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Is it Illegal to Spank your Child in Illinois?

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Without getting into the debate about whether spanking should be used to punish children, it is helpful to understand that there are indeed laws related to child punishment. In general, the state of Illinois leaves it up to parents to decide how best to discipline their child. Corporal punishment is not against the law – unless it becomes excessive.

Spanking is one of the most common forms of punishment used by parents, so we wanted to discuss whether or not the practice is actually illegal.

Understanding Illinois spanking laws

We want to turn to the law in Illinois that is responsible for this topic, the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act Section 325 ILCS 5/3. This law does allow a parent to spank their children. The law does state that parents must use only a reasonable amount of force and cannot “excessively” spank their children.

The language is indeed vague. Determining what a “reasonable” amount of force means is not always easy. This determination may look different depending on where a person resides. What may be seen as excessive by one judge may not be seen that way by another.

Corporal punishment of a child could turn into a battery charge under Illinois law. Anyone convicted of battery, which is a misdemeanor offense, could be punished by up to one year in jail and face a $2,500 fine. A battery charge cannot be expunged and the records cannot be sealed, so these convictions could damage your reputation and hinder your ability to get a job in the future.

What about using a ruler or a belt?

While the law does not specifically address items used to spank a child, using a spoon, ruler, belt, or other objects that leave visible marks on a child’s body may be seen as excessive.

What if you spank your child in public?

Many parents and guardians have been in public when their child acts up. Sometimes, punishment is necessary, but can you spank your child in public?

Generally, yes, a parent or guardian may spank their child in public. Again, the corporal punishment used must be reasonable and not excessive. However, what may seem reasonable to one person may not seem that way to someone else who is watching. Spanking your child in public could result in someone calling the police to report abuse. Many people do not believe in using corporal punishment on children at all, and they may be more inclined to call the police.

Can a teacher spank my child?

Illinois law prohibits corporal punishment in a professional setting by anyone other than a parent or guardian, including schools and daycares.

Everyone has a different idea on corporal punishment

Framing much of the debate about spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is a person’s background. Many people came from families that used spanking, while others did not. In many cases, the use of corporal punishment has to do with where a person grows up (rural or urban area), their cultural background, and what they have learned about child discipline.

There are a range of punishments that can be used to discipline a child. We urge you to keep in mind the potential legal consequences associated with any form of punishment. While Illinois law allows for corporal punishment, it does levy stiff penalties for child abuse.

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