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Domestic CP - November 2007

Corpun file 19824


Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 28 November 2007

State court to decide on legal limits of spanking

Where punishment drifts into abuse is the issue in the case of a father who hit his son 36 times.

By Rochelle Olson
Star Tribune

When Shawn Fraser's discipline failed to rein in his 12-year-old son, he turned to his religion, taking a wooden paddle to Gerard's upper thighs and posting Bible verses on the refrigerator, Fraser's lawyer told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

But after 36 blows, delivered in 12-blow increments, the 195-pound boy called authorities. Now the state Supreme Court will determine when discipline of a child crosses the line into physical abuse that requires a social worker's intervention.

For an hour Wednesday, the court heard arguments from the lawyers for Hennepin County, the boy's guardian ad litem and the parents.

Jill Waite, the attorney for Shawn Fraser, said the issue is, "How do we draw the line? How do we make it possible for parents to know what is OK and what is forbidden?"

The case dates to 2005. After Gerard called authorities, Hennepin County determined he was in need of protective intervention. The District Court agreed that he and his brother, Caleb, needed help.

But the family appealed, and in July the state Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, determining the parents were not physically abusive.

The Court of Appeals determined that for the county's intervention to be justified, physical abuse requires the use of unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances. The county appealed.

During Wednesday's oral arguments, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Mary Lynch argued that the totality of circumstances made this situation abusive, that the first 12 blows were "completely admissible."

The two boys are still living with their parents, who had to promise not to spank them, Clark said after the court session.

The spanking followed an incident in which Fraser said Gerard ran away from home and lied about where he had been. Midway through the spanking, Fraser's attorney said, the boy grabbed a knife and threatened to kill himself. The father took the knife and continued the paddling. Waite said, "I can't think of a more severe form of acting out than grabbing a knife and threatening to kill someone."

Justice Paul Anderson asked, "If a 12-year-old son grabs a knife and threatens suicide, is corporal punishment the appropriate answer?"

Waite said it may be appropriate if the child was being manipulative and trying to get his way. She also argued that no line was crossed because there was no injury to the child.

Justice Alan Page asked Lynch about the evidence of physical injury. Lynch said the incident as a whole created a "substantial risk of injury" and the record shows the discipline was "unreasonable."

But Page said, "If it was unreasonable, it seems to me you still have to establish physical injury."

Lynch said the child experienced "harm," but Page said the law doesn't talk about "harm."

Anderson asked Lynch whether the standard for abuse of "unreasonable physical discipline" was an objective one. Lynch said it was.

So, Anderson asked, what was it about the 36 paddles that sent this incident "Beyond the pale?"

Lynch said the third set of 12 was excessive because it was "extremely reactive in nature" and "did not fit with previously defined" discipline in the family.

Page inquired, "Are you suggesting our rule of law accommodate the rule of discipline a particular family has?"

Lynch said the discipline must fit within a family's scheme.

But Waite noted that the father had spoken with a social worker about corporal punishment before using it and was told he could use physical punishment as long as he left no marks or bruises. The paddling "was not a decision made in haste or anger. This was planned discipline," Waite said.

Briefly referencing the federal debate about torture, Anderson said he had a hard time concluding that physical injuries must be present for punishment to cross a line.

Lawyer Jill Clark, who represents Natalie Fraser, Gerard's mother, said the law clearly allows some pain to be inflicted. "When the discipline is excessive, now we're over the line," Clark said.

The case will be decided by six justices. Justice Sam Hanson did not participate. He is leaving the court at the end of the year and will be succeeded by Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Dietzen. Ironically, Dietzen wrote the Court of Appeals decision in this case. He will not participate in the Supreme Court's decision.

Corpun file 19835

ABC News logo (ABC TV news), New York, 28 November 2007

Should Spanking Your Child Be Illegal?

Proposed Massachusetts Law Would Ban Parents From Spanking Their Kids, Even at Home

From Good Morning America

A proposed Massachusetts law would outlaw corporal punishment, including spanking, even for parents disciplining their kids at home. (PhotoDisc)

Massachusetts lawmakers say a proposed measure that would ban parents from spanking their children, even in their own homes, is a way to protect kids from abuse. But many parents believe it's an example of government run amok.

In all 50 states, parents are legally allowed to spank their children. But in 29 states it's illegal for a teacher to practice corporal punishment, including spanking.

A Massachusetts nurse is hoping to change that and make the state the first in the nation to ban corporal punishment at home.

"I think it's ironic that domestic violence applies to everyone except the most vulnerable -- children," said Kathleen Wolf, who wrote the bill.

Massachusetts lawmakers will consider the bill today.

The very idea of the bill has stirred huge controversy, because many parents say the state is trying to take away what's been a tried and true method of child-rearing. As many a mom has said, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."

"We don't spank her, but I think that ought to be a parent's choice," one Massachusetts father said of the bill.

And one mother echoed the sentiments of many, saying, "I don't want the government telling me how to raise my children."

Nineteen countries have banned corporal punishment, and some child-rearing experts believe one day the United States will do so as well.

"I don't know if it's an idea whose time has come. But it's possibly one whose time is coming," said Lisa Berlin, a professor at the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy.

Wolf has children and said she has "swatted my kids a couple times."

She says she's not recommending that parents who spank their kids should face jail time, as they do in Sweden, or fines as they do elsewhere.

"I don't think the idea is to punish people. I think the idea is to give them the support that they need," Wolf said.

Copyright 2007 ABCNews Internet Ventures

Corpun file 19833

Boston Herald, Massachusetts, 28 November 2007

Anti-spanking bill is folly

By Boston Herald editorial staff

This may come as a shock to some activists in this pro-government state of ours, but not every policy matter demands the swift and immediate attention of the state legislature. And that's especially true when there are already plenty of laws on the books to address the matter at hand.

We were reminded of all this yesterday, with news that lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban corporal punishment, including in the home.

The bill is wholly unnecessary for more than the obvious reason - which would be the government regulation of parenting. Would the Spanking Police have a right to storm the front door if they hear that Dad gave Junior a swat for playing in traffic?

But beyond excessive interference, the simple fact is that authorities already have plenty of laws at their disposal to prosecute when mild spanking gives way to child abuse. The Supreme Judicial Court has already ruled that parents can spank their children provided they do not threaten bodily injury, but criminal statutes exist to guard against abuse.

Curiously, Arlington nurse Kathleen Wolf says the bill she is pushing is not meant to punish parents who spank (the section of the bill that says spanking may be the basis for a finding of parental abuse was inserted by "lawyers," she said during an interview on 96.9 WTKK yesterday) but is simply meant to educate the public about child abuse. Indeed, the bill spells out that it is "intended to actively support nonviolent parenting."

Gee, that sounds wonderful.

But there are plenty of organizations whose entire mission centers on protecting children from abuse. The state's own Children's Trust Fund, partially funded by taxpayers, comes immediately to mind.

If Wolf wants to support nonviolent parenting, she certainly doesn't need the imprimatur of 200 state lawmakers to do so. Parents don't need a politician to tell them how to discipline their kids. And prosecutors don't need a meaningless statute on the books to go after true abusers.

Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Media.

Corpun file 19834

TimeWarner logo (Capital News 9 - TimeWarner TV), Albany, New York, 28 November 2007

Bay State nurse wants corporal punishment banned in household

By Jaime Kazlo

MASSACHUSETTS -- If one Massachusetts woman gets her way, spanking will not be allowed inside Bay State homes.

Kathleen Wolf, a nurse from Massachusetts, introduced the legislation.

Wolf said, "We need to have it on the books that, yes, it is much more appropriate to use other forms of discipline."

If signed into law, parents wouldn't be able to forcefully lay a hand on any child under the age of 18 unless it was to protect them from danger.

Wolf called on Representative Jay Kaufman to submit her petition.
Now, lawmakers on Beacon Hill are debating the issue.

"A little swat on the seat is not abuse, but we need to educate people about corporal punishment," Wolf said.

Several lawmakers say parents are best suited to decide on how to discipline their children. Some lawmakers even question how police could possibly enforce such a ban. Meanwhile, people in Massachusetts are speaking out.

Enid Fuhrman of Pittsfield said, "To a certain degree I think parents should be able to give their children a little spanking if they deserve it."

Joan Mullaney of Pittsfield said, "I really don't want to support violence in any form. I think if we can find other ways to help children rather than striking them, I think it is a good idea."

Dick Calwel of Pittsfield said, "Some parents can give their kid almost a lovable tap on the behind and say behave. I don't think there is any harm in that. It's just when it is taken to excess."

The Legislature has ended its formal sessions for this year, so the earliest the bill could be passed would be next year. If the legislation becomes law it would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to ban corporal punishment.

Copyright 2007 TWEAN d.b.a. Capital News 9

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