Corporal Punishment in Illinois

The issue of child discipline has been a hotly debated topic for centuries and varies in response depending on the person’s cultural background. In most cultures, spanking is an acceptable and encouraged form of discipline. The point of contention has been, however, the form and extent of the spanking.

Pursuant to Illinois law, it is considered child abuse if a parent inflicts “excessive corporal punishment” on his or her child. In other words, corporal punishment is allowed so long as it is not “excessive”. But what exactly qualifies as “excessive”? Corporal punishment could mean spanking, hitting, slapping, pinching and could range from a light spanking on the butt to severe whips across the back leaving visible marks. The standard by which a judge will rank the extent of the corporal punishment is “reasonableness”. The problem with this standard, however, is that what may be reasonable in Chicago may not be reasonable in a small rural town in southern Illinois. There are differences even within Chicago depending on the person’s economic and cultural background. As such, how can one judge determine what standard is “reasonable” or “excessive”?

Although there are no direct answers within the law itself, there is case law that seems to hint that light spanking on the butt of a younger child leaving no marks and not done out of anger is acceptable, and any form of discipline that involves the use of a weapon, i.e. a belt, a spoon or a shoe, that leaves visible marks on the child’s body, is excessive. Within these two extremes you will see very different fact patterns that are hard to define exactly. The outcome will depend on the judge or jury’s background with defined notions of what kind of corporal punishment is acceptable, and your attorney’s ability to properly convey to the judge that the discipline either was or was not excessive.

If this is your situation or if you have any other questions regarding corporal punishment laws in Illinois, talk to an experienced attorney that can help.