Proposed Delaware bill could punish spanking with two years in jail

The bill redefines the term “physical injury” in the child abuse and neglect laws to broadly include any act that causes "pain."
Thu Jun 28, 2012 - 6:32 pm EST

DOVER, Delaware, June 28, 2012 ( - A law passed on June 19 in the Delaware Senate, Bill 234, could make spanking a child a crime punishable by up to two years in jail. The bill is now being reviewed by a judiciary committee in the General Assembly.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Patricia M. Blevins, redefines the term “physical injury” in the child abuse and neglect laws to broadly include any act that causes “pain.”

“This bill establishes the offense of Child Abuse,” the proposed 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 push for the legislation is reportedly being driven by state Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

“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.

However, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has blasted the bill. The family rights organization says it “opposes 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.”

The HSLDA points out that currently Delaware 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 redefining “physical injury” to include the infliction of any pain on a child, even the reasonable use of spanking would likely become a crime in Delaware punishable by imprisonment.

Under the proposed 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 three years of age or younger would be guilty of a class G felony and subject to two years in prison.

The HSLDA warns that if the proposed law passes the House, “Delaware would become the first state in the nation to outlaw corporal discipline of children by their parents.”

The organization states it is working with the Delaware Home Education Association and the Delaware Family Policy Council to bring about a defeat of this legislation.

The full text of Senate Bill 234 is available here.

Contact information:

Senator Patricia M. Blevins, Senate Majority Leader
Legislative Hall Office
P.O. Box 1401
Dover, DE 19903
Phone: (302) 744-4133
Email: [email protected]

House of Representatives
Rep. Robert F. Gilligan (D), Speaker of the House
Phone: (302) 744-4351
Email: R[email protected]

  delaware, spanking

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