Why a Kansas lawmaker seeks 'red welt' spanking guidelines

Kansas is one of 19 states in America that allows corporal punishment. But a Kansas lawmaker would like to sharpen the definition of spanking, by allowing up to 10 strikes of the hand.

A Kansas lawmaker wants to give teachers and parents the ability to spank children a bit harder.

Kansas is one of 19 US states that still allows corporal punishment. But Kansas state legislator Gail Finney (D) of Wichita would like to sharpen the definition of spanking, by allowing up to 10 strikes of the hand. And the bill would make it OK of those smacks leave redness or bruising.

As McPherson Deputy County Attorney Britt Colle explained to KCTV Channel 5 in Kansas City:

"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.

Current Kansas law allows spanking if the local school board approves it by policy. But most local boards don't approve it. Corporal punishment is more common in the South, and in rural areas. In Texas, there were 49,197 corporal punishments in 2005-2006, according to federal education records. But since most major cities in Texas have banned spanking, such physical punishments occurred primarily in rural school districts. And the total number of such punishments in Texas is half of what it was 10 years earlier.

Thirty-one states have banned corporal punishment in public schools, according to the Center for Effective Discipline, an anti-corporal punishment group. The Center argues that spanking perpetuates a cycle of child abuse, and teaches children to respond with physical force when angry. It also notes that "schools are the only institutions in America in which striking another person is legally sanctioned. It is not allowed in prisons, in the military or in mental hospitals.

Only Iowa and New Jersey have banned spanking in private schools.

What does the US Supreme Court have to say on the subject? In 1997, America's highest court ruled that physical punishment administered by school officials was not prohibited by the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment. The court said that spanking is lawful where it has not been explicitly outlawed by local authorities.

In Britain, and some US states, there have been failed efforts to restore corporal punishment to the classrooms, citing the rising crime rate and poor behavior in schools.

What's the punishment policy in your home, your state, or even your school district?

If you want to look up the number of paddling incidents (or bullying), the US Department of Education keeps tabs by school district, even down to individual schools. This link by the Center for Effective Discipline will walk you through the steps to check your local school, although the data may be a few years old.

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