Physical education in schools typically involves exercises and demonstrations of popular sports such as ball games, gymnastics, and athletics. With the growing popularity of martial arts, one may wonder if a physical education teacher is even allowed to teach martial arts at school.

A PE teacher is allowed to teach martial arts at school. Physical education teachers are permitted to teach contact sports if the state curriculum allows it and the teacher is qualified for the role.

In this article, we’ll dig further into whether a physical education teacher is allowed to teach martial arts at school and the possible consequences if a student gets hurt during these classes. So, let’s discuss it and determine if teachers can incorporate contact sports into their curriculum.

Do Schools Include Martial Arts in Their Curriculum?

Public schools do not often include martial arts in their curriculum as they stick with conventional sports like ball games, gymnastics, and general athletics. Private schools and higher educational institutions sometimes offer martial arts classes to their students.

The National Standards in Physical Education (drafted by SHAPE America) includes martial arts in its learning outcomes for Grade 7 Physical Education under Standard 3. Under this standard, the student must use the knowledge and skills to attain and continue a “health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.”

However, setting the school curriculum is the responsibility of individual state and local governments under the Tenth Amendment. Adopting the national standard or including martial arts in a physical education curriculum relies on a state’s discretion.

Martial Arts Beyond K-12

Some higher learning institutions and community colleges offer martial arts classes. Still, most have interest clubs and teams that advance a specific martial art like taekwondo, karate, aikido, and judo. Otherwise, instructors introduce their chosen martial art to other students through various activities.

For example, the Portland Community College in Oregon offers numerous martial arts classes, including judo, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts. It has provided on its website its list of qualifications for prospective educators who can teach martial arts in their institution.

Legal Limitations of Teaching Martial Arts at School

PE teachers need to consider any legal implications when introducing martial arts classes or lessons in the classroom.

Is It Legal for PE Teachers To Hurt a Student?

It is illegal for PE teachers to hurt a student. The teacher involved may be liable for negligence if a student gets injured while performing a demonstration during a martial arts class.

The Association of American Educators (AAE) and the National Education Association (NEA) have included in their respective code of ethics that teachers should exert efforts to shield their students from conditions that can harm their learning, health, and safety.

Failure to do so can result in a potential negligence lawsuit for the teacher and the school where the incident happened.

For example, in an article published by the Canadian Center of Science and Education, the sources of negligence come from:

  • The lack of or inadequate supervision during physical activities.
  • Failure to employ due care to provide adequate guidance or warning.
  • Lack of planning and maintenance of physical education facilities and equipment.
  • Using techniques that are too advanced for students’ skill level.

Is a PE Teacher Allowed To Touch a Student?

Teachers are only allowed to touch students if the student’s safety is at risk. Any kind of physical contact outside these circumstances is inappropriate behavior.

There is an ongoing debate about physical contact in physical education classes. While it is considered normal within physical education, physical contact comes with sexual intentions and connotations.

Individual school districts and educational institutions have different rules and regulations surrounding physical contact with students. PE teachers must review these rules to avoid any untoward incidents.

teachers are only allowed to touch students for safety

Protective Measures To Address Physical Education Injuries

Schools also have a legal obligation to take steps to ensure a safe environment for their students, which includes keeping them safe from harm or injury. While accidents are likely to occur, officials are responsible for preventing foreseeable dangers within the school premises, ranging from faulty physical education equipment to slippery surfaces.

Private schools can avail of insurance policies like accident plans or liability insurance to protect them from risks and potential lawsuits associated with physical education injuries.

Unlike private schools, public schools are generally immune from lawsuits under what is known as “sovereign immunity.” However, there were instances where the injured student’s family was allowed to file a lawsuit against the school district. The family must prove negligence on the part of the school and the teacher for a suit to prosper.

Teachers can protect themselves from potential legal liabilities by asking the students’ parents to sign releases and waivers before allowing their children to participate in martial arts classes.

This step ensures that parents know the risks involved in martial arts classes.

Final Thoughts

Physical education teachers are allowed to teach martial arts to their students provided that it is permitted in their school curriculum and they have the necessary qualifications to teach these classes.

Schools can also employ protective measures to ensure the safety of their students and protect them from any risk associated with injury as a result of demonstrating instruction during martial arts classes.