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Domestic CP - July 2015

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Desert Dispatch, Barstow, California, 5 July 2015

Our view: Spanking, abuse and discipline

By Desert Dispatch Editorial Board

Click to enlarge

Times change and so too do accepted social norms, as well as laws and public opinion.

Now you can add corporal punishment and disciplinary methods to that growing list.

An Apple Valley man recently received four days in jail, four years of probation and was ordered to stay away from his 14-year-old son after pleading no contest to misdemeanor willful cruelty of a child. His offense? He used his belt to spank his teenaged son because the boy came home with a bad report card.

According to court records, the spanking left marks on the boy. Thus, the authorities were called and the 33-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of inflicting injury on a child.

The father, who does not live in the same house with his son, ultimately accepted a plea deal and saw the charge reduced to willful cruelty to a child.

Many of us of a certain age remember being spanked by our fathers or mothers, often with a belt or tree branch. Such spankings frequently left marks, but also usually accomplished their desired intent -- to correct bad behavior. It was called parental discipline and a bad report card was very likely to initiate it.

Well into the 1970s many school teachers spanked unruly students, often with wooden paddles that left marks. Corporal punishment was regarded as necessary discipline, was fully sanctioned by most parents and few considered it child abuse.

Now, as we can see, times have changed. Is it any wonder more and more children seem out of control in school or at home? While we agree that it is quite possible to successfully discipline children without resorting to spanking them, we question the need to file charges against a father for spanking his son, even with a belt.

Worse yet, this man's sentence will only allow him to have contact with his son if the court approves it. Thus this boy, who didn't see his father every day anyway, now may not see him for four years unless the court approves it.

According to court documents, this man was charged with spousal abuse when he was 19. But he has no history of child abuse, had no other previous arrests and had faced no other criminal charges until this one.

We think it is important for the authorities and courts to do everything in their power to protect children from abuse. But the line between discipline and abuse seems to be getting very blurry. It's important for fathers to have a role in their children's lives, whether or not they live in the same house. And parental discipline, through corporal punishment, has the potential to keep children on track and out of trouble. Our prisons are full of criminals who lacked a father figure and who rarely faced any discipline at home or in school. Could a good spanking once in a while have changed the course for any of them?

© Copyright 2015 Local Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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