January 30, 2002

South Dakota Keeps Spanking Legal

Spanking is still legal in South Dakota, despite the state department of social services' (DSS) diligent efforts. On January 14, 2002, the House Judiciary Committee rejected a DSS-drafted measure that could have turned spanking into felony child abuse.

House Bill 1013 would have defined felony abuse to include "any injury that occurs as the result of any repeated harm to any bodily function or organ including human skin." Unfortunately, the same bill defined "injury" to include both "physical injury" and "emotional injury." Under such a law, any prosecutor who believes that spanking causes "emotional injury" could file felony child abuse charges against a parent who spanks a child.

When the bill came before the House Judiciary Committee, the DSS attorney who authored H.B. 1013 stood to speak in favor of it. The legislators quickly began to grill him on whether this measure could be used to prosecute parents for spanking. After the bad effects of the bill became obvious, the committee voted 11-1 to table it. That means it will not become law this year, and South Dakota parents can breathe freely for another year.

HSLDA believes that true child abusers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The wrongdoing of a few, however, should not compromise the freedom and constitutional rights of the rest of American citizens who are considered innocent until proven guilty.

An audio recording of the committee debate is accessible on the Internet at: