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Domestic CP - February 2007

Corpun file 18910

Tuscaloosa News, Alabama, 4 February 2007

Guest Column

Child spanking is discipline, not a form of abuse

By Gary Palmer

If a California assemblywoman has her way, it may soon be illegal for parents to spank their children. Correspondingly, if parents are caught spanking their toddlers and convicted they could serve up to a year in prison.

Democrat Sally Lieber, an assemblywoman from the San Francisco area, is proposing a bill that would outlaw spanking children under the age of 4. Lieber said the bill would be broadly written to include all forms of corporal punishment. Some legal experts are recommending that the bill be modeled after European laws that require first- and second-time offenders to attend parenting education classes. Presumably, third-time offenders would be sent to the government gulag for habitual spankers; call it "three swats and you're out."

Even the reliably liberal Los Angeles Times thinks Lieber's bill is an absurd idea. In a Jan. 23 editorial, the Times editors wrote that spanking a child is obviously less harmful than separating the child from its parents by hauling them off to jail.

Lieber, who has a cat but no children of her own, considers spanking to be the same as beating and it victimizes helpless children. Lieber justifies introducing the bill because she believes spanking breeds violence in society. Plus, her veterinarian told her to never hit her cat.

Lieber got the idea for the ban from Thomas Nazario, a family friend and law professor at the University of San Francisco. Nazario says there is no rational reason for allowing parents the legal right to strike their helpless children when the law does not allow them to strike an adult.

Nanny-state liberals are hailing Lieber's effort and rallying to her side with equally inane analogies including comparing spanking to wife beating. Nadine Block, director of the Center for Effective Discipline and co-chair of the Ohio-based End Physical Punishment of Children, believes ending spanking is a "children's rights" issue. In an online Time Magazine article, Block said, "Today, we can't hit slaves, wives or military personnel. Children are the only class unprotected."

Aside from the fact that the "slaves" analogy is completely far-fetched, Block's comment does illuminate the real agenda of many of those who oppose spanking; it is really about giving children legal rights against their parents.

First of all, spanking is not a children's rights issue, it is a parent's responsibility issue. It is every parent's responsibility to discipline their children appropriately, including administering corporal punishment in a constructive, nonabusive manner.

While Lieber views the use of physical punishment as a privilege that parents will have to give up, the choice to spank is not a privilege or something most parents even want to do. Rather, it is a means of discipline that many, if not most, parents would prefer to avoid.

It is also a misrepresentation to equate spanking with abuse or generalize about it as a cause of youth violence and other high-risk behavior. Lieber and many other nanny-state liberals cite research involving convicted violent criminals in which the offenders said they were beaten and/or abused as children. The fact is, however, most violent offenders come from fatherless households, where both women and children are much more likely to be abused. Moreover, ample research shows that growing up in a home where the biological father is absent is the single biggest predictor of violent and criminal behavior, teen pregnancy, drug use and academic failure.

It is also interesting to note that while over the years the percentage of parents who use spanking as a form of discipline has remained high at about 90 percent, juvenile violence, particularly in schools, has been in decline since 1992. According to the U.S. Justice Department, juvenile crime, including violence and theft, declined substantially both in and out of school between 1992 and 2001.

In addition, a report from the Youth Violence Project reported that in 2003 the annual rate of serious violent crime was less than half the rate in 1994.

Given the overwhelming evidence linking fatherless homes to juvenile violence and crime, plus the fact that in many cases the father is missing from the home because he is in prison, it is hard to believe that anyone would advocate a policy that would split up a family by putting a parent in prison for spanking.

On the other hand, it is appropriate to encourage parents to be careful about the use of corporal punishment. It is never fitting to physically injure a child or administer such punishment as a way to vent anger. All punishment should be age appropriate and it should always be for the benefit of the child. And most importantly, parents should make certain their child knows they are loved while balancing punishment with praise for good behavior.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, nonprofit research and education organization.

Corpun file 18915


Los Angeles Times, 23 February 2007

Proposal to ban spanking is revised

Bill would outlaw specific punishments but is less restrictive than previous plan.

By Nancy Vogel
Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- A Bay Area lawmaker retreated from her proposed ban on spanking and instead offered a bill Thursday that would criminalize parental discipline involving a closed fist, belt, electrical cord, shoe or other objects.

Additionally, the legislation by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) would make it easier to prosecute anyone who throws, kicks, burns, chokes or cuts a child younger than 18. Also included would be striking a child younger than 3 in the head or face, and vigorously shaking a baby or toddler.

Lieber triggered a heated national debate last month when she said she wanted to make it illegal for anyone, including parents, to strike a child younger than 4 years old. That proposal would have covered even a swat on the rear and made offenses punishable by up to a year in jail.

Lieber's proposal was ridiculed on television shows including "Saturday Night Live" and "The Colbert Report." Most of her colleagues in the 80-member Assembly, Lieber said, told her they couldn't support a spanking ban.

"I personally am very passionate about banning all physical abuse, but the votes are simply not there," she said. "So California law will continue to allow parents, caregivers -- whoever is in control of a child -- to spank with an open hand on the buttocks, including to the point of injury to the child."

Sixteen nations ban physical punishment of children. California law prohibits the hitting of them in schools, day care centers and foster care. It also makes it a crime to inflict "unjustifiable" physical pain on a child. Lieber said her legislation would eliminate some vagueness in that standard.

Her bill would change the law to say that certain acts -- such as hitting a child with a stick or paddle or slapping a 2-year-old in the face -- are presumed unjustifiable. Those acts would be punishable as misdemeanor crimes with penalties of up to a year in jail.

The bill also would allow prosecutors to seek felony charges against those accused of shaking babies, and it would allow judges to require violators to attend parenting classes.

California prosecutors have been trying to figure out "exactly where abuse begins and appropriate corporal punishment ends," said Thomas A. Nazario, a University of San Francisco law professor who has advised Lieber.

The bill "will paint a fairly clear picture of where the line is drawn -- what's appropriate and what's not," Nazario said.

Other lawyers aren't so sure.

John E.B. Myers, a University of the Pacific law professor who recently published a history of child protection laws, said Lieber's bill would have little effect. If it were law, he said, juries in child abuse cases could still conclude that parents were using reasonable physical punishment even if they acted in ways presumed unreasonable -- and therefore illegal -- by Lieber's bill.

At best, Lieber's measure "will send a message that if you use a closed fist, you can get in serious trouble and you'll have a tougher time defending yourself," said Myers, who supports a ban on spanking. "It's a very small step, in my estimation."

Randy Thomasson, president of the nonprofit Campaign for Children and Families, said Lieber's bill would rob parents of a disciplinary tool -- mothers in particular, because they often don't have a man's strength.

"There's too many moms who know if they spank their young boys with a hand," Thomasson said, "it doesn't cause the sting that they need to reform their behavior.

"How dare we say that our grandparents -- who had a switch or even a shoe training them to respect authority and obey the rules -- that they were abused," Thomasson said. "You meet a lot of Americans who are glad they were spanked because they needed it when they were little rebels."

No other state has laws as explicit as Lieber's measure, though an Ohio senator this week introduced a bill to bar the spanking of children younger than 3 years old.

Nadine A. Block, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Effective Discipline in Columbus, Ohio, congratulated Lieber on "hanging in there" despite heavy, sometimes personal, criticism.

She called the legislation "very reasonable as a first go."

"We would all like a perfect world ... where we just stopped hitting children," Block said. "In the imperfect world, you sometimes have to do things incrementally."

Robert Larzelere, a family science professor at Oklahoma State University who has studied corporal punishment, said he agreed with much of Lieber's legislation, especially the prohibition against striking small children on the head.

Research has found that children who were struck in the face or head showed a greater likelihood of behavioral problems later in life, he said.

But he quibbled with forbidding the use of a paddle, stick or other instrument to spank.

"The issue is not what a child is spanked with," Larzelere said, "but how hard they're spanked."

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

blob Follow-up: 1 June 2007 - Spanking bill rejected

Corpun file 19054

NBC logo (KSDK-TV News Channel 5), St Louis, Missouri, 28 February 2007

Student Stripped, Spanked By Aunt In Classroom

By Jane Watrel

School officials in Prince George's County, Maryland are investigating a relative's actions in a charter school last week.

The investigation came after a woman walked into the school and spanked her nephew in front of his entire classroom.

"I asked him if something had happened and they said, 'Oh you mean the whopping,'" says Paula Reitan. She couldn't believe her ears after leaving a school party at Turning Point Academy. Her daughter and three classmates told her how a fellow second grader was stripped naked below the waist and spanked by a relative in front of the entire class.

"The aunt came, made the child pull his pants down, pull his underpants down and in front of the entire class, and unfortunately my daughter had a full view of this, whipped him with a belt," she says.

Horrified that the teacher was right in front of the classroom at the time of the beating and the school's principal knew about the incident, she fired off an email to a Prince George's County School Board member only to be told Turning Point Academy is a charter school. Prince George's County has no jurisdiction.

That didn't set well with the PhD Mom.

"I did some research and I really believe that the school board does have the legal and moral obligation to investigate this," she says.

In an about face, the school is now investigating. While Turning Point Academy is attached to Trinity Assembly of God, the teachers are paid by taxpayers.

"Certainly, if there is a reason to contact social services regarding an adult's actions we would do that. If one of our employees didn't act appropriately, then disciplinary action would follow there as well."

No one at Turning Point Academy would comment about the spanking.

On Monday, its principal sent a letter home to parents saying, "Please know that the incident is a family matter and should not have occurred in a school setting. All interactions were between the child and a family member."

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