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Ingraham v. Wright, 525 F.2d 909 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. granted, 96 S. Ct. 2200 (1976).

Few would deny the extensive authority possessed by the states to establish, regulate, and supervise the educational systems within their respective domains. However well-established that authority may be, states and school officials unmistakably remain subject to the provisions of the Federal Constitution via the supremacy clause. The Supreme Court of the United States has voiced its unequivocal affirmance of this concept: "In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of a school are 'persons' under our Constitution." Acknowledgement of constitutional rights of students compels the recognition of a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of these rights by state officials.

The simplicity of the above statements is quite deceptive. The complexity of pursuing this cause of action lies primarily in the task of sustaining the allegation that the specific commissions or omissions of the state officials did indeed violate a constitutional guarantee. This was the obstacle faced by the plaintiffs in Ingraham v. Wright, who unsuccessfully attempted to demonstrate that the corporal punishment authorized and administered by defendant school officials deprived them of their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as guaranteed by the eighth amendment to the Constitution.

The relative ease with which the Ingraham court dismissed the plaintiffs' section 1983 allegations based on the eighth amendment was not commensurate with the soundness of their contentions. The viability of such contentions is the purpose to which this comment is dedicated.

Publication Date

January 1977

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