Kansas Legislation Would Protect Parents In Spanking Children To The Point Of Bruising

220px-Conrad,_Giorgio_(1827-1889)_-_n._202arep_finney_gail_1Rep. Gail Finney, a Democrat from Wichita, has created a bit of a stir in Kansas with new legislation that would allow parents, teachers and caregivers to spank children hard enough to leave redness or bruising. While most parents assume that they already have such authority, Finney is worried that physical punishment and restraint is increasingly being viewed as a form of abuse. It raises an interesting question of whether societal standards have changed to the point that the old-time spanking is now a questionable practice from a legal perspective. Notably, the bill would actually limit the number and kind of spanks allowed to parents.

For the record, I grew up in a family where kids were spanked. With five kids, my mother would on occasion announce that a child would have to wait for punishment from my father when he returned from work. My father never liked it. He had been abused as a child. He would make it brief and would only use his hand — never a belt or a switch. Moreover, it was only for the most serious offenses and was relatively rare. He would stop if you cried (which I would generally start on the walk over to his chair).

I have always viewed spanking as a parental prerogative but I have never done it with any of the four kids beyond a relatively light tap on a bottom in sending an errant child to his or her room. I have never seen it as necessary or warranted, though with kids ranging from 14 to 8 the night is still young as they say.

Finney’s bill however would regulate the number and manner of spankings:

“Corporal punishment” means 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 used in this subsection “child” includes a person over the age of 18 who is enrolled in high school.

That form of punishment is then excluded from the criminal sanction provision:

(i) The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
(1) A parent, step-parent, legal guardian or custodian using corporal punishment to maintain parental authority and to discipline a child or a person over the age of 18 who is enrolled in high school; or
(2) a person who has written authority from a parent to use corporal punishment, including, but not limited to, a person acting as a parent or school personnel, using corporal punishment to maintain authority and to discipline a child or a person over the age of 18 who is enrolled in high school.

The law notably would still make hitting a child or using a belt or switch potential child abuse. That might not go over well with some parents as regulating parental punishment. (The current law allows spanking that does not leave marks). Others may view the law as too lenient in allowing parents to leave red marks or bruising. Minnesota courts ruled spanking is not a crime while California courts cleared spanking with a spoon. Conversely, washing out a child’s mouth with soap led to the arrest to a couple.

Spankings specifically have continued to occupy not just the legislature but the courts. We have previously seen criminal cases involving spanking though distinguishable factors. There was one mother declared a terrorist threat on a plane for a public spanking. We have also seen spankings ordered by courts. Indeed, one judge was accused of personally spanking inmates.

These cases show highly conflicted treatment of spanking as either a crime or a parental prerogative. It also creates a sharp disconnect with other laws. For example, it would be a crime to beat or spank an adult. Yet, it is allowed by a family member with regard to a child. In England, there is a move this year to criminalize spanking.

The current weight of the professional journals strongly run against spanking as a discipline as ineffective and cruel. While I do not spank the kids, I have to say that I thought it was pretty darn effective growing up. I do not recall being spanked more than a few times but they were for big ticket items. My recollection is that the waiting through dinner in anticipation of the spanking was the worst part of it. My father was a softy and could not get himself to deliver more than a few spanks with our jeans on as protection.

What do you think? Is the law necessary or too lenient or too restrictive?

22 thoughts on “Kansas Legislation Would Protect Parents In Spanking Children To The Point Of Bruising”

  1. Parents, I totally agree with. School Teachers – can contact the parents for discipline or assign homework & etc. Caregivers depends on a lot of situations. Legislation does not fit all circumstances but common sense does.

  2. I admit that in the 25 years of on-and-off teaching elementary school children I did wish I could whack a few students’ behind but I survived 25 years without needing to go ‘there’ and won’t start now. The only two times my daughter got some kind of slap on her behind was both because she was about to hurt herself as in ‘ snatching free from my hand and about to run into the street’. I am not a young chick but I disagree with those who believe that spanking is a necessary tool to discipline. You do it one time too many and the child grows up hating you. I can’t imagine spanking even a fifth grader as a teacher; some of these children are bigger and meaner than I could ever be! I teach in a small community with a majority Asian and white parents as professionals and if I as much raise my voice they come complain about the ‘abuse’ anyway. HA!

  3. David:

    What means is that that the criminal sections of the law (meaning the assault provisions) do not apply to those 18 or over who are punished by the school by being spanked. It’s a little tricky wording but that is commonly used language where it doesn’t necessarily mean that the spanking is authorized, per se, but that the criminal sanctions (criminal assault) do not apply to spanking.

  4. I clearly object to this law defining a child as an adult who is enrolled in High School for the purposes of being allowed to spank them. Just another example of the government believing that they can subjugate adults because they are enrolled in a school. For that matter I do not agree at all to schools hacking children. Parents, a spanking is not child abuse in the ordinary sense according to our state law.

    But, I can see where this legislator might be coming from. You would not believe how many times I have had to handle someone’s call the sheriff’s office about a spanking because it was someone who had a beef against one of the parents and saw an opportunity to get the parent into trouble. Worse it seemed like at least once or twice a year I had to deal with some fool at Child Protective Service who cannot read the RCW and wanted a parent punished or a child taken away because an ordinary spanking was used. The ordinary spanking of a child is not a law enforcement issue and CPS should stay out of it.

    1. Darren Smith wrote: “I clearly object to this law defining a child as an adult who is enrolled in High School for the purposes of being allowed to spank them.”

      Did I miss something or did you miss something? I did not read the entire law, but I understood from this articles that it EXEMPTED that child in High School.

      “The provisions of this section shall NOT APPLY to: … a child or a person over the age of 18 who is enrolled in high school…” [emphasis mine]

  5. Giovanna maybe that kid behaved for a month or two but what happened to him later In life? Had he learned the lesson that violence and physical assault is an effective way of dealing with others?

  6. Discipling children begins at home. If parents are not discipling their children at home, then is it up to the school to perform the role of the parent(s) when the parents are not present? How about orphan and/or homeless school children? Who is responsibile for their behavior, and how are they disciplined when they are not at school?

    Even though numerous research and theories postulate that our educational system is designed to fail our students, caring and attentive parent(s) can alleviate most of the problems in our classrooms.

  7. Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by … just look at them and sigh and know they love you
    Teach your parents well, their children’s hell will slowly go by … just look at them and sigh and know they love you

    “Teach Your Children” (Crosby, Stills, & Nash)

  8. What Mespo said. And to answer his “question” yes all the sane people have at least left the state government. In this day and age, is this issue what Kansas needs to be debating in the legislature? I have a suggestion for legislation that says, no to spanking in general.

  9. Leaving marks should not be the only hallmark of abuse. I knew one mother who made her daughter stand on her head for hours at a time, gagged her without leaving marks, forced her to sleep on a hardwood floor, and splashed water on her face at intervals throughout the night so she couldn’t sleep.

    The scientific literature says spanking is effective in the short term, but not in the long term, and leads to less prosocial behavior on the part of the children spanked.

  10. Did all the sane people leave Kansas voluntarily or were they driven out? Let’s teach kids to be non-violent by resorting to violence whenever they act out and let’s let the state do it because their minions are in a close relationship with the child such as in loco parentis. If corporal punishment is going to be allowed against individuals based merely on close relationships let’s ok wife beating, husband beating, employee beating, employer beating, and patient beating. (Not lawyer beating of course unless it’s by a judge).

    Bottom line if a little non-marking beating of an adult is taboo because of the blow to their dignity, why is the dignity of any child less worthy of protection?

    Riddle me that.

  11. Parental authority…. No problem…. Teachers? Nah…. But I agree with Annie up thread…. No markings….

  12. In my opinion, spanking is for young children and should not be used after about 12 years of age. Here is a YouTube video showing an example of spanking abuse by Judge William Adams beating his 16 year old daughter. The video is hard to watch. When I talk about spanking, this is NOT what I have in mind. This example illustrates abuse and is wrong.


  13. The law is poorly written without much concern for the various philosophies about spanking. There is one philosophy that teaches a parent should never spank with the hand, but rather with a switch or rod. This is because when a parent uses the hand, he or she may spank emotionally out of anger. Furthermore, the parent also is the source of comfort and the hand should be the instrument of nurturing and feeding and caring for the child. The switch or rod becomes a symbol of punishment.

    As for the concept that non-abusive spanking might leave redness or bruising, this is needed in the law because many take such signs as indicative of abusive spanking that should be illegal. Furthermore, children often get redness or bruising from playing outside, and such signs could be used erroneously as evidence of abuse.

  14. Boy Issac, you must be really old–like me. The days of that kind of discipline are long gone. Could that be one of the problems with education–we should bring back spanking?
    One of my relatives went to a private school where, upon admission to the school, a parent had to sign a contract that if their child misbehaved, the school had the right to spank the child or the parent to opt to come to the school and spank their own child. There was a student who was constantly disruptive, getting into trouble, and talking back to the teachers, and bullying other students. After several detentions and other failed attempts to straighten the child out, the student was sent to the principals office for corporal punishment. The administrator lectured the student then proceeded to spank the child, after which he was sent back to class. Not only did it scare the begeebees out of the guilty party, but it scared all the students in the class. The teachers were delighted, because for almost 2 months the entire class was cooperative and studious. Hmmm, makes you think, maybe after all else is tried, a good swat might do the trick.

  15. Spanking might be effective when the spanker is a softy, like Professor Turley’s father, but when he/she strikes the child hard enough to leave a red mark, then it’s nothing more than abuse. In my experience, taking away a privilege or grounding, time outs are more effective in the long run. I came from a family that used spanking for discipline or when one of my parents was overwhelmed, it was awful and traumatizing. I swore to myself when I had my own children, I would never strike them and it was tempting to do on occasion, with four children, believe me.

    Allowing anyone else to spank your kids? Wow, absolutely no.

  16. In Junior High School there was a bunch of us regularly marched into the Principal’s office for the ‘strap’. He would line us up, average of six of us, and start down the line laying on the ‘strap’, like what a barber used to use to sharpen a razor. By the time he made it through the six shots on each hand, half the way down the line, he started to flag. We started to laugh. He joined in which reduced his force. The toughest would take the place at the head of the line and the jokers would jockey for the end.

  17. Overreaching. If the law doesn’t say “don’t break your child’s bones with a baseball bat,” does that make it legal to break your child’s bones with a hammer? Bruising can be caused by “natural” causes. Children have all kinds of accidents and take all kinds of chances, simply because they don’t know better. I myself don’t think spanking to the point of leaving bruises is an effective lesson about not hitting or biting a sibling or playmate, but it may be an appropriate way to make the point that running out into the street without looking is dangerous.

  18. The Kansas legislature appears to have far too much time on its hands. I propose we bring back public flogging and the stockade for those who think beating people will make better persons out of them. Leading by example as it were.

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