Pact sought on spanking in church-run child care

March 13, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Christian ministers and state child care regulators are working to reach a compromise on regulations that prohibit spanking in church-run child care centers.

Ministers from the Maryland Association of Christian Schools met Thursday in Annapolis with Department of Human Resources Secretary Carolyn W. Colvin and others to discuss the issue.

"What we're trying to do is come to a resolution of difficulties -- something we can all live with and work with," said the Rev. Shelton L. Smith of the Church of the Open Door in Westminster.

SG If the two sides can agree, Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll Republi

can, said he will withdraw his legislation to make church-run child care centers exempt from Department of Human Resources regulations scheduled to take effect in December.

The pastors say they do not want their child care programs to be further regulated by the state. They say they have no problem complying with fire, health and safety regulations, but do not want the state interfering with their instructional programs.

At legislative hearings earlier this month, the pastors testified that corporal punishment is part of their program. Spanking is used to discipline children when appropriate, they said. Program administrators usually call in parents to administer the punishment, they said.

Opponents, including state regulators and advocates of children's rights, said spanking should not be used to discipline children because they learn to settle their disputes with violence. Children also have been seriously injured as the result of spankings, they said.

Department of Human Resources regulations prohibit any actions that injure children or result in physical pain.

Del. Ronald A. Guns, a Cecil County Democrat who sponsored legislation in the House identical to Mr. Haines' bill, arranged last week's 90-minute meeting. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Mr. Guns is chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee, which heard his bill March 1.

The Senate bill was heard in the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 3.

Helen Szablya, director of public information for the Department of Human Resources, said last week's meeting was an attempt to clarify the regulations. She did not attend the meeting.

"My understanding is that it was a very productive meeting, and we're moving forward," she said Friday.

The ministers and state regulators plan to meet again early this week.

The ministers do not want to be required to get a state license for their child care centers. Mr. Haines said they proposed a system in which state Child Care Administration inspectors would not visit their child care centers.

The ministers proposed that they mail documents from fire and health inspectors, who would visit the centers, to state regulators before the beginning of each school year. They also would send documents verifying that criminal background checks have been completed for staff members, he said.

Their proposal also says that reasonable use of corporal punishment would be allowed, Mr. Haines said. Center personnel would call in parents to administer the punishment, and a teacher or other employee would witness the spanking, he said.

"I think that's a very reasonable, good solution," the senator said.

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