Last month, Gov. Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 234 into law, making Delaware the first state in the nation to effectively make it illegal for parents to use corporal discipline on their children.
The bill was opposed by several organizations, including the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which worked with the Delaware Home Education Association and the Delaware Family Policy Council in a failed bid to defeat the legislation earlier this year.
The legislation – sponsored by state Senate Majority Leader Patricia M. Blevins, a Senator representing Delaware’s 7th District — alters the state’s current child abuse and neglect laws by changing the definition of “physical injury” on Delaware’s existing statutes.
Under the legislation, a “physical injury” is described as the intentional infliction of “pain or impairment of physical condition” on a child. Under the new law, child abuse is categorized as a separate crime in Delaware, whereas child abuse cases before the law was enacted were prosecuted using the same statutes that pertain to adult victims.
The new legislation creates three new categories of child abuse. Parents that intentionally inflict “a physical injury” on a young person under the age of 18 are now guilty of class A misdemeanors, which may subject offenders to a one-year prison sentence. Those that are found guilty of intentionally or recklessly injuring a child who is under the age of 4 or has “significant” developmental disabilities — considered class G felonies within the state — may find themselves imprisoned for two years.
“The statute also expands the state of mind necessary for certain offenses against children allowing for more effective prosecution of parents who subject their children to abuse by others and fail to protect their children,” the law reads.
“These new statutes combine current statues and redefine physical injury and serious physical injury to reflect the medical realities of pain and impairment suffered by children,” the law reads.