Patterson v. Nutter

Decision Date20 December 1886
Citation78 Me. 509,7 A. 273
PartiesPATTERSON, by Next Friend, v. NUTTER.
CourtMaine Supreme Court

On exceptions by plaintiff from supreme judicial court, Penobscot county.

Action on the case to recover damages for alleged illegal punishment of plaintiff (a pupil) by defendant, (his teacher.) The verdict was for the defendant, and the plaintiff alleged exceptions.

Crosby & Crosby, for plaintiff.

Morrill Sprague and John Varney, for defendant.

EMERY, J. Free political institutions are possible only where the great body of the people are moral, intelligent, and habituated to self-control, and to obedience to lawful authority. The permanency of such institutions depends largely upon the efficient instruction and training of children in these virtues. It is to secure this permanency that the state provides schools and teachers. School-teachers, therefore, have important duties and functions. Much depends upon their ability, skill, and faithfulness. They must train as well as instruct their pupils. Rev. St. c. 11, § 97. The acquiring of learning is not the only object of our public schools. To become good citizens, children must be taught self-restraint, obedience, and other civic virtues. To accomplish these desirable ends, the master of a school is necessarily invested with much discretionary power. He is placed in charge sometimes of large numbers of children, perhaps of both sexes, of various ages, temperaments, dispositions, and of various degrees of docility and intelligence. He must govern these pupils, quicken the slothful, spur the indolent, restrain the impetuous, and control the stubborn. He must make rules, give commands, and punish disobedience. What rules, what commands, and what punishments shall be imposed are necessarily largely within the discretion of the master, where none are defined by the school board. In State v. Pendergrass, 2 Dev. & B. 365, S. C. 31 Amer. Dec. 416, it was said: "One of the most sacred duties of parents is to train up and to qualify their children for becoming useful and virtuous members of society. This duty cannot be effectually performed without the ability to command obedience, to control stubborness, to quicken diligence, and to reform bad habits; and, to enable him to exercise this salutary sway, he is armed with the power to administer moderate correction, when he shall believe it to be just and necessary. The teacher is the substitute of the parent; is charged in part with the performance of his duties; and, in the exercise of these delegated duties, is invested with his power. The law has not undertaken to prescribe stated punishments for particular offenses, [by a pupil,] but has contented itself with the general grant of the power of moderate correction, and has confided the graduation of punishments, within the limits of this grant, to the discretion of the teacher."

This power of moderate correction unquestionably includes corporal punishment. Authorities are not needed for this proposition. The subject was incidentally considered in Stevens v. Fasaett, 27 Me. 266, and it was declared by this court, through Judge Tenney, that personal chastisement was lawful in our schools, and was properly resorted to, where milder means of restraint were unavailing. Indeed, the plaintiff's counsel does not question that personal chastisement has been the practice, and has often been declared to be lawful. He eloquently urges, however, that corporal punishment is a "relic of barbarism;" that it has been abolished in the army and navy, and has been forbidden in many schools by school boards. He urges that the greater humanity and tenderness of this age...

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10 cases
  • Morse v. Frederick
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2007
    ...imposed, are necessarily largely within the discretion of the master, where none are defined by the school board.” Patterson v. Nutter, 78 Me. 509, 511, 7 A. 273, 274 (1886).4 A review of the case law shows that in loco parentis allowed schools to regulate student speech as well. Courts rou......
  • Board of Ed. v. Purse
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • August 5, 1897
    ... ... 442; ... Board v. Helston, 32 Ill.App. 300; Mack v ... Kelsey (Vt.) 17 A. 780; Perkins v. Board, 56 ... Iowa 476, 9 N.W. 356; Patterson v. Nutter, 78 Me ... 509, 7 A. 273; State v. Mizner, 45 Iowa 248; ... Stevens v. Fassett, 27 Me. 266; Heritage v ... Dodge (N. H.) 9 A ... ...
  • Varney v. Richards
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • April 30, 2015
    ...Maine Constitution, the Maine Human Rights Act claim is appropriately remanded to state court for that assessment. Patterson v. Nutter, 78 Me. 509, 7 A. 273, 275 (1886) ("The correct rule holds the teacher liable if he inflicts a punishment which the general judgment of such men, after thou......
  • State v. Straight
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • December 10, 1959
    ...113 Ind. 276, 15 N.E. 341; State v. Mizner, 50 Iowa 145, 32 Am.Rep. 128; State v. Pendergrass, 19 N.C. 365, 31 Am.Dec. 416; Patterson v. Nutter, 78 Me. 509, 7 A. 273; Anderson v. State, 40 Tenn. 455, 75 Am.Dec. 774; Lander v. Seaver, 32 Vt. 114, 76 Am.Dec. 156; Commonwealth v. Randall, 4 Gr......
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