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Kansas reacts to proposed 'spanking bill'

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20 2014 9:47 p.m. MST

A proposed bill in Kansas that would redefine and reestablish what spanking is within Kansas has drawn mixed reactions from across the state, as many wonder how far is too far for discipline.

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A proposed bill in Kansas is looking to allow teachers and caregivers the right to spank children, CNN reported.

The bill, first introduced by State Rep. Gail Finney (D-Kan.), would allow "up to 10 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,” CNN reported.

Finney said the bill isn’t meant to legalize child abuse or anything of that sort. She said in a statement released on her website that this bill, which many media organizations are referring to as the “spanking bill," is to help educate and teach children in a variety of ways.

“Parental corporal discipline in Kansas, along with 49 other states, has always been permitted,” Finney said. “Unfortunately, Kansas has never affirmatively, expressly defined corporal discipline in Kansas statute, leaving the interpretation of that matter to administrative officials in the executive branch, law enforcement personnel, and the judicial branch. This legislation is intended to (i) provide guidance to state officials in the administrative and judicial branches; (ii) serve as a guideline to parents; and (iii) protect Kansas children from abuse.”

But there hasn’t been a lot of support for Finney and her bill. The Emporia Gazette, based in Emporia, Kan., said there is no support at all from the Emporia School District.

According to Superintendent Theresa Davidson, “Teachers won’t be striking students — regardless of proposed state legislation that would allow teachers to do so with parental consent now or any time in the future,” wrote Ben Fitch for the Gazette.

And The Wichita Eagle said the bill won’t be heard by the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, either, effectively killing the bill.

“At some point, you’ve got to allow for some reasonable application of the law,” said attorney Marc Bennett to The Wichita Eagle. “You have to trust law enforcement officials and/or social work officials to exercise some discretion in recognizing what is just a spank on the bottom versus cruel beating or torture.”

Some of Kansas, though, believe spanking to be an acceptable form of punishment when used “judiciously,” according to The Topeka Capital-Journal. A recent poll by the Topeka, Kan.-based newspaper shows that more than 63 percent of readers think spanking is fine when used that way, while about 29 percent see it as a form of child abuse.

And a northwestern Kansas newspaper, The Hays Daily News, published an editorial that condemns the proposed bill.

“The proposed spanking bill so shocks us we only can imagine what comes next. More leniency for spousal abuse? Improved disciplinary measures at the discretion of employers? Shaming in the public square?” asked Patrick Lowry in the editorial. “There is no excuse for the obscene HB 2699, unless Finney saw it as the only way for a Democrat to get press coverage in the current Statehouse environment. If that's the case, congratulations. Now, withdraw the bill and return to your room. A timeout is needed; not a spanking.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @hscribner

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