Anti-spanking: Jordan Riak, a retired teacher
who calls his 25-year campaign against corporal
punishment and spanking his "life work."
A spanking ban: are we gonna get it?
Parents say lawmaker's plan to outlaw hitting children under 4 smacks of the nanny state.
By Nancy Vogel, Times Staff Writer
January 20, 2007
SACRAMENTO — Assemblywoman Sally Lieber hit a nerve when she mused publicly this week about making it illegal for parents to strike children younger than 4.
The Bay Area Democrat hasn't introduced a bill yet, but critical calls and e-mails — including some personal attacks — have flooded her offices since her local newspaper wrote about her intention.
Unbowed, Lieber said she would introduce a bill next week to make California the first state to make the hitting of a toddler or baby a crime. Language was still being drafted, but Lieber was considering making a violation a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail.
"It would get us out of the ridiculous situation of having our law saying there's justifiable beating of children," Lieber said, "in the midst of a society where we say we value children and protect them."
Readers of the San Jose Mercury News blasted the idea — "Although I don't believe in spanking, I sure do not need some media-grubbing politician to tell me how to raise my kids," wrote one — but Lieber said she was confident that she would win Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's support.
In a Mercury News interview Thursday, Schwarzenegger described how as a child he "got smacked about everything" by his father, but has never spanked his own four children. He questioned how such a law could be enforced, but said he understood the desire to "get rid of the physical, the brutal behavior that some parents have."
Answering questions after delivering a healthcare speech Friday to Los Angeles business leaders, Schwarzenegger said he and his wife, Maria Shriver, quickly found that threatening to ground their children to do schoolwork worked well. "We can discipline the kids … without hitting," he said.
Schwarzenegger's native Austria banned corporal punishment of children in 1989. Fifteen other nations have done so, most in Europe, according to the nonprofit Center for Effective Discipline in Columbus, Ohio. California is one of 29 states that ban corporal punishment in schools. Most states — including California — ban physical discipline in child-care settings.
Nadine A. Block, a former school psychologist who 25 years ago began pushing for an end to paddling in schools, said a Wisconsin lawmaker unsuccessfully sought 15 years ago to make all hitting of children illegal. A similar effort failed last year in Massachusetts, she said.
But the narrower scope of Lieber's bill and California's progressive tendency give it better odds of success, said Block, executive director of the Center for Effective Discipline.
"Most people know you should not hit babies and babies do not know right from wrong," she said. "Babies you have to distract, remove, supervise, protect."
Lieber's proposal promises to draw national media attention like that triggered in 1994 when then-Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, an Orange County Republican, proposed paddling juvenile graffiti vandals with an 18-by-6-inch wooden paddle. Conroy was sought by dozens of radio talk shows and TV news programs to talk about his bill, which was defeated in committee. Conroy died in 2005.
Lieber said she has gotten plenty of encouragement — including from prosecutors — but Mercury News readers rejected the idea in e-mails posted on the newspaper's website.
"The day that the [government] gives birth to my children, then they have a right to raise them," wrote Esther. "Till then they are mine to do with as I please. I will raise them the way I see fit. If I think that those little butts need a swat … I will be the one to give it to them."
Having seen the way some people fetishize violence against their own children, this is a good idea. Sure, a slight tap for a toddler running towards traffic is hardly a crime, but a lot of people need a reminder that they might want to use other methods with their kids.
We weren't spanked as kids, my mother wasn't spanked. We didn't turn into criminals.
posted by Steve @ 6:27:00 AM