Detroit Free Press, May 29, 1999

Oklahoma says 'no' to advice from California

OKLAHOMA CITY (REUTERS) -- Oklahoma is promoting child abuse by reminding parents they can spank, paddle or whip their children, a California child-welfare group alleged Friday.

Children's Institute International in Los Angeles criticized the Oklahoma Legislature for a bill passed this week, in reaction to the Colorado school shootings, that would amend state laws to make clear parents may use corporal punishment.

Oklahoma's House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill, which inserts a line into state child-abuse statutes permitting parents to employ "reasonable force" including spanking, paddling or using a switch.

The bill was sent to Gov. Frank Keating, who will decide by mid-June whether to sign it.

"Lawmakers would be better served spending their time finding the money to fund parent-education programs -- not laws that promote child abuse," the institute's chief executive, Mary Emmons, said in a statement.

Keating spokesman Rick Buchanan said: "For a group in California to watchdog Oklahoma, I find that interesting. If they want to come and live here, we will listen."

State law already allowed spanking, but supporters of the bill said adding the language to the child-abuse statute was a reminder of parental rights.

Supporters said they offered the amendment in reaction to the April rampage by two armed students who killed 13 people and themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

"Back when I grew up, we got our tails whipped at school, then got it again when we got home. We didn't have shootings," said the bill's author, Democratic Sen. Frank Shurden. The Children's Institute offers child-abuse treatment and prevention services in Los Angeles County.

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