Confiscating Items from Students

Ask the Rov: May a teacher confiscate an item from a student?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

According to halacha, a teacher may use corporal punishment to educate a student. It follows that he may certainly take something away from the student, as doing so doesn’t physically hurt him.1 This is true even if the item is unrelated to the child’s specific misbehavior.

This, however, doesn’t permit the teacher to destroy the item since that is not typically necessary for chinuch purposes, and it is forbidden to steal even from a child.2 Thus, except for special situations where the item is physically or spiritually harmful or if chinuch warrants getting rid of the item, he may only confiscate the item temporarily.3

What level of responsibility does the teacher have while holding onto the item? Is he obligated to pay if he loses it?

An unpaid guardian is exempt for losing the item, while a paid guardian is responsible to pay.4 While some suggest that a paid teacher is considered a paid guardian, the consensus is that he is an unpaid guardian since his payment is only for teaching the students and not for watching the confiscated item.5

When punishing a student, the teacher should endeavor to minimize the student’s loss of learning time, particularly if it can cause the problem to escalate. Yet, if the child is disturbing other students, he should be sent out of class since the good of the majority outweighs this student’s personal loss of learning.6

In general, Chazal teach that one should follow the approach of pushing away with the left hand and drawing close with the right hand.7 The Frierdiker Rebbe writes that using the staff often backfires, and much more could be accomplished through a pleasant and positively reinforcing approach. Even if screaming at the child has short-term results, this type of chinuch doesn’t produce the desired long- lasting results.8

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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