September 21, 2012
Child Welfare Legislation Outlaws SpankingWhen Governor Jack Markell signed into law Senate Bill 234 on September 12, 2012, Delaware became the first state in the in the nation to effectively outlaw corporal discipline of children by their parents.
Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Patricia M. Blevins (District 7), the legislation creates a definition of the term “physical injury” in the child abuse and neglect laws to include “pain.” Currently the law permits a parent to use force to punish a child for misconduct, but it prohibits any act that is likely to cause or does cause physical injury. By defining “physical injury” to include the infliction of pain on a child, spanking has become a crime in Delaware punishable by imprisonment.
Under the new law, a parent causing “physical injury” (e.g., pain) to a child under age 18 would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor and subject to one year in prison. A parent causing pain to a child who was 3 years of age or younger would be guilty of a class G felony and subject to two years in prison.
Home School Legal Defense Association opposed this bill as a violation of the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, including the long-recognized right to administer reasonable corporal discipline. HSLDA worked with the Delaware Home Education Association and the Delaware Family Policy Council in an effort to bring about a defeat of this legislation.
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