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Corpun file 3947
Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1999
Zeal to Rein In Teens Grows, as Does Backlash
By Melissa Healy
WASHINGTON -- If you're a teenager in Tennessee and have the urge to get, say, your navel pierced this weekend, you'll need to bring along your mom or dad. In Indiana, if you're planning to punch a hole in anything other than your ears, you'll need a note from your parents.
You'll need a letter from the parents too if you want to cruise out with your friends in any one of hundreds of American communities after dark this evening.
And in Oklahoma, if you're younger than 18, your parents now can deliver a "spanking, paddling or switching" without fear of state intrusion, in the wake of legislation drafted in response to the April school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., that claimed 15 lives.
In statehouses and town meetings across the country, parents are rising up to protect, defend and extend their dominion over their children. And they are finding plenty of willing allies among state lawmakers and school administrators.
But the zeal to stem teen violence and general waywardness also is sparking objections from kids and civil libertarians.
"There is definitely, post-Columbine, a real push on getting youth away from high-risk activities as these politicians see it," said Galen Price, a 16-year-old student from Lewisville, N.C., who is president of the International Students' Activism Alliance, a group that promotes high school students' rights. "I see a lot of angry kids who are saying: 'They think they're gonna make us any better by taking away our rights?' It's just making us angrier. It's not helping anyone.'"
Hundreds of state laws passed in the wake of the Littleton shootings took effect Thursday, and many of them will put some pretty unwelcome ties on teens. Among them are Indiana's and Tennessee's body-piercing measures and Oklahoma's paddling law, whose author declared that teens are out of control because they lack discipline from their parents.
But already there are rumblings of teen backlash against the rising tide of restrictions. In Internet chat rooms frequented by teenagers, for instance, there is growing talk of a "National Break-the-Curfew Day," a night when kids subject to town or city curfews pour into the streets to signal their opposition to the limits.
"A lot of people fear kids, and there's a really bad mentality out there that kids are dangerous and that everyone needs to do something to prevent another shooting," said Ben Smilowitz, a youth in West Hartford, Conn., who recently turned 18 and has crusaded against curfews.
"Curfews are just plain-old stupid. They make kids criminals, and that makes them feel isolated and criminalized. That's how the [Columbine] school shooters felt. What exactly are we trying to prevent here?" he said.
Some of the proposals irking teens and their allies were in the works before the Littleton shootings. But virtually all gained momentum in the wake of the shootings, as politicians scrambled to respond to a public clamor for action.
Vincent Schiraldi of the Washington-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice said that the number of communities embracing youth curfews has picked up significantly since the Littleton shootings. And school-based drug-testing proposals have become common, according to attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The House of Representatives weighed in as well, voting this week to close a loophole in 42 states' laws that would allow many minors, by crossing state lines, to get abortions without their parents' permission.
"The parents' claim to authority in their own household to direct the rearing of their child is basic to the structure of our society," Rep. Charles T. Canady (R-Fla.) thundered Wednesday on the floor of the House. Noting that a recent national poll found 85% in support of the parental-consent measure, Canady warned opponents that they "should listen to the voice of the American people on this subject [and] reject the arguments that come forth from those who want to deprive the parents of any right to involvement."
Not all of the proposed restrictions on teenagers have made it into law, to be sure. In Oklahoma, a state bill introduced before the Littleton shootings that would have blocked minors from getting tattoos languished and died. In Massachusetts, state Rep. Thomas Kennedy in May pressed for passage of a bill to bar the sale of "exotic hair dyes" to minors. Kennedy filed the bill after a constituent complained that there was nothing to stop her 10-year-old sister from buying hair dye and using it to turn her tresses hot-pink.
Kennedy withdrew the bill after it kicked up a storm of ridicule around the state -- most of it from young people. One teen, responding to an Internet poll, told the Massachusetts lawmaker: "Get real here. You are worried about coloring when students are getting killed in public schools. . . ? Your views are somewhat Victorian, as well as moronic."
Around the same time that Kennedy withdrew his bill, a Virginia school district suspended 16-year-old Kent McNew for his blue hair. In a policy statement that a judge later ruled unenforceable, Surrey County school officials said that they would suspend students with "unusual or unique" colored hair until such time as the student's hair color is accepted as "normal" by the school board.
Ann Beeson, a staff attorney for the ACLU's national legal department, said that she thinks politicians and school boards are misreading parents' intentions in pressing for new restrictions on teens. Many parents, she acknowledged, are perplexed and troubled by teen culture. But few want their own children's rights to be curtailed in the effort to address the problems of youth today.
"It's about parents' rights until your kid gets into trouble," said Beeson. "When your kid gets into trouble for something as mild as dying his hair blue, you're up in arms. The schools are getting the vibes from parents that there should be a crackdown -- and some parents do want that, yes. But we're getting flooded by calls from students -- and their parents -- who can't believe the things that are happening."
Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved
The Washington Post, 11 July 1999
Spanking, Hugs and Conservative Christians
New facts and hot stats from the social sciences
By Richard Morin
Sociologists have consistently reported that it can sometimes hurt growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family. Based on survey data, these researchers suggest that conservative Protestants are perhaps twice as likely to use corporal punishment than other parents.
Well, that's only half the story -- the bad half, says Princeton sociologist Bradford Wilcox, who spent the past six months studying parenting and religious beliefs as a Civitas Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Wilcox agrees that religious conservatives don't spare the rod. But neither do they spare hugs and kisses. His survey research shows that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians are more than twice as likely to hug and praise their young children as parents who aren't religious conservatives. He and sociologist John Bartkowski also have found that conservative Protestants are far less likely to say they yell at their kids, according to their analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households conducted by the University of Wisconsin, which included interviews with 4,458 parents of children 18 and younger.
In the poll, parents were asked how often they spanked, hugged, praised and yelled at their children. Other questions measured the extent of their religious conservatism, such as whether they believed that everything in the Bible is literally true.
Wilcox said his research stands as a corrective to a growing body of scholarship that depicts conservative Protestant parents as abusive and emotionally distant. It's a view epitomized by a presidential address delivered a few years ago by noted theologian and psychologist Donald Capps of the Princeton Theological Seminary to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. His title: "Religion and Child Abuse: Perfect Together."
"That," Wilcox said, "was incredible." Rather than abuse, Wilcox said he found "a controlled style of discipline, where spanking is used in certain situations but where there is less yelling and where parents are far more expressive in their interactions with their children."
Boston Herald, Massachusetts, 15 July 1999
Strapping unruly son lands mother in court
By Michael Lasalandra
When Brenda Frazier's 10-year-old boy mouthed off at her once too often, she decided to discipline him.
The 46-year-old single mother of three from Roxbury says she simply took off her belt and strapped the boy across the legs.
She's now facing 2 years in jail.
Following the May incident, the boy called the police and Frazier was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. She is scheduled to be tried today in Roxbury District Court.
"I'm a good mother," Frazier said. "I was just disciplining the boy. I didn't cause him any harm. I spanked him because he was getting fresh. He was being very disrespectful, talking like I wasn't even his mother."
But the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II doesn't see it that way. Spokesman David Falcone says the woman allegedly strapped the boy repeatedly as her boyfriend held him down.
"They noticed large welts on the boy's legs," Falcone said. "They talked to the boy, who told him that his mother had beaten him on several occasions in the same manner.
"It is not just a matter of disciplining her kid," he said. "This is a pretty serious case."
Frazier, however, denies anybody held the child down. And she said she hit him "only three or four times."
Her pastor and others in the Roxbury community say the district attorney's office is going way overboard.
"She's a wonderful woman," said the Rev. Ivan Cutts, pastor of the Greater Boston Church of God in Christ.
"This is crazy. She is very supportive of her children. She has helped them in every way."
Cutts said his entire congregation and many of the teachers and the principal at the boy's school are supporting Frazier, who suffered a stroke three years ago that left her partially paralyzed.
"She's as sweet as pie," Cutts said. "She doesn't abuse her kids. What was she supposed to do? Earlier, the boy had tried to hit her. You can't let your child beat on you."
Rudy Miller, Frazier's lawyer, said her 14-year-old boy has been in and out of trouble and did a stint in Department of Youth Services custody. He said Frazier is trying to keep her 10-year-old twin boys from going down the same path.
Frazier said the boy may have been put up to calling the police by his father, who is involved in a custody dispute over the twin boys.
The father could not be reached for comment. He has taken custody of the twins since the mother's arrest, sources said.
Frazier said the boy wasn't hurt. "I didn't hit him on the face or even on the back. It was just across his legs."
She said parents must have the right to discipline their children - for the kids' own good.
"I see kids out on the street and I don't want my child to be like that," she said. "I'm trying to nip it in the bud. I'm not going to tolerate it. I have to stand firm."
Miller said he will argue in court this morning that parents have the right to use "reasonable force" in disciplining their children.
"I can establish a basis for parents to physically discipline children," he said.
In 1998, a judge ruled that a Woburn minister does not have the right to spank his son, saying the punishment could constitute child abuse. The case involved charges filed by the Department of Social Services against Donald Cobble.
DSS is not involved in the Frazier case.
MSNBC.com, 21 July 1999
"The Spanking Bill"
RENO, NV July 21 - Many know it as "The Spanking Bill," it's a new Nevada law that allows parents to use corporal punishment on their children.
While some child advocacy groups come out against the measure at least one local parent says it's an absolute necessity. The issue of spanking has always been an emotional one, many groups' say it's inappropriate to spank a child for any reason. Many parents say that sometimes it's the only thing that works. We found one mom who says that the law will now protect people like her, who are falsely accused of child abuse. Debra is the mother of a ten-year-old girl. Three years ago, the girlfriend of her daughter's dad falsely accused her of beating her child with a hairbrush. "The police came to the daycare center and inspected my daughter without even notifying me...they found nothing," said Debra. There was no physical evidence of discipline because Debra says she didn't spank her child.
Now, a new Nevada law will take child abuse claims off a person's record, as long as there are no physical marks. Debra says it's a godsend to parents like her. "It will protect me and others like me who are good parents," she said. Senator Bill Raggio introduced the bill saying that sometimes children need to be reasonably disciplined with a spanking. It does not protect anyone who leaves bruises, welts, scars, fractures or any other physical evidence of disciplinary action on a child. However, while parenting experts at the Children's Cabinet couldn't comment directly on Raggio's law they say spanking isn't ever the answer. "Hitting only teaches a child that hitting is appropriate. They're getting a mixed message," said Shelly Dickson, Children's Cabinet. Her co-worker adds, "It damages their self-esteem and doesn't teach them anything," said Cynthia Martinez, Children's Cabinet. Debra says although she was never charged with any crime, the incident did result in a custody battle that has taken three years to resolve and she says she and her daughter will continue to feel the effects of that fight for a long time. The woman who falsely accused Debra says authorities told her they couldn't prosecute her because she was protected by laws that are designed to protect anyone who reports allegations of child abuse -- even if they turn out to be unfounded.
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