County Public Schools Student Services Department

Physical Abuse



As stated in Florida Statute 39, “abuse” means any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired.  Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions.  Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Physical abuse involves injury that is inflicted upon a child and causes “harm” to the child’s health or welfare.  Such injury includes, but is not limited to:

(1)   Willful acts that produce the following specific injuries:

(a)    Sprains, dislocations, or cartilage damage

(b)   Bone or skull fractures

(c)    Brain or spinal cord damage

(d)   Intracranial hemorrhage or injury to other internal organs

(e)    Asphyxiation, suffocation, or drowning

(f)     Injury resulting from the use of a deadly weapon

(g)    Burns or scalding

(h)    Cuts, lacerations, punctures, or bites

(i)      Permanent or temporary disfigurement

(j)     Permanent or temporary loss or impairment of a body part or function.

“Willful” refers to the intent to perform an action, not to the intent to achieve a result or to cause an action.

(2)   Inappropriate or excessively harsh disciplinary action that is likely to result in physical injury.

Corporal discipline may be considered excessive or abusive when it results in any of the injuries listed under (1) as well as significant bruises or welts.

In the context of determining willful physical injury or abusive corporal discipline, Florida Statute 39 requires consideration of the following factors in evaluating injury: the age of the child; any prior history of injuries to the child; the location of the injury on the body of the child; the multiplicity of the injury; and the type of trauma inflicted.  This will be discussed further in the Indicators section.

Physical Abuse (VIDEO CLIP) occurs when a physical injury is inflicted by a parent, or by another adult caregiver.  Physical abuse may occur when a child is too harshly punished or when the punishment is not appropriate to the child’s age or condition.  Physical indicators such as bruises or welts need not be present.  Reports by the child, together with other behavioral indicators, may be all that is necessary to make a report to the Florida abuse hotline at: 1-800-96-ABUSE.


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