New proposal in Kansas would change spanking law

A lawmaker in Kansas wants to allow schoolteachers and caregivers the right to spank children. According to House member Gail Finney, the bill is intended to reinstate parental rights. This will be an expansion of the current law, which states that spanking is allowed as long as no marks are left. If the new law passes, spanking will be allowed up to 10 strikes, which could be hard enough to leave bruising or redness.

The legislation specifically would allow for spankings “up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child and any such reasonable physical force on the child as may be necessary to hold, restrain or control the child in the course of maintaining authority over the child, acknowledging that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result.”

KCTV reporter Bonyen Lee wrote that the idea was introduced to Finney by McPherson Deputy County Attorney Britt Colle, who says the proposed bill actually lightens the spanking laws stating that only a parent or other individual approved by a parent can spank hard enough to leave redness or bruising. He says the bill clearly states that hitting a child with a belt, switch, or fists, or on the head or body, may be considered abuse or battery.

“This bill basically defines a spanking along with necessary reasonable physical restraint that goes with discipline, all of which has always been legal,” Colle said. “This bill clarifies what parents can and cannot do. By defining what is legal, it also defines what is not.”

The proposal has critics who say that spanking is outdated. Deidre Sexton enjoys being a “nana” to her granddaughter and says that even if she had permission she would not spank her, saying she prefers to find other methods of discipline. Amy Terreros , Child abuse expert and pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said:

“Twenty, thirty years ago, we didn’t sit in car seats, and we do now. So maybe they did spank or were spanked as a child, but now we have research that shows it is less effective than time out. It tends to lead to more aggressive behavior with a child,”

Advocates of the bill say that children have lost respect for parents and authority figures and need more discipline. Thirty states have expressed their disagreement by banning corporal punishment. While Committee Chari John Rubin is unsure if the bill will be considered, Finney says that her intentions for the bill are to provide guidance to state officials, serve as a guideline for parents and to protect Kansas’ children from abuse, and that if the bill is not considered, she will reintroduce a similar one in the next legislative session.

02 17, 2014
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