Safford v. Redding in Context: A Brief History of Corporal Punishment at Common Law

Robert Magee,* Lead Writer

I. Introduction

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in the case of Safford Unified School District v. Redding.1 The case involves the strip search of a thirteen-year-old girl, Savana Redding, on the orders of her school’s vice principal after she had been implicated in a scheme to distribute prescription strength ibuprofen.  The strip involved her taking off all her clothes and shaking out her underwear in front of the vice principal’s female assistant and the school’s female nurse.2 Ms. Redding instituted the present section 1983 claim for violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.3

Though the precise issue today will be whether the Fourth Amendment protects students against being strip searched by school officials and, if not, what level of suspicion must school officials have before doing so, the facts of the case invoke a debate which has murmured throughout the history of the common law and education: what authority does a school official possess over the person of a student?  The treatment at common law of corporal punishment, the physical discipline of students, sheds valuable light on this debate, and provides insight into what the court may be considering during today’s argument.

II. The In Loco Parentis Doctrine

The legal mechanism which allowed corporal punishment by educators against students notwithstanding laws against battery was the doctrine of in loco parentis, the legal fiction that certain individuals, for our purposes educators, occupy the position of parent in relation to students.4 In loco parentis enabled educators to assume the role of the child’s parent when children came under their charge and thus allowing them to inflict corporal punishment in certain instances.  It was fundamentally accepted that parents had the authority to inflict corporal punishment, and therefore so could the educator.5 Continue reading “Safford v. Redding in Context: A Brief History of Corporal Punishment at Common Law”

Will the Prayers for Pulpit Freedom be Answered?

Kristin Wernig, Staff Writer

On September 28, 2008, pastors all over the country took to the pulpit to protest the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) restriction on political activity by tax exempt organizations.1 Although the form of protest is new, the battle over the restriction has been waged since its inception in 1954.

Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) restricts the political activity of certain tax exempt organizations by allowing them to retain their tax-exempt status so long as they do not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”2 Churches fall under the (c)(3) category along with other organizations “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition . . .  or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.”3 In 1987, the section was amended to clarify that the prohibition applied to activities in opposition to, as well as on behalf of, any candidate for public office.4 The political activity restriction is absolute; the IRS need not consider whether the activity constituted a substantial part of the church’s actions.5 The statute does not offer much insight as to what activities are prohibited.  These organizations must rely on the guidance available in the various IRS revenue rulings and publications and cases.

Since its inception in 1954, churches have battled over the political activity restriction.  Throughout history, because of the special roles churches hold in society, they have been accorded special treatment under the IRC.  Proponents argue that this special treatment should continue to the political activity restriction.  Numerous proposals have been introduced into the Congress to allow for this special treatment.  However, a proposal has not yet received the necessary votes. Continue reading “Will the Prayers for Pulpit Freedom be Answered?”