MSNBC, July 22, 1999

The Spanking Bill

RENO, NV July 22 – Many know it as “The Spanking Bill,” it’s a new Nevada law that allows parents to use corporal punishment on their children.

While some child advocacy groups come out against the measure at least one local parent says it’s an absolute necessity. The issue of spanking has always been an emotional one, many groups’ say it’s inappropriate to spank a child for any reason. Many parents say that sometimes it’s the only thing that works. We found one mom who says that the law will now protect people like her, who are falsely accused of child abuse.

Debra is the mother of a ten-year-old girl. Three years ago, the girlfriend of her daughter’s dad falsely accused her of beating her child with a hairbrush. “The police came to the daycare center and inspected my daughter without even notifying me...they found nothing,” said Debra. There was no physical evidence of discipline because Debra says she didn’t spank her child. Now, a new Nevada law will take child abuse claims off a person’s record, as long as there are no physical marks. Debra says it’s a godsend to parents like her. “It will protect me and others like me who are good parents,” she said.

Senator Bill Raggio introduced the bill saying that sometimes children need to be reasonably disciplined with a spanking. It does not protect anyone who leaves bruises, welts, scars, fractures or any other physical evidence of disciplinary action on a child. However, while parenting experts at the Children’s Cabinet couldn’t comment directly on Raggio’s law they say spanking isn’t ever the answer. “Hitting only teaches a child that hitting is appropriate. They’re getting a mixed message,” said Shelly Dickson, Children’s Cabinet. Her co-worker adds, “It damages their self-esteem and doesn’t teach them anything,” said Cynthia Martinez, Children’s Cabinet.

Debra says although she was never charged with any crime, the incident did result in a custody battle that has taken three years to resolve and she says she and her daughter will continue to feel the effects of that fight for a long time. The woman who falsely accused Debra says authorities told her they couldn’t prosecute her because she was protected by laws that are designed to protect anyone who reports allegations of child abuse–even if they turn out to be unfounded.

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