Reuters, January 11, 1999

Ready For A "No Spank Zone"?

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - Californians are proud to be smoke-free, fat-free and stress-free. But are they ready to be spank-free?

Child welfare activist Jordan Riak said on Monday he was proposing that the city of Oakland establish itself as the country's first official "No Spanking Zone" to discourage parents from hitting their children.

"At the moment, people are whipping and beating and hurting their children with nobody telling them what they are doing is wrong and dangerous," Riak told Reuters. "We want to break down that wall of silence."

Riak's proposal will be put before the Oakland City Council's public safety committee on Jan. 26. He has a "No Spanking" proclamation already drawn up and ready to go, along with "No Spanking" posters that he would like to see displayed in Oakland's libraries, parks, schools and police stations.

While Riak's proposal would not carry the force of law, he hopes that it will encourage concerned adults to step in when they feel that child abuse is being committed in the name of discipline.

"We feel that children should get exactly the same protection against assault and battery that every adult enjoys," the 64-year-old former teacher said, adding that current California law allows parents far too much latitude in how they treat their children.

Riak, who runs a one-man non-profit organization Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education and an anti-spanking website (, said that successful passage of his proposal in Oakland could open the way for a broader debate over the merits of spanking.

But several leaders in Oakland said they were not sure that a "No Spanking Zone" was the best way to go.

"I feel discipline sometimes needs corporal punishment," City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente told the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that he himself was spanked frequently as a child.

"I'm not talking about abuse, but a slap on the butt is nothing that kills anyone. I don't think I would support (the resolution), even if it is just symbolic."

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