Teachers Accused of Child Abuse in Florida

What happens when a teacher is accused of hitting, pushing, punching, or striking a student in their classroom or school? First, the school might administratively suspend the teacher pending an investigation and possible disciplinary action against their certification. Second, law enforcement officers might even charge the teacher with a criminal offense such as child abuse if the teacher is accused of using excessive force against a student.

As explained in Florida Statute Section 1003.02, 1003.32, 1006.09, and 1006.11, within the scope of their employment, teachers may use and apply reasonable force and restraint necessary to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment. The teacher should not be criminally or civilly liable for any action carried out in conformity with State Board rule and/or Board policies regarding the control, discipline, suspension, and expulsion of students, including, but not limited to, any exercise of authority granted by this policy.

Under Section 1003.32(1), a teacher has the responsibility and authority to control and discipline students so that they can keep good order in the classroom. The use of reasonable physical force must cease upon the restoration of a safe and orderly environment.

Likewise, Florida Statutes 1006.11 and 1012.75 allow such force to be used by school personnel in maintaining a safe and secure learning environment. However, a teacher may not use excessive force against a student. Likewise, the teacher may not use force that is cruel or unusual.

In general, a teacher is permitted to use reasonable force to protect students from conditions that are:

  • harmful to learning,
  • harmful to students’ mental health;
  • harmful to students’ physical health;
  • harmful to safety;
  • harmful to the student, school personnel, or others.

If it becomes necessary for a teacher to use reasonable force to maintain classroom/school order, the teacher shall follow the guidelines provided in the Code of Student Conduct. The school board, superintendent, and principal are required to fully support teachers in their efforts to follow and enforce the Student Code of Conduct.

Additionally, under Section 1015.05(1), teachers are granted authority to take the following actions to manage student behavior and ensure the safety of all students in their classes:

  • establishing classroom rules of conduct;
  • establishing and implement consequences, designed to change behavior, for infractions of classroom rules;
  • removing disobedient, disrespectful, violent, abusive, uncontrollable, or disruptive students from the classroom for behavior management intervention;
  • directing violent, abusive, uncontrollable, or disruptive students for assistance from appropriate school or district school board personnel; and
  • assisting in the enforcement of school rules on school property, during school-sponsored transportation, and during school-sponsored activities.

Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 1015.05(2), if the teacher faces litigation or professional practices sanctions for an action taken pursuant to subsection (1), there is a rebuttable presumption that a teacher was taking necessary action to restore or maintain the safety or educational atmosphere of his or her classroom.

Attorney for Teachers Accused of Child Abuse

If you are a teacher or certified educator accused of hitting, pushing, punching, or striking a student in the classroom or at school, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent teachers and certified educators accused of crimes involving using excessive force or restraining a student.

We can represent you during any administrative action. We can also represent you during any criminal investigation into child abuse or other criminal accusations.

Our main office is in Tampa, FL. We have additional offices in Clearwater and New Port Richey, FL. Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case today.

This article was last updated on Friday, October 20, 2023.