Democrats on a legislative committee in California have advanced a plan that would make criminals of any parent who uses “a stick, a rod, [or] a switch” to discipline their misbehaving child, and parents rights’ organizations are up in arms.

“This was a bad day for parental rights in California,” said Karen England, of Capitol Resource Institute.

“Arrogant California legislators have decided … they know how to raise children better than parents. However, we are confident that California parents will make their voice heard and defeat these despicable bills,” she said.

California Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Sally Lieber (California Assembly)

The proposal is AB755, a plan by California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, that is billed as a plan for “corporal punishment.”

But it does more.

“AB755 biases police officers, social workers, district attorneys and juries to regard traditional methods of child discipline as hateful, harmful abuse,” said Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families.

“This irresponsible committee has passed a very irresponsible bill. Since juries already have broad authority to convict and sentence child abusers, AB755 is unnecessary. The real purpose of the bill is to transform good parents who use traditional methods of discipline into suspected child abusers in the eyes of the law,” Thomasson said.

According to the bill, a parent who spanks their child will be placed on probation for four years, forced to attend a “nonviolent parental education class” and be the subject of a criminal court protective order “protecting the victim from further acts of violence.”

Among those testifying before the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee against the plan were constitutional attorney David Llewellynof Sacramento, Thomasson and others.

As amended by the committee, the penalties for parents who even use a bedroom slipper to swat an unruly child would be subject to being reported and prosecuted on the word of any police officer or social worker, counselor or member of the clergy, opponents said.

“The inclusion of a ‘nonviolent parental education class’ reveals that AB755 continues to target loving parents who spank with a switch, paddle, a stick, or other traditional child-rearing methods,” according to a statement from opponents. “Existing law already allows judges to order convicted child abusers into ‘a child abuser’s treatment counseling program.’ There is no reason for a ‘nonviolent parental education class.'”

Speaking against and voting “no” on AB755 were Republicans Greg Aghazarian of Stockton and Joel Anderson of El Cajon. Voting “yes” on AB755 were Democrats Jose Solorio of Santa Ana, Hector De La Torre of Southgate, Fiona Ma of San Francisco and Mark Leno of San Francisco.

“Parents and grandparents are calling upon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto AB755 if it reaches his desk,” said Thomasson. “Because this bill biases authorities against parents who spank, AB755 continues to view good parents who lovingly correct their children as suspected child abusers.”

“Parents often use a wooden spoon or ruler to spank their children. This legislation actually bans the use of ‘a stick, a rod, a switch, a belt’ – tools often used by responsible parents in spanking disobedient children,” England has said on the issue. “As a parent, I am angered that the government is declaring my disobedient child ‘a victim’ and intervening in the raising of my children.”

The original Lieber plan created “a ‘rebuttable presumption’ that when parents discipline their children, they are abusers,” said Meredith Turney, CRI’s legislative liaison. While that has been modified, the plan still should be unacceptable to Californians, she said.

“Discipline is used to protect children from disobedient behavior that could harm them. It is appalling that the government is treating parents like criminals when there are dangerous sexual predators on our streets,” she said.

As WND reported earlier, officials with the Campaign for Children and Families described Lieber’s bill as a specific attack on parental authority, providing an outright ban on spanking with a utensil such as a spoon, and leaving it up to judges to decide if spanking with an open hand is legal or not.

Thomasson said it’s clear that child abuse needs to be prevented. But it should be handled separately. “Legitimate child abuse provisions in this bill, such as ‘vigorous shaking of a child under the age of three,’ deserve to be in another bill and completely separated from spanking,” his group said earlier.

The proposal already has been dissected in the media. Before its introduction, the Contra Costa Times said the bill, “is completely unenforceable. Are we to expect a 2-year-old to dial 911 and report a parent for swatting him or her on the behind?”

The editorial took a straightforward shot at the issue.

“With all of the pressing problems facing our state, what issue has the knickers of our esteemed lawmakers in such a twist? What burning concern has the ponderous pundits on the cable news shows frothing at the mouth?

“Global warming? Plunging real estate values? Good-paying jobs being shipped off to India every time you turn around? Maybe the governor’s new health care proposal?

“None of the above.

“The latest meaningless, national distraction, is a silly bill proposed by Assembly Pro Tem Speaker Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, that would make it a crime to spank any child 3 years old or younger.”

The editorial’s suggestion? “Get real.”

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