New York has banned the use of corporal punishment in all private schools, making it one of just a handful of states in the nation to bar teachers in all types of schools from hitting students.
The law, which was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday after being unanimously approved by the State Legislature in June, was proposed in response to a New York Times investigation that revealed the use of corporal punishment in many schools in the Hasidic Jewish community. The ban will apply to all private schools.
“Corporal punishment is unacceptable,” Ms. Hochul said in a statement. “This new law will ensure students in every New York school are protected from mistreatment.”
Corporal punishment, defined as “any act of physical force upon a pupil for the purpose of punishing that pupil,” has been prohibited in New York’s public schools since 1985. But there was no such ban on the punishment in private schools.
When lawmakers began discussing the bill earlier this year, they learned that Iowa and New Jersey were the only states that had a total ban, according to research done by the Legislature. In July, Maryland also banned such punishments.
The Times series, drawing on 911 calls and interviews with dozens of recent students, showed that teachers in many Hasidic all-boys schools had made regular use of corporal punishment.
Representatives of the Hasidic schools have said that their instructors do not use corporal punishment and that any isolated incidents occurred less frequently than in other types of schools.
On Thursday, Richard Bamberger, a spokesman for some Hasidic yeshivas, said in a statement that leaders of the schools had no issue with the new law.
“Yeshivas don’t engage in corporal punishment and did not have any opposition to this bill,” Mr. Bamberger said. “What they do oppose is the inaccurate suggestion that the legislation arose because of an abuse problem in yeshivas, which the Senate sponsor publicly stated is false.”
That sponsor, State Senator Julia Salazar, a Democrat who represents Hasidic enclaves in Brooklyn, announced her intention to introduce the bill the day after the first Times article published, adding that she was “disturbed” by many of The Times’s findings, particularly relating to corporal punishment.
Later, on Twitter, now known as X, Ms. Salazar said she did not have any evidence that there was a pattern of corporal punishment in yeshivas. Ms. Salazar did not respond to a message seeking comment on Thursday.
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Nassau Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said he wrote the bill because he did not know corporal punishment was allowed in private schools until reading about it in The Times. “I am very pleased that New York is protecting our children by outlawing the use of physical punishment in our schools,” he said on Thursday. “The message to any abusive adults is very simple: ‘Keep your hands off our kids!’”
The legislation was one of several bills proposed in response to The Times’s reporting, which also exposed a lack of basic education in many Hasidic schools, especially the schools that enroll only boys. Most of the other proposals did not pass in this year’s legislative session.
In June, New York City completed its own long-stalled investigation into Hasidic boys’ schools. They examined more than two dozen such schools, called yeshivas, and determined that 18 of them were not providing students with adequate instruction in secular subjects.
Under state law, private schools must provide an education that is at least on par with what is offered in public schools. But the investigators described visiting schools and finding deficiencies in course planning and teacher training. In some cases, officials reported seeing no instruction at all in core subjects like English, math, history and science.
The findings amounted to a rebuke of Hasidic yeshivas, which receive hundreds of millions of dollars in public money annually but have long resisted outside oversight. As a result, the schools were expected to be required to submit detailed improvement plans and undergo government monitoring. But it was not immediately clear how the requirements would be enforced.
Before those findings, Mayor Eric Adams had frequently praised the yeshivas.
In July, the New York State Board of Regents, which oversees education across the state, unanimously passed a set of new regulations that included rules for implementing a ban on corporal punishment in private schools as well as public schools. The signing of the law this week formalized the ban.
Chaim Wigder, 27, who said he was regularly hit by teachers when he attended Hasidic schools in New York City, said no prohibition on corporal punishment would succeed without strong enforcement and cultural change.
“It’s not simply a matter of passing a law and then hoping for the best,” he said.
Still, Mr. Wigder said he was pleased with the new ban.
“It’s about time,” he said.