Thursday, November 29, 2007

Spanking and the Law

Much has been written recently about a proposed law which would outlaw spanking in Massachusetts. That got us interested in what the current status of the law was. For an excellent discussion of the legal limits on physical discipline, see Comm. v. Rubeck, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 396 (2005). This case says, in part, "The Legislature has not chosen to recognize or approve a parental right to use force in disciplining a child, and we know of no case in Massachusetts that specifically recognizes such a right, although there are allusions to this parental right in our cases." It continues, "in Commonwealth v. O'Connor, 407 Mass. 663, 667 (1990), the court discussed such a right, noting, however, that, as of that time, "[n]o Massachusetts decision or statute grants parents or others a right to use reasonable force in disciplining a child."

However, it also says, "Instruction 3.15 of the Massachusetts Superior Court Criminal Practice Jury Instructions (1st Supp. 2003) proposes a jury instruction stating that "[a] parent, or one acting in the position of a parent and who has assumed the responsibilities of a parent, may use reasonable force to discipline (his/her) minor child."

Laws and regulations specifically prohibiting corporal punishment in Massachusetts include: