Delaware has become the first state in the union to pass a controversial law which effectively outlaws parents issuing corporal discipline to their children.
The new law, which was sponsored by Delaware's Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins, redefines child abuse laws to include any act that causes "pain."
Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 234 into law on Septemeber 12.
“This bill establishes the offense of Child Abuse,” the legislation states. “These new statutes combine current statutes and redefine physical injury and serious physical injury to reflect the medical realities of pain and impairment suffered by children.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), along with the Delaware Home Education Association and the Delaware Family Policy Council, opposed the legislation, saying the bill was “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 points out that while Delaware law had permitted a parent to use force to punish a child for misconduct, it already prohibited any act that is likely to cause or does cause physical injury.
By redefining “physical injury” to include the infliction of any pain on a child, even the reasonable use of spanking has become a crime in Delaware punishable by imprisonment.
The new law creates three levels of child abuse. The first and second degrees are considered felonies and penalties increase if the victim is under four years old and suffers from intellectual or developmental disabilities. Parents who are guilty of committing “physical injury,” or “pain,” to a child under the age of 18 would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor and subjected to a year in prison as a result. One who is charged with causing pain to a child under the age of three would be guilty of a class G felony and subjected to two years imprisonment.
Interestingly enough, one of the people behind the push for the law was U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau, who is the state Attorney General. “Far too many children are the victims of abuse, neglect and assault and [this bill] will go a long way to better protect the children of this state,” said Biden.
“We know children are three times more likely to be assaulted, hurt or harmed if they have a developmental disability or are under four years old," Biden continued. “We wanted to recognize a very vulnerable victim pool.”
Blevins joined in the chorus with Biden singing the praises of the new law. “Thousands of children are abused every day, many of them under the age of three. They are not even verbal. The evidence needs to be collected in other ways than in testimony. These are very difficult crimes and deserve their own category,” said Blevins. “It’s very important to target those victims with development disabilities, because often they cannot testify, or their testimony needs special accommodations.”
State Rep. Rebecca Walker (D-Middletown) also signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. “It happens a lot in Delaware, a lot more than people think,” said Walker. “[This bill] can be something that will help our kids be a little bit safer.”
Ah yes, it's all for the children. Well, the unintended consequences, or maybe they are intended, are that parents in Delaware can now be convicted of a felony and potentially the children removed from their homes because of the love they demonstrate towards their children through corporal discipline.
As for me, I'd just like to thank God that I had parents who loved me enough to discipline me with a hickory switch or a belt to correct me when I was doing wrong. If children had parents that loved them enough to do that, we probably would not be seeing the kind of nonsense in the younger generation we are seeing.
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Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.