JACKSON, Mississippi, January 25, 2012 ( – If Senate Bill 2180 passes the Mississippi Legislature, a parent would be in jeopardy of being jailed for years or even life for spanking a child, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reports.

The bill, titled “An Act To Amend Section 97-5-39, Mississippi Code Of 1972, To Revise The Offense Of Felonious Abuse Or Battery Of A Child; And For Related Purposes” was sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins (District 52-Jackson).

The legislation would make it a felony to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” thereby causing “bodily harm” to the child. “Reasonable discipline” would be an exception to this offense.

The minimum penalty upon conviction of this crime would be 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty would be life in prison.

However, the HSLDA says it is concerned that the terms “bodily harm” and “reasonable discipline” are not defined in the proposed law. This means that “it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment,” the organization said.

Current Mississippi law requires that a physician must determine if abuse has occurred from a parent’s discipline of a child: “Physical discipline (not to include any form of sexual abuse) performed on a child by a parent, guardian or custodian shall only be deemed to be abuse under this paragraph when a licensed physician has determined that physical injury has occurred. § 97-5-39(2(m)). [Criminal Code].”

“Would bodily harm include inflicting pain or leaving red marks or bruises on a child? Is it reasonable discipline to use a switch, a paddle, or other object in spanking a child?” asks HSLDA.

“Obviously there are differing opinions on this subject, and because of this, any child abuse legislation must precisely define terms to ensure that parents maintain the right to administer reasonable corporal discipline without fear of being imprisoned.”

The HSLDA states that it will continue to track the progress of SB 2180 and work with the homeschoolers of Mississippi to bring about a defeat of the bill.

The full text of Senate Bill 2180 is available here.

Contact information:

Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi
P.O. Box 139, Jackson, Mississippi 39205
Phone: 1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Email: [email protected]