Do “Parental Rights” Include Restraining and Spanking Children?

How hard should you be allowed to hit your child, and who else should be allowed to hit your child on your behalf? The state of Kansas nearly debated those questions due to a proposed bill that would have extended the rules on spanking a child to allow parents to be more forceful as well as grant the authority to spank to other adults in that child’s day to day life. The bizarre bill was being offered out of concern that current law didn’t allow parents the “authority” to discipline their children fully.

HB 2699 addressed battery ranging from domestic violence to child abuse. The bill made corporal punishment, which was already legal in schools, more clearly defined, calling it “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.” As long as an adult had “written authority from a parent to use corporal punishment,” than an adult is exempt from punishment for restraining and spanking a child as well, even if, as the bill states, the restraint is done so forcefully that it leaves marks. That authority would even be extended to being able to physically restrain and administer 10 spankings to a person 18 years or older, as long as that person is still in the school system, according to the bill.

Bill sponsor Rep. Gail Finney, a Democrat from Wichita, proposed the bill as a means of clarifying what is or isn’t allowed when it comes to corporal punishment of children and teens, stating that the new definitions will give more “freedom” to families to parent as they see fit. According to the Wichita Eagle, Finney believed the bill “attempts to define corporal punishment, restore parental rights and protect parents who spank their children from being charged with child abuse.”

“Corporal punishment is already allowed by law in Kansas,” Finney told the paper. “It’s just trying to get a definition, because what’s happening is our kids and some of our law-abiding parents are entering into DCF (the Department of Children and Families) and law enforcement custody when it could have been avoided. It could be a small amount of a bruise (and) a parent could still be charged with child abuse when it wasn’t anything serious.”

Even if that were the case, was it really necessary to extend protection to the forceful physical restraint of students at schools and daycare centers? Regardless of how a person feels about allowing a parent to physically discipline a child, the idea of allowing teachers, school administrators or daycare providers to spank children, much less physically restrain them so forcefully that marks or bruises could be left on the skin, should leave most people aghast.

“We’re not allowed to hit a prisoner. We do not hit in the military,” Deborah Sendek, program director of the Center for Effective Discipline said about the nearly 20 states that continue to allow corporal punishment in schools. “Why do we give prisoners more protection than we give our schoolchildren?”

Apparently the legislature agreed. Finney’s bill died in a committee meeting without receiving a hearing, leaving corporal punishment rules as they already were allowable, but at least with the fail safe that when a child shows up with unexpected bruising, the situation should have some expectation of being investigated to ensure that he or she is not being physically abused.

Now, if only Kansas would repeal allowing all corporal punishment in schools all together. Schools should be a safe place for students, not a place of fear.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

287 comments

michael jackson
michael jackson7 months ago

thanks for the article.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson7 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven7 months ago

thanks for the article.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

Sorry about the double post firefox is give me some problems.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

Correction: They told me they didn’t know of emancipation per se, but she had an Iraqi vet who was allowed to vote at 17.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

Correction: They told me they didn’t know of emancipation per se, but she had an Iraqi vet who was allowed to vote at 17.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

Yes I did. Their response was they knew nothing about the law and if I could vote at 16 then I must have a court order [I did]. They told me they had didn’t know of emancipation per se, but she had an Iraqi vet who was allowed to vote at 17. When I told her my circumstance [and other emancipation cases] they didn’t doubt it, but explained they weren’t attorneys nor did they give legal advice, to direct any questions to the SOS.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson2 years ago

Did you tell them you voted in Texas at age 16?

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

I guess you might not have considered that the alacrity of my responses may be because I didn’t need to go hunting for excuses not to answer questions.

I called them too. When someone calls ask about emancipation and Sec. 31.001- 31.007 of the TX family code. Their response was they have no knowledge of the law and cannot give legal advice. This question would have to be addressed to the SOS.

I gave you the proof: the law. Because you don’t agree with my statements and don’t wish to answer questions you go to great lengths to try to prove me wrong in one regard. Somehow believing that if you prove me wrong in one you have disproven the other points. It doesn’t work like that. You must address each and every point.

Actually you don’t realize you have answered them for me. They frighten you so much you are willing to go to extreme lengths to avoid answering them.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson2 years ago

It must be fairly important to you, too, judging by how quick you replied.

Clearly, one of us is lying. To the extent anybody reading this thread cares, I invite them to contact the Elections Division of the Texas Secretary of State's office during normal business hours M-F at 1-800-252-VOTE to learn for themselves how plausible your claim is.

Then again, if you really have documentation or you or others being eligible to vote in Texas before their 18th birthday, by all means share it. Failing that, you can't expect me to feel answerable to someone so apparently fraudulent.