From today's Chronicle: State Senator Harold Dutton, Jr., a Houston Democrat, has introduced a bill into the legislature to "protect" parents who use corporal punishment on their children. (Dutton filed the same bill in the 2003 session. I am glad that the Texas legislature only convenes for a few months every other year; the less they are in Austin, the less trouble they can cause.)

Now, some background: Texas law does not prohibit corporal punishment. (Neither does the law in any other state.) Texas is also one of 32 states that have not banned it in school, either. So Dutton's bill does not create any new right or really change the law.

Dutton says the bill is intended to send a message to parents that spanking is okay, and that it's needed because child protection agencies have been "overzealous" in investigating parents who've used corporal punishment. Now, if the problem were the behavior of agencies, you'd think Dutton would have filed a bill that specifically addressed the standards agencies use in deciding when to investigate. But instead, he's offered this vague bill.

The Chronicle gives some examples of cases where parents have been investigated (and agencies have determined that abuse did not take place):

One Houston woman whipped her 14-year-old granddaughter with an extension cord after the girl left for school on a Friday and didn't return home until Sunday.

A Brazoria County minister used a belt to discipline his teenage daughter, and a Houston lawyer gave his 16-year-old daughter a swat with a board when she disobeyed and talked back to him.

Whipping your child with an extension cord? Whipping your child for talking back?

The article says, "Those who support corporal punishment, including Dutton, often point to their own upbringing, saying the swats they got as children were well-deserved and kept them well-grounded."

Swats are one thing. I am trying to think of a way that you could describe being whipped with an electrical cord as a "swat."

Another bit of background: in 2002, the last year for which I could find statistics, the Texas Child Protective Services department confirmed 74,199 cases of child abuse and neglect, 12,800 of which were physical abuse. 76.6% of the perpetrators of abuse and neglect chases were parents.

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