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.
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