Rep. Gail Finney (pictured), a Wichita, Kansas lawmaker, introduced a bill last week that would define corporal punishment and protect the rights of individuals who spank and leave marks on children from being charged with child abuse. The controversial move has sparked a heated debate with opponents referring to the move as “disturbing,” according to The Wichita Eagle.
Kansas is one of 20 states that still permits spanking in school. The proposed legislation would allow individuals such as parents, caregivers or school officials to hit children, including those students over 18 who are enrolled in high school. The current spanking law in the state, which Finney feels is not clearly defined, allows the act sans any telltale marks. Finney’s proposed House Bill 2699 would more succinctly define corporal punishment as “up to 10 forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child.”
House Bill 2699 would also permit “reasonable physical force” in order to restrain a child during a spanking,”acknowledging that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result.”
The bill does draw the line on such disciplining tactics as striking a child with fists, a belt, or a switch about the head or torso.
Finney is staunchly behind her proposed bill and views it as necessary because of the current climate in schools across the country. “What’s happening is there are some children that are very defiant and they’re not minding their parents, they’re not minding school personnel,” the Democratic representative told The Eagle.
Many who oppose spanking believe that the act is ineffective, antiquated and can actually foster aggressive behaviors in children. John Valusek, a retired Wichita psychologist and teacher who vehemently opposes spanking, has led a campaign against the act for over ten years. Valusek thinks spanking is not only unnecessary but damaging to young ones, saying, “If you hit kids when they’re small, for whatever reason you’re hitting them, you’re planting the idea that it’s OK to use pain to accomplish an end,” he said.
Wichita Catholic schools also do not condone the physical act against children and their policy guidelines clearly stipulate that “corporal punishment will not be used in the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Wichita.”
Dorothy Adams. a fifth grade teacher in the Wichita school system, cannot even fathom striking a child in her classroom. “What kind of message would I be sending to them if I chose to hit them for something they had done?” Adams asked. “I am not saying I am for or against spanking. What I am saying is that it has no place in schools,” she said. “We are always striving to make our classrooms safer for children. This would be working against that effort.”
Rep. John Rubin, chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, also expressed doubt at the legislation, telling KCTV that he isn’t sure the committee will even consider the bill.
Meanwhile, Finney, who has three sons and four grandchildren, plans to introduce the legislation again in the next legislative session if the committee does not consider it.