State Immunity – Violation of Corporal Punishment Policy – Summary Judgment Reversed

Ex parte Dawn S. Smith, [Ms. SC-2023-0322, Dec. 1, 2023] __So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Mendheim, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Sellers, Stewart, Mitchell, and Cook, JJ., concur; Shaw and Bryan, JJ., concur in the result) issues a writ of mandamus to the Macon Circuit Court directing the court to vacate summary judgment for the defendant, public school teacher Dawn Smith (“Smith”), based on State-agent immunity.

Latisha Bolden, as mother of T.B., a second-grade student at Deborah Cannon Wolfe Elementary School, filed individual-capacity claims against T.B.’s teacher, Dawn Smith. Bolden alleged that Smith held T.B.’s arm behind his back, and allowed another student to punch T.B. in the face. Ms. **8-9. Smith moved for summary judgment, asserting the affirmative defense of State-agent immunity as recognized in Ex parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392 (Ala. 2000).

Bolden argued Cranman’s “beyond-authority” exception to State-agent immunity applied because Smith used corporal punishment in a manner that violated both the Macon County Board of Education’s corporal-punishment policy and §16-28A-1, Ala. Code 1975. Ms. *25.

The Court holds that Bolden presented substantial evidence indicating that Smith violated the Macon County Board of Education’s corporal-punishment policy, and is not entitled to summary judgment based on State-agent immunity. Ms. *40. Smith alternatively argued “schoolmaster’s immunity,” which grants a teacher authority to administer moderate correction to students under their care unless it is done so with legal malice. Suits v. Glover, 260 Ala. 449, 71 So. 2d at 50 (1954). However, the Court concludes that evidence indicating that Smith had violated the school board’s policy would be evidence of malice. Ms. **43-44. Accordingly, the Court holds that Smith is not entitled to summary judgment.

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