit alleges false imprisonment and assault, among other things, and is seeking over $25,000 in damages.  It should be noted that many courts have jurisdictional amounts or thresholds. In other words, an action can be pursued in a particular court if the amount in controversy if over a certain amount of money.  As such, in many cases, it is difficult to determine from the pleadings alone the amount that is ultimately being sought by the plaintiff / family of the injured child.

Corporal punishment, including spanking, can injure a child severely.  In the aftermath of a corporal punishment or other incident at a day care center resulting in physical injuries, it is important that the injuries by documented by photograph, video, and if necessary by the evaluation of one or more doctors.  While corporal punishment is still allowed in some religious institutions, as many such institutions are exempt from state regulation, there are still laws in place to protect children from abuse in schools and daycares. Furthermore, it can be crime in any setting for spanking or corporal punishment to be excessive and cause physical marks or the need for medical treatment. So yes, a daycare center can be sued for corporal punishment, and the documentation of injuries becomes evidence. It is important to note that the strength and scale of the case will depend on many factors. These factors include how often the punishment occurred, how long it has been going on, documented injuries, whether or not the child needed medical treatment, and the emotional effects the punishment causes a child both in short term and long term.

If a  child has been subjected to corporal punishment or other harm in a day care, school, summer camp, or other program, the parent or guardian should reach out to a Child Injury Attorney for advice, guidance, and legal representation if necessary and appropriate.

David Wolf is an author, advocate, and attorney. He is the author of 11 books including the book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.