Delaware: 1st State in US to Jail Parents Who Spank

Delaware has become the first state in the US to effectively outlaw corporal discipline of children by their parents. Gov. Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 234 into law on September 12.

The legislation, 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 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.”

Under the new 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 Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), along with the Delaware Home Education Association and the Delaware Family Policy Council, opposed the legislation, saying the bill was “a violation of the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, including the long-recognized right to administer reasonable corporal discipline.”

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