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Parents' rights

California Democrat wants to criminalize spanking of children

Friday, January 19, 2007 by: Beau Hodai
Tags: parents' rights, spanking, physical violence


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(NewsTarget) The California State Legislature is set to consider a bill that could change the way some parents discipline their children. The proposed legislation would make California the first state in the nation to criminalize spanking.

The bill, which was conceived by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, would make corporal punishment, in any form, of children up to three years of age, a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail.

“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child three years old or younger,” said Lieber, who is not a parent. “Is it OK to whip a one-year-old or a six-month-old or a newborn?”

Thomas Nazario, a professor at the University of San Francisco Law School and legal expert in international children’s issues, is a proponent of the bill. “Why do we allow parents to hit a little child and not someone their own size? Everyone in the state is protected from physical violence, so where do you draw the line? To take a child and spank his little butt until he starts crying, some people would define that as physical violence,” said Nazario.

Detractors of the bill are concerned over the enforceability of the proposed law, and that it may be too much of an incursion by the state into parent’s rights.

“Where do you stop?” asked Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine. “At what point are we going to say we should pass a bill that every parent has to read a minimum of 30 minutes every night to their child? This is right along those same lines.”

Still others feel that the proposed bill does not reach deep enough into the issue of child welfare.

"If this bill passes, spanking children would be illegal, but maiming their genitals with circumcision would remain legal," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate. "I find that an interesting double standard. If swatting a child's rear is to be outlawed, shouldn't infant mutilation also be made illegal?"

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