The GEM Debate:
Say WHAT? This Kansas Bill Could Have Allowed Spanking
That Causes “Redness And Bruising”
Kansas state lawmaker Gail Finney of Wichita introduced a bill that she says would give certain people expanded rights to spank children. The bill was virtually dead on arrival. The chair of the corrections and juvenile justice committee said it wouldn’t be considered. But it still generated plenty of debate about corporal punishment, particularly in schools. The bill would have expanded on current Kansas law by allowing teachers and caregivers to spank children up to 10 times, possibly causing redness and bruising.
Specifically, the legislation would have allowed 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.”
Finney said that it is not “intended to legalize child abuse.”
All states allow parents to spank their children, while 31 states ban corporal punishment at school. If Finney’s proposal wasn’t de facto child abuse, I don’t know what is. Expanding the so-called rights of teachers and caregivers to hit children within these parameters could easily go too far. Out of all the rights to expand in this country, I’m not sure why that needed to be one of them.
I make no secret of the fact that I don’t spank my children. I have strong opinions about spanking, which I’ve written about here and here. But this isn’t about whether or not parents should spank. This is about whether schools need more rights where physical discipline is concerned.
In Indiana, where corporal punishment in schools is allowed, I was certainly within my rights to hit a student at any point in my 10 years of teaching. I never put my hands on students or used an object as a means of discipline. I may have had a legal right to do so, but as I saw it, I didn’t have a moral or ethical right.
First of all, I just didn’t want to. I didn’t think my position of authority gave me a right to be inhumane. Then, even if a parent gave me permission to “smack him upside the head” (yes, that has happened), I wasn’t going to do it because that child wasn’t mine.
I am against anyone hitting, but if it must be done, let the parent do it. Even though some parents may joke about hurting their children, I don’t think their intentions are truly to damage them. Who’s to say that a teacher or administrator would spank with love, so to speak?
Also, I would be afraid that those 10 hits might include excessive force. A favored way to discipline children at school is to bend them over and use a paddle on the bottom. What if a child instinctively put his hand back there to protect himself and the teacher breaks a bone or causes nerve damage? What if the teacher hits with enough force to cause damage to the spinal column on the first hit?
No doubt, some people would say that they wouldn’t hit that hard. But how can one possibly know how hard is too hard for each child? How does one know that there isn’t an underlying medical condition that physical discipline could bring to the forefront? Even if parents choose spanking as part of the discipline in their homes, it’s disturbing that another adult could have been allowed to bruise or redden their children.
What do you think? This bill is dead, but is it okay for teachers and caregivers to have expanded rights to spank children? In your opinion, what are the merits or demerits of such a law? Share your thoughts below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.