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Why is Ingraham v. Wright so important for our country?

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sean475 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The 1977 Supreme Court decision Ingraham v. Wright was far more important for its social impact than its legal one.

Legally speaking, the 8th Amendment (which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment) had never applied to the corporal punishment of school children, and the Supreme Court simply stuck with this rule in Ingraham. Ingraham's second claim—that corporal punishment in schools violated his substantive due process rights that were guaranteed by the 14th and 5th Amendments (prohibiting the deprivation of life, liberty, and property without the due process of law)—was also rejected by the Supreme Court because Ingraham could simply sue for any injuries that he suffered as a result of the punishment.

Neither of these rulings were groundbreaking.

However, Ingraham v. Wright proved to be a significant court case because the vicious way that Ingraham was beaten (he was spanked so badly he suffered a hematoma that required 11 days of rest) shifted public opinion against the practice of physically punishing school children.

In the wake of Ingraham, the number of states that outlawed corporal punishment in schools ballooned from 3 states and the District of Columbia up to 31 states and DC.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This case is becoming much less important as time goes by.  This is because there is very much less corporal punishment in public school in the United States.  At the time of the Ingraham decision, only 3 states and the District of Columbia banned corporal punishment in public schools.  Today, 31 states do and the practice is not nearly as common as it once was even in most places where it is still legal.

If you need to argue that the case is important, you can argue that it helped to bring about a change in what Americans see as acceptable.  It may have helped to make Americans more aware of the presence of corporal punishment in schools and, thereby, to have created a backlash against the practice.

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