USA TODAY, January 12, 1999

Spanking could get timeout in California
By Karen Thomas

The nation's child and adolescent psychiatrists Tuesday endorsed a proposal that Oakland, Calif., become the USA's first No Spanking Zone.

The proposal, which will be considered Jan. 26 by Oakland's City Council, is being put forth by Jordan Riak, executive director of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, and is designed to discourage spanking of children anywhere, not just in schools.

It would not have force of law even if approved, but Riak believes it "will have tremendous moral persuasion." He has designed No Spanking Zone posters that he wants displayed in schools, libraries, parks and other public buildings.

In a letter to city council member Nathan Miley, David Pruitt, president of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), wrote: "If your no-spanking resolution is adopted, not only will your city enjoy the benefits, but other cities may follow your example." Richard Goldwasser, president of AACAP's northern California chapter, also signed the letter.

Riak believes that passing the proposal would encourage bystanders to step in when they believe discipline measures begin to resemble abuse.

He compares the posters to today's "no smoking" signs. "If you light up a cigarette, you won't be arrested, but it reminds everyone that it's not acceptable behavior."

But Riak's symbolic proposal may not fare well. Oakland City Council president Ignacio De La Fuente told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would not support the resolution. "I'm not talking about abuse, but a slap on the butt is nothing that kills anyone," he said. The city council office did not return calls Tuesday.

Riak says he won't be surprised if the proposal fails: "We'll have to come back and do it again. However, if you ask, 'What do you think in 20 years will be America's attitude about spanking?' I'd be surprised if it was tolerated."

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents