Antelope, CA asked in Education Law for California

Q: Are jumping jacks an acceptable form of punishment from a daycare?

My autistic child is in a before and afterschool daycare that is in conjunction with the school. Apparently her backpack was left out of her cubby on the floor and was moved to different room. Upon retrieving her backpack from other room, she was forced to do 20 jumping jacks. We live in California and as I understand it is illegal to use physical activity as punishment, is this right or wrong? Please help.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, it is generally unlawful for schools and childcare facilities to use physical activity as a form of punishment. This is covered under California Education Code Section 49001, which states:

"(a) For the purposes of this section, 'corporal punishment' means the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil. An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section. Physical pain or discomfort caused by athletic competition or other such recreational activity, voluntarily engaged in by the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section."

While the law specifically mentions "corporal punishment," it has been interpreted to include the use of physical activity, such as running laps or doing push-ups, as a form of discipline. The reasoning behind this is that forcing a child to engage in physical activity as a punishment can cause physical discomfort or pain, which falls under the definition of corporal punishment.

If you believe that your child's daycare is using physical activity as a form of punishment, you should first discuss your concerns with the daycare's management. If the issue is not resolved satisfactorily, you may want to consider filing a complaint with the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division, which oversees childcare facilities in the state.

Please note that this information is based on my general understanding of California law and should not be taken as legal advice. If you require further guidance, it would be best to consult with a licensed attorney who specializes in education or child welfare law in California.

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