Reuters , January 27, 1999

Oakland panel smacks 'no spanking' proposal

OAKLAND, Calif. - An Oakland city committee yesterday slapped down a proposal to set up America's first official "No Spanking Zone," voting instead to protect every parent's right to whack their disobedient children.

The Public Safety Committee of the Oakland City Council voted 2- 1 against the "no spank" plan urged by Jordan Riak, a child welfare advocate who has mounted a one-person campaign against corporal punishment.

The proposal, which would have discouraged spanking but would not have carried the force of law, is now likely to go to a vote by the full council in about two weeks. Few observers give it much chance of passing.

Nevertheless, Riak's spank-free concept has generated serious debate in Oakland, where in 1996 the school board whipped up controversy by voting to recognize "Ebonics," or black English, as a separate language.

Council member Nate Miley urged his fellow elected officials to use their votes to protect the city's children against over-eager adult disciplinarians.

But some parents at the meeting were unimpressed with the idea, saying that spankings can be valuable teaching tools.

"Why? Because they learn. It's like touching something hot," one mother told radio station KCBS.

While Riak's proposal would not have carried the force of law, it would have established Oakland as the first city in the country to officially discourage spanking and encourage concerned adults to step in when they feel that child abuse is being committed in the name of discipline.

The anti-spank campaigner was unbowed after the defeat, saying he was confident the debate would sensitize more people to the harm that spanking can do.

"When a little boy gets spanked its his first lesson in becoming a beater. When a little girl gets spanked its her first lesson that the people who love you can slap you around," Riak said.

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