KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas lawmaker wants to give school teachers and caregivers more power to spank children.
Kansas House member Gail Finney, D-Wichita, said the bill is designed to restore parental rights.
It would expand the current law, which allows spanking without leaving marks. If Finney’s bill passes, it would allow up to 10 strikes of the hand and smacks hard enough to leave redness and bruising.
The proposal has its detractors, who say it is antiquated.
“Twenty, 30 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,” pediatrics nurse Amy Terreros said.She is a child abuse expert at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
McPherson Deputy County Attorney Britt Colle introduced the idea to Finney.
The proposed bill suggests lightening the spanking laws, allowing parents or anyone given permission by a parent, to spank hard enough to leave redness or bruising.
“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.”
Colle said the bill makes it clear that hitting a child with fists, hitting a child in the head or body, or hitting a child with a belt or switch is not legal discipline and may be considered battery or abuse.
Deidre Sexton said she would never spank her granddaughter. She enjoys being “Nana” with the responsibilities of a guardian by day.
But Sexton said she has limits with how she disciplines her 2-year-old granddaughter, and she draws the line at spanking.
“Even if the parent tells you. Even if my own children told me you can discipline the grandkids, I wouldn’t do it. I would find other ways of doing it,” Sexton said.
Kansas proponents of the bill say children are losing respect for authority and that parents need to be able to discipline without fear. But 30 other states disagree, and they’ve banned corporal punishment altogether.
The committee chair John Rubin said he isn’t sure if he’s going to even consider the bill.
Finney says if that is the case, she plans on re-introducing a similar proposal again next legislative session.
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