|www.corpun.com : Archive : 2001 : US Judicial May 2001|
The Houston Chronicle, Texas, 8 May 2001, p.17A
Critics decry courtroom paddling
Father is ordered to swat foster son
By Harvey Rice
CONROE - Child service agencies are fuming over a Montgomery County justice of the peace's order that a foster parent paddle an 11-year-old boy in the courtroom.
But Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace John Kleimann defended his actions, saying, "He doesn't understand any other punishment but corporal punishment.
"That was the way I was raised and you were raised, and we were much better kids than the current generation."
The punishment - three swats with a paddle administered Wednesday as the boy bent over a table - drew harsh criticism from the foster care agency that placed the child and from the state agency charged with child welfare, Child Protective Services.
"In our view it would be highly inappropriate for a judicial officer to order a child spanked," said Eli Bell, counsel for Therapeutic Family Life in Austin.
"Most of the children we care for have emotional issues anyway," Bell said. "Certainly they need to be held accountable for their actions, but there are many other ways to hold children accountable."
Teresa Maness, a Child Protective Services supervisor, said agency regulations prohibited foster parents from spanking children.
"CPS' position as an agency is that we want to follow licensing regulations and laws and would expect a member of the judiciary to follow the laws they have been elected to uphold," Maness said.
Kleimann said the foster parent wanted to paddle the child, but could not do so without consulting the placement agency and getting a court order.
"I said, 'You have an order at this time,' " Kleimann said.
"He was using profanity real bad," the judge said of the child. "I said what he needs is corporal punishment."
Bell and Maness said the foster parent, whose name they would not divulge, spanked the child only because the judge ordered him to.
"That's not the information we have," Bell said about the judge's assertion that his order matched the foster parent's desire. "We feel like our foster parent had no choice."
Maness said the foster parent feared he would be jailed if he refused the judge's order.
Both agencies withheld the name of the child, a fifth-grader at Turner Intermediate School in the Willis school district.
The child was sent to Kleimann's court after being cited by a sheriff's deputy or constable for misbehavior at school, Maness said.
She said Willis school district teachers commonly call law enforcement officers to issue citations to unruly students.
Guylene Robertson, school district assistant superintendent for accountability and planning, did not respond to a request for comment.
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