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Domestic CP - February 2001

Corpun file 6620

Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 February 2001

Spanking bill OK'd despite concerns

By Bob Bernick Jr.
Deseret News political editor

A bill that specifically allows parents to spank their children without fear of state social workers taking the child out of the home passed the House Friday. But a number of Democratic representatives complained that HB387 sends the wrong message:

It's OK to spank a child.

"I hate us, as a body, to support spanking of any kind. I don't think it is something to do. It's wrong for those bigger and stronger to hit someone younger," said Rep. Judy Ann Buffmire, D-Salt Lake, a psychologist. "It's a lesson we are teaching (that) we shouldn't teach."

But Rep. Matt Throckmorton, R-Springville, sponsor of the bill, said it's just common sense. If the law isn't changed, in rare instances a spanked child calls the Division of Family Services to complain about child abuse and a social worker must respond.

Even if the worker determines that no abuse took place, the report is listed as unsubstantiated and the parent is on the state's child abuse register for 10 years. If a social worker substantiates the spanking as an abuse, the parent's name is on the register for life.

Throckmorton said one parent called him over the weekend to say a social worker removed his child from his home after a spanking and it took him six weeks to get the child out of state custody.

The bill excludes spanking from the definition of abuse, if the spanking by hand or paddle causes no bruise, cuts, broken bones or permanent injury, Throckmorton said.

Throckmorton said his bill allows a social worker to close out the case where only a spanking occurs.

But Rep. Pat Jones, D-Cottonwood Heights, said pediatricians believe spanking harms children and can lead to increased instances of alcohol and drug abuse and depression in adults.

Several House members rose to say they were spanked as children, and they turned out OK.

"My father spanked me," said Rep. Donnelson, R-North Ogden. "But he never beat me. And there's a difference, and parents can understand that."

Throckmorton said if everyone in the House chamber rose who was spanked as a child, most would be standing. "And we're not surrounded by drug dealers, thugs and punks but by honorable people."

Most of the Democrats voted against the bill, most of the Republicans voted for it, and it passed 51-20 to the Senate.

© 2001 Deseret News Publishing Company

Corpun file 6618

Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 27 February 2001

Not even 2nd vote in Senate can save the spanking bill

Doubts about the measure's impact helped spell its doom

By Jennifer Dobner
Deseret News staff writer

The Senate spanked a bill that would allow parents to use corporal punishment as a reasonable means of discipline without fear of losing their children to state custody.

The measure failed Monday on a vote of 13-16. It was the second vote on HB387, which had also failed during a morning vote but was called back by Republicans because two senators were absent.

In the end, even full attendance couldn't get the bill passed. Republicans Dave Gladwell, North Ogden, and Dan Eastman, Bountiful, both switched their morning "aye" votes to "nay" by the afternoon.

"I really struggled with this bill," Gladwell said during a break in the afternoon floor session. "I felt like if I had a child I would have to put these new parameters on the wall above their bed and then I'd have to try and figure out what they mean. I felt like we had created an almost impossible task."

Hearing that Gov. Mike Leavitt didn't care for the bill also influenced Gladwell's decision. Lt. Gov. Olene Walker told Gladwell and several other senators that the governor would likely veto the bill and didn't want to be put in that position, Gladwell said.

Had the bill passed, parents who choose to spank as a "reasonable" form of discipline could still have their children removed by the state but not be added to the child abuse database maintained by the Division of Child and Family Services. The bill sought to draw a line between a parent's right to impose reasonable discipline and abuse, which was detailed as specific kinds of mental and physical harm in the proposed statute.

Bill sponsor Rep. Matt Throckmorton, R-Springville, called the Senate vote the "smoke and mirrors of the status quo" and said he didn't believe that senators understood the issues or how easily DCFS can remove children from parental custody.

Last year DCFS removed almost 1,200 children, Throckmorton said. And although about 70 percent of those were returned to their parents within a few months, most should never have been removed. The bill could have saved families months of anguish and thousands of dollars, Throckmorton said.

"In the end what the Senate is saying is that they would rather just pass the buck and let the system be," Throckmorton said. "Losing (for me) is not an issue, but losing out of ignorance is frustrating."

© 2001 Deseret News Publishing Company

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