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Judicial CP - April 2008

Corpun file 20170

Times-Herald, Forrest City, Arkansas, 7 April 2008

ACLU reviews allegation of spanking by juvenile officer

An allegation of spanking by a juvenile probation officer has been called an isolated incident that will not happen again.

It was recently reported in the Arkansas Times that the Arkansas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was looking into allegations that juvenile probation officer William Hall had spanked probationers with a belt and wooden paddle. There were also allegations that Hall had threatened juveniles with physical punishment in court, and had bullied parents into signing consent forms to allow spanking.

It was reported that the claims were being investigated by ACLU Attorney Holly Dickson. When contacted by the Times-Herald, Dickson said no action is being taken at this time.

"The persons who reported this to us did not want to bring a lawsuit," said Dickson. "They just wanted to get the practice stopped. That is what we did."

Dickson continued, "We have been assured that this (spanking), and threatening to do this, will cease immediately and permanently."

She said nothing more will happen unless the ACLU receives more reports that the practice has continued.

Circuit Judge Baird Kinney said he was aware of the ACLU investigation, but had never received a direct complaint over Hall's conduct. He said there was one incident he knew of in which a spanking may have taken place.

"It was more of an isolated incident," Kinney said. "I had not received a complaint and to this day have not.

"Several years ago, Mr. Hall inquired, and I thought it was an isolated situation, where there was a rather small-built parent, a mother, who had a large-built son who was just not willing to follow her rules of discipline," Kinney said.

According to Kinney, Hall asked him if it was proper for a parent to have someone else administer discipline.

"I'm not in favor of that," Kinney said, but added that Hall pointed out a state statute which seemed to say that "under certain circumstances it was not forbidden" to allow spanking.

"I told him that if the parent signed a request and asked him to give a child three licks or whatever, I didn't think it was such a great idea, but I would go along with it," said Kinney. "That was several years ago."

Kinney said he informed Dickson that he explained to Hall that his job duties would not include spanking in the future, "and that we would both sign off on a letter confirming that. And we have done so.

"That's the long and the short of it, and it'll never happen again. No one has been hurt or injured or has sued or anything," he continued. "I think someone may have had a change of heart, or a grandparent got upset. But it's not something that we would, in any way, allow to happen again."

A call to the juvenile probation office was not answered.

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