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Domestic CP - July 2007

Corpun file 19391

Providence Journal, Rhode Island, 11 July 2007

Father faces abuse charge for allegedly spanking daughter

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NORTH PROVIDENCE -- A 40-year-old man who allegedly spanked his 7-year-old daughter has been charged with second-degree child abuse by the attorney general's office and the town police.

Michael Healey, a spokesman for Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, said the charge against Abdoulaye Ndiaye, 40, of 117 Douglas Ave., stemmed from an alleged spanking the daughter received while visiting her father on March 30.

The girl's mother, who had been visiting her sister at the time, discovered bruises on the girl a couple of days later and called North Providence police.

The report triggered an investigation by the Department for Children, Youth and Families and information filed by the attorney general.

Ndiaye turned himself in at police headquarters Friday after being advised he was wanted and is scheduled for a pre-arraignment disposition conference before Superior Court Magistrate William J. McAtee on July 26.

Healey noted that the maximum penalty for second-degree child abuse is 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Corpun file 19481


Pioneer Press, Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota, 25 July 2007

State court sides with parents over spanking

Bloomington couple's choice of discipline wasn't child abuse, appeals judges say

By Shannon Prather
Pioneer Press

Hitting a 12-year-old boy with a wooden paddle 36 times "may not have been the best approach" to parental discipline but it's not physical abuse, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

A Bloomington couple resorted to the paddle after their son kept sneaking out of the house. They consulted the Bible before they administered the corporal punishment.

During the 2005 incident, the boy grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened suicide. The father took away the knife and paddled the boy again.

Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander had called the paddling "physical abuse" and determined the boy and his 11-year-old brother were in need of child protection. On Tuesday, the appeals court reversed the lower court ruling, finding the incident didn't amount to abuse. Parents enjoy a "wide degree of latitude regarding the discipline of their children," the three-judge panel concluded.

"Spanking a child for wielding a knife and making a suicide threat is probably not an appropriate parental response," Judge Christopher Dietzen wrote for the court. "But we do not conclude that the ... spankings constituted physical abuse."

The children spent nine months in foster care and were returned to their parents before the lower court ruling, according to the parents' lawyers. Court documents identify the parents by their initials.

"We fought this so other families don't have to go through the same thing," the father said, through his attorney.

Jill Waite and Jill Clark, attorneys for the parents, said their clients wanted to protect their son and feared their son's sneaking out might lead to drug issues, crime and sexual activity.

Clark described them as hard-working, middle-class people committed to their children. The father works in retail and the mother in the hospitality industry.

"This is a decision for the parents," Clark said. "They get to decide how to raise their children. They are the ones with the most knowledge of their children. They are allowed to have their own belief system. What the government is not allowed to do is Monday-morning quarterback."

According to the court's opinion, the parents had struggled with controlling their 12-year-old son. The boy, who was 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 195 pounds, had repeatedly snuck out at night. When confronted, he either lied or refused to say where he had gone. Grounding and revoking privileges didn't curb the boy's behavior.

"They were worried about everything," Clark said. "It's a scary world out there."

In June 2005, the parents discussed Bible verses with the boy that supported corporal punishment. They told the boy he'd be paddled based on his age - once for every year - if he left home without permission, was disrespectful or had a temper tantrum. The boy's father would administer the punishment and would not paddle the boy when angry.

A social worker had told the boy's mother, "the law doesn't say that you can't use physical force, the law says you can't leave marks and bruises," according to the opinion.

The parents posted the Bible verse on the refrigerator as a reminder. When the boy was caught sneaking out again, the father, using moderate force, struck the boy 12 times on the back of his thighs with a maple paddle, according to the agreed-upon facts.

The father paddled the boy 12 more times for having a temper tantrum. The boy then grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened to commit suicide. The father removed the knife from the boy's grasp and paddled him 12 more times, then sent him to bed.

The boy climbed out his bedroom window and was picked up by police on June 29, 2005.

County officials filed a petition for child protection alleging the paddling was physical abuse. County officials alleged the 36 whacks with the wooden paddle were excessive.

Alexander, the Hennepin County judge, found that the punishment was "not reasonable or moderate physical discipline; it is physical abuse."

The parents appealed.

The Hennepin County Attorney's office, which filed the child protection petition, did not return calls seeking comment.

Attorneys for the parents said this ruling will guide other parents in an era when it's become difficult to know what's permissible.

"There is a feeling that any kind of spanking is no longer permissible," Waite said. "That's an oversimplification of the law."

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