Hello, dedicateddad. As always, you should be aware that nothing on
Google Answers should be considered a substitute for actual legal
advice. That said, it appears that Georgia defines "reasonable"
corporal punishment as producing "transitory pain and potential
bruising," as long as they are not "excessive or unduly severe and
result only in short-term discomfort."
Georgia statutory law expressly permits "physical forms of
discipline...as long as there is no physical injury to the child."
Ga. Code Ann. § 19-7-5(b)(3)(A).
In addition, Georgia law includes "the reasonable discipline of a
minor" as a defense of justification. Ga. Code Ann. Section 16-3-20.
Finally, Georgia law permits schools to impose corporal punishment, as
long as it is not "excessive or unduly severe." Ga. Code. Ann.
There is little case law dealing with reasonable corporal punishment.
For the most part, cases that the authorities pursue all the way
through judgment and appeal (which is how a case becomes "case law"),
the injuries inflicted are usually pretty horrific. In many cases the
child has died. So those don't provide much guidance.
For example, in Paul v. The State, 274 Ga. 601 (2001), the victim was
beaten wtih a belt (no buckle) for a total of about a half-hour, being
struck more than 100 times with great force. Although he was struck
only on his back, buttocks, and legs, the force of the blows was
enough to embolize the subcutaneous fat, causing lung failure. The
defendant attempted to claim the justification defense, of "reasonable
discipline of a minor," but the Court found that his conduct had been
unreasonable as a matter of law.
In part, the Court relied on the Georgia definition of "reckless
conduct" in rejecting the defendant's claim of justification. Under
"A person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of
another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and
unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or
endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes
a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person
would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor."
The Court reasoned that conduct falling within that definition could
not be considered "reasonable" under any circumstances.
There is a case, _Maddox v. Boutwell_, 176 Ga. App. 492, 336 S.E. 2d
599 (1985), that may be helpful. In _Maddox_, the Court said:
"It is anticipated that corporal punishment will produce pain and the
potential for bruising, but as long as the student experiences no more
than the short-term discomfort to be expected from the administration
of corporal punishment, the evidence demands the conclusion as a
matter of law that the punishment administered was neither excessive
nor unduly severe."
_Maddox_, however, did not deal with the criminal law. Instead, it
involved a lawsuit by a parent against a school. Moreover, the Court
also pointed out that there was "a total absence of any objective
manifestations of injury," rendering the punishment non-excessive as a
matter of law.
Interestingly, the _Maddox_ court distinguished the facts present in
that case from those in an OHIO case, in which the student's mother
testified that he was "badly bruised and blistered," and the student
testified that "he received three licks which turned his skin red,
then green, and prevented him from lying on his back for a week." In
that case, those alleged injuries were enough to potentially
constitute abuse. Even though it was an Ohio case, the fact that the
Georgia court discussed it indicates that similar injuries would
likely constitute abuse in Georgia.
The next step is to find out what the professionals charged with
enforcing the statutes say about them. Fortunately, the State of
Georgia Child Protective Services manual is available online. The
Table of Contents for the manual is available as a .doc file at:
The actual page discussing corporal punishment is available in .html at:
It defines corporal punishment as:
This is any physical punishment of a child to inflict pain as a
deterrent to wrong doing. It may produce transitory pain and
potential bruising. If pain and bruising are not excessive or unduly
severe and result only in short-term discomfort, this is not
Remember, the code section permitting corporal punishment [Ga. Code
Ann. § 19-7-5(b)(3)(A)] permits "physical forms of discipline...as
long as there is no physical injury to the child." The Manual also
defines "physical injury:"
This is bodily harm or hurt such as bruises, welts, fractures, burns,
cuts or internal injuries but excluding mental distress, fright or
emotional disturbance. When corporal punishment is involved, the
severity of injuries will determine whether the situation is deemed
So when all of the above is considered, I believe that Georgia permits
corporal punishment that does not cause lasting bruises or welts.
Anything further than that, and you approach the line dividing
"reasonable physical discipline" from "cruelty."
I hope you found this information helpful. Please let me know if I
can provide any clarification or further assistance.