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Domestic CP - November 2001

Columbus Dispatch, Ohio, 28 November 2001

Line drawn between abuse, punishment

By Tom Sheehan
Dispatch Staff Reporter

MARION, Ohio -- A father who slapped his 17-year-old son for making an inappropriate remark said he was administering corporal punishment.

A deputy sheriff, however, called it domestic violence and arrested the father. The charges were later dropped in municipal court.

Because Marion County Prosecutor James Slagle and Sheriff John Butterworth didn't see eye to eye on the arrest, Slagle asked Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery to weigh in on the matter.

In October, a year after Slagle's request, Montgomery said there is a thin line between corporal punishment and abuse.

"A family or household member . . . who administers corporal punishment to a child may be arrested and detained for the offense of domestic violence . . . when the punishment exceeds that which is reasonable and proper under the circumstances."

The state requires law-enforcement agencies to adopt domestic-violence policies, including arrest procedures. Montgomery's opinion notes that such policies must set forth examples of when an officer might not arrest someone in a corporal-punishment situation.

Although opinions issued by Montgomery's office are not legally binding, they serve to interpret existing law, her office said.

Butterworth said he has given copies of the opinion to his deputies and is glad Slagle requested it.

He said his office investigates about 300 domestic-violence cases a year; only a few involve corporal punishment.

Slagle said although Montgomery's opinion reinforces what his office has always advised the sheriff's office, it should be useful to law-enforcement agencies statewide.

"If a parent is being charged, it's required for the state to prove that the corporal punishment wasn't reasonable and necessary," he said.

Nadine Block of the Center for Effective Discipline in Columbus applauded Montgomery for being protective of children.

Block's organization, a lobbying group, is opposed to corporal punishment.

"The family, under the domestic-violence statute, includes children," Block said. "Spouses and children should both be protected.

"Why should you be able to hit children? Hitting children does for child-rearing what spousal violence does for marriages.'

Copyright 2002, The Columbus Dispatch

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