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Domestic CP - May 2003

Aberdeen News, South Dakota, 15 May 2003

High court upholds judge's ruling that spanking was child abuse

By Chet Brokaw
Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. - A circuit judge had sufficient evidence to find a 12-year-old boy was abused and neglected when his stepfather spanked him with a belt, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The high court's unanimous ruling upheld Circuit Judge Kathleen F. Trandahl's decision that the boy, identified in court records only by the initials T.A., was abused and neglected. Her rulings in the case allowed officials to place the boy in a facility for treatment.

The boy's mother and stepfather argued that the spanking was proper under a state law that allows parents to use reasonable and moderate force to restrain or correct their children,

However, the Supreme Court said Judge Trandahl had sufficient evidence to find that the force used by the child's stepfather was not reasonable in manner nor moderate in degree.

The high court also rejected the parents' arguments that South Dakota's child abuse law is unconstitutionally vague. The law is constitutional because it provides sufficient warning on what conduct is prohibited, the justices said.

"A reasonable person would be aware that forcing a child face down on a mattress, grabbing the child's arm tight enough to leave bruises and beating him hard enough with a belt to leave bruises constitutes abuse rather than reasonable corporal punishment," Justice Richard W. Sabers wrote for the court.

The Bennett County case started when the boy's family was moving from an old house to a new house on the same property in October 2001. The boy, who has behavior problems associated with Tourette's Syndrome and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, apparently refused to help with the move.

Late in the day, the boy's mother repeatedly asked him to retrieve a trash can from the old house. When he finally complied, he emptied the trash can onto the kitchen floor of the old house before tossing the trash can onto the floor of the new house, according to testimony.

The boy was confronted by his stepfather, who said the child cried, screamed and became out of control. The stepfather said he took the boy by the wrist, led him to a bedroom and spanked him eight to 10 times with a belt.

Officials of the state Department of Social Services and the Bennett County Sheriff's Office investigated several days later and discovered that the boy was bruised. Authorities filed a petition alleging the child was abused and neglected.

Judge Trandahl last year found the child was abused and neglected. The boy was placed in a residential facility where he attended school and received treatment.

South Dakota law allows parents to use force to restrain or correct a child if the action is required by the child's misconduct or refusal to obey commands. The law says such force must be reasonable in manner and moderate in degree.

The parents argued that the spanking of T.A. was reasonable punishment made necessary by the child's continuing bad behavior over the three months before the spanking.

The Supreme Court said testimony by witnesses indicated the boy was not out of control, so the judge had reason to find the spanking was not necessary. The stepfather's testimony and statements by others also showed the spanking was not reasonable nor moderate, the high court said.

In addition, the boy's mother testified that she knew the stepfather spanked the child with a belt. Her testimony supports the allegations that she failed to provide proper parental care by not intervening to stop the spanking, the high court said.

© 2003 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

The Indiana Gazette, Indiana, Pennsylvania, 29 May 2003

Boy Reports Father for Paddling

WEST WHEATFIELD TOWNSHIP - State police have filed an assault charge against Robert Heasley Sr. of Route 259, West Wheatfield Township, accusing him of severely bruising his 13-year-old son in March when he paddled him for doing poorly in school.

Robert Heasley Jr. told police that his father had disciplined him with a wooden paddle several times since October because he received bad grades, and that he decided to report it because he didn't want to be hit anymore, according to charges filed by Trooper Deana Kirkland of the Indiana station.

After the boy, his father and stepmother returned home from a meeting on March 11 with a school counselor, Robert Heasley Sr., 42, swatted his son on the buttocks between nine and 11 times with a wooden paddle while they were alone in the kitchen, according to Kirkland's arrest affidavit.

Kirkland wrote that the boy used a mirror to make photographs on March 15 of the lingering bruises he sustained from the paddling and gave one of them to his mother, Tammy Ball, when he visited her about a week later.

Ball took her son to a hospital for an examination and asked North Huntingdon Township police officers for advice. They referred her to Indiana County Children & Youth Services and then to state police in Indiana, according to Kirkland.

Ball told troopers that she turned custody of the boy over to his grandmother, Roseanna Heasley, instead of sending him back to his father's home.

In mid-April, CYS caseworker Robert Filipovich told Kirkland that Robert Heasley Sr. admitted to him that he hit his son, and gave Filipovich the paddle. Filipovich turned the paddle over to Kirkland, according to the report.

Kirkland said Wednesday that she filed the assault charge May 22 after "playing phone-tag" with Heasley and his attorney. She reported that the boy is in "protective custody" with CYS.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 18 before District Justice Jennifer Rega in Blairsville.

©Indiana Printing & Publishing Co. 2003

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