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Brand New Legal Controversy Disciplining Children

Published on 06/25/2011 -

Brand-Spanking-New Legal Controversy on Disciplining Children

Texas judge Jose Longoria sentenced Rosalina Gonzalez to five years' probation for something that's not even illegal in that state. Her crime? Spanking her child. The case has sparked controversy about an issue often kept mum among parents.

Here are the facts of Gonzalez's case:

  • The child's grandmother noticed red marks on the child and took her to the hospital for examination.
  • Gonzalez admitted, in court, to spanking her daughter.
  • Her spanking did not leave marks on the child.
  • She pleaded guilty to a felony charge of causing injury to a child and got a sentence of probation, parenting classes and a small fine.

Texas law explicitly permits spanking, and clarifies that using force to discipline children is acceptable when done with certain instruments (an open hand, a belt) on certain body parts (the buttocks) and leaves no welts or bruises.

Corporal Discipline at Home: Who's to Decide?

As it turns out, the issue of corporal punishment is hot. And for every person who thinks states shouldn't be allowed to regulate spanking at all, there's one who thinks current laws are too lenient.

It's a tricky issue for a number of reasons:

  • It involves young children. They're not the most reliable witnesses (when they can talk at all) and often aren't old enough to testify. But spanking is usually a pretty private affair, meaning that determining what exactly happened in any case can be tough.
  • It's an area where traditional and contemporary thought are sharply at odds. You know the saying, "spare the rod, spoil the child?" That's still considered good advice by a lot of people. But to many others, the hands-off approach to discipline is king.
  • It's hard to define. When does spanking become abuse? An exact distinction is impossible and any approximate description feels almost silly.

Because Ms. Gonzalez pleaded guilty, she wont be able to appeal the decision, but the case has brought the issue to national attention. Future cases might add to the fire.

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