Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Education, 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17126-0333,
August 22, 1997
Dear Mr. Riak:
I have been asked to respond to your letter of August 13, 1997, on behalf of Secretary Hickok
In your letter you asked what precautions are taken in Pennsylvania, if any, and at what level, to assure that male sexual sadists are not entering the teaching profession.
First, you should be aware that corporal punishment is legal under Pennsylvania school law (copy of 22 Pa Code 12.5 enclosed) when authorized by, and in accordance with policies and guidelines established by a local school board. This law forbids the excessive and unreasonable acts your letter describes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education reviews any indications of past criminal activity or immoral behavior prior to the certification of an individual This process includes review of such documentation as an FBI criminal background check and certified court documents. We also contact by telephone at least five professional references of the individual and ask questions relating to any incident A recommendation is provided to me by a three-member panel that has thoroughly reviewed this information and I further review the case before rendering a final decision. We have, and will, continue to deny certification to individuals whenever the health, safety or welfare of our children is in doubt.
In addition, all individuals applying for employment to teach in Pennsylvania public or private schools must, at a minimum, obtain a current Pennsylvania Police Criminal Background Check and a Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance.
Even with our precautions however, we are aware that once teachers enter the classroom, they can and have abused their power to discipline students, as indicated in your anonymous letter from Florida. Current law allows any interested party to file an Educator Misconduct Complaint Form (copy enclosed) to report such instances. Upon receipt of a notarized complaint, the Department's Office of Chief Counsel reviews the complaint for appropriate action that may include revocation of an individual's teaching certificate by our Pennsylvania Standards and Practices Commission.
I appreciate your sharing the information with our state. Please know that the Pennsylvania Department of Education continues to strive to maintain a safe environment of learning for all students
Michael B. Poliakoff
22 Pa Code 12.5 Corporal punishment
(a) Corporal punishment, namely physically punishing a student for an offense, may be administered by teachers and school officials to discipline students when authorized by, and in accordance with policies and guidelines established by, the board of school directors. (b) Reasonable force may be used but under no circumstances shall a student be punished m such a manner as to cause bodily injury.
(c) Where corporal punishment is authorized, school authorities shall notify all parents of this policy. Corporal punishment may not be administered to a child whose parents have notified school authorities that such disciplinary method is prohibited.
(d) In situations where a parent or school board prohibits corporal punishment, reasonable force may still be used by teachers and school authorities under the following circumstances: . (I) To quell a disturbance. (2) To obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects. (3) For the purpose of self-defense. (4) For the protection of persons or property.
(e) Corporal punishment should never be administered in the heat of anger. It should be recognized that corporal punishment always contains the danger of excessiveness. No disciplinary action should exceed in degree the seriousness of the offense. Students shall not be required to remove clothing when being punished.
Amended February 17, 1984, eff. February 18, 1984, 14 Pa. B. 520.