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January 23, 2012

Life Sentence For Spanking?

If Senate Bill 2180 passes the Mississippi Legislature, a parent would be in jeopardy of receiving a life sentence in prison for spanking a child. Sponsored by Senator Brice Wiggins (District 52-Jackson), this 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.

Unfortunately, the terms “bodily harm” and “reasonable discipline” are not defined in the law, so it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment. 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? 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.

Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to track the progress of SB 2180 and work with the homeschoolers of Mississippi to bring about a defeat of this dangerous bill.