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Day care closed after spanking investigation

State officials have shut down a family-run day care center in Emporia, Kan., after allegations that the owner used prohibited punishment, which could include spanking or slapping, on the children in her care.

Pamela J. Gile received her license to operate the center on July 20, 2011, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Earlier this week, health officials alleged that Gile “used prohibited punishment” on children between Jan. 17 and Feb. 10, which besides spanking, could include verbal abuse, derogatory remarks and threats. The state issued an emergency order of suspension effective Feb. 14.


No other details were released. Efforts by msnbc.com to obtain a phone number for Gile were not successful.

“We can’t discuss any of it because it’s under investigation,” Barbara Hersh, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told msnbc.com.

Gile’s license authorized her to care for up to 10 children ages two weeks to 16 years, depending on their number and ages. Hersh said information about the number of children in Gile’s home at the time her license was suspended will be available when the investigation is complete.

Kansas, like most states, bans corporal punishment in child-care settings. But even in those states where it’s not illegal, authorities say corporal punishment can go too far.

On Wednesday, the owner of a day care center in Seneca, S.C., was arrested on allegations that she beat a 4-year-old boy, according to WYFF4.com. Tracy Dawn Maxie, 42, owner of Maxie Mom’s Daycare, is charged with unlawful conduct toward a child, the NBC affiliate reported.

Seneca Police Chief John Covington told the station's website: “In this case, we strongly feel that the line was crossed between administering discipline and committing a criminal act.”

The child had "severe bruising on the upper back, buttocks, to the upper part of the bottom of the legs,” Covington told WYFF4.com. “Those injuries wouldn't have appeared from a single blow. It was obvious that corporal punishment went way too far.”

Erin Wilkins of the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, in Colorado, told msnbc.com that corporal punishment should be banned in all child-care settings.

“Research links corporal punishment with negative effects such as later aggression, behavior problems in school, antisocial and criminal behavior, and impairment of learning,” she said.

The National Association for Family Child Care, based in Utah, seeks to improve the quality of home-based child care through an accreditation program that requires providers to comply with 289 standards, including not using corporal punishment or verbal abuse in disciplining children.

Of its 7,000 members, including current and former child care providers, 2,500 are accredited, according to Barbara Sawyer, director of special projects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against spanking as a discipline tool under any circumstances. A 2010 study published by the journal Pediatrics found that children who are spanked frequently at age 3 are more likely to be aggressive when they are 5.

“There are ways to discipline children effectively that do not involve hitting them and that can actually lower their risk for being more aggressive,” said Catherine Taylor in a statement at the time. Taylor was one of the co-authors of the study and is an assistant professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health.

“So the good news is, parents don’t have to rely on spanking to get the results that they want,” she said. “If they avoid spanking but instead use effective, non-physical types of discipline, their child has a better chance of being healthier and behaving better later.”

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