05 November 2011

A Case of Parental Discipline Gone Wrong and Too Far

Many of you out there may have watched the video of Aransas County (Texas) Judge William Adams savagely beating his daughter, Hillary. I had the courage to watch all seven minutes of the video which has gone viral worldwide thanks to YouTube.

First, I want you to watch the video below of this savage and cruel act committed against Hillary, who was attending high school as this video was made according to media reports.

WARNING: The video seen here is graphic and it involves strong language. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

This is my opinion in a nutshell: Horrific, shocking, disgusting and violent. As I posted in a comment for that video on YouTube, this is definitely not a case of parental discipline - instead, this is a case of aggravated child abuse.

Check out the news coverage both on a local, national and worldwide view:

Bay News 9's coverage
10 News (WTSP-TV) coverage
CNN's coverage
RTV Slovenia's coverage (in Slovenian)

Just recently here in Florida the Florida Supreme Court ruled that one spank is not considered domestic violence. To me, what the Florida Supreme Court did was have parents declare open season on their children, free to carry out any act of violence against children including spanking as long as no marks were left, and all in the name of parental discipline in the home. Want the facts?

Turn on Bay News 9 or 10 News (WTSP-TV) and this is becoming more and more common: Boyfriend arrested for child abuse. This story from Bay News 9 proves the point: A Seminole man beat his girlfriend's child to death in Lakeland, all because the girlfriend (who was the child's natural mother) did not believe in the use of violence when it came to parental discipline, including spanking.

That article from Bay News 9 is just only a sample of what's going on. There are more articles out there dealing with child abuse right here in our own backyard. Want proof? Go to Bay News 9 as well as 10 News and do a search for "child abuse" - you will be surprised.

While spanking your children may be legal here in America, let's take a quick trip across the Atlantic to Europe. You will be surprised that many countries in Europe have completely outlawed corporal punishment everywhere, including within the home. Sweden became the first country in Europe to outlaw all forms of corporal punishment in 1979; other European countries followed suit according to this article on Wikipedia:

Austria outlawed corporal punishment in 1989.
Croatia outlawed corporal punishment in 1999.
Denmark - Sweden's neighbor to the west via the Oresund Bridge - outlawed corporal punishment in 1997.
Finland outlawed corporal punishment in 1983.
Germany outlawed corporal punishment in 2000.
Greece outlawed corporal punishment in 2007.
Hungary outlawed corporal punishment in 2004.
Iceland outlawed corporal punishment in 2003.
Latvia outlawed corporal punishment in 1998.
Luxembourg outlawed corporal punishment in 2008.
The Netherlands (Holland) outlawed corporal punishment in 2007.
Norway outlawed corporal punishment in 1987; the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that even a light "careful" slap is illegal.
Poland outlawed corporal punishment in 2010.
Portugal outlawed corporal punishment in 2007.
Romania outlawed corporal punishment in 2004.
Spain outlawed corporal punishment in 2007.
Ukraine outlawed corporal punishment in 2004.

When I mean that corporal punishment is outlawed, corporal punishment in a country that has completely outlawed the practice is outlawed, period. Just ask Giovanni Colasante, an Italian politician from the town of Canosa di Puglia, who was on vacation in Stockholm with his son when he pulled his son's hair for not going into a Stockholm restaurant as a form of punishment. Mr. Colasante learned his lesson the hard way when he got arrested in Stockholm and was convicted for violating Sweden's corporal punishment ban. The incident created a big uproar in Italy, where corporal punishment is only outlawed in the schools but legal in the home, reports Radio Sweden.

Many countries in Europe have completely outlawed corporal punishment. But not in the United States of America, where corporal punishment in the home is completely legal. What Judge William Adams did to his daughter, Hillary, was horrific but it's legal in all 50 states of the United States.

However, if you are considering taking a trip with your family out of the country, say to Europe, be careful. As American citizens, we take everything for granted including the right to raise our children the way we see fit with minimal legal restraint. However, once you leave the United States our Constitution and our laws do not follow you - once you are in a foreign country, you are their guest and, as such, are expected to follow and obey their laws including bans on corporal punishment anywhere.

As the United States State Department warns in their travel advisories, once you are arrested in a foreign country you become subject to the judicial system of the country you are arrested in. The fact that you are American and the fact that you have an American passport does not exempt you from a foreign country's laws when you are there. That means if you spank your child in a country where corporal punishment is completely outlawed and you get arrested, you will be processed as an inmate according to the judicial system of the country in question.

While corporal punishment may be legal in the State of Florida, it is prohibited in one place: The Pinellas County School District. In fact, according to the District's Student Code of Conduct as to disciplinary action that can be taken against students (quoting directly from the Student Code of Conduct): "The use of corporal punishment is prohibited." Further, the policy goes on to state that (again, quoting directly from the Student Code of Conduct) "The prohibition against the use of corporal punishment also extends to parents or guardians on school grounds."

In a nutshell, corporal punishment of your children is legal in Florida and in Pinellas County. Just don't spank your children in a Pinellas county public school.

Even if corporal punishment of your children is legal in Florida, in reality you might not want to use physical violence against your children because doing so can attract the attention of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). I call them the Florida Department of Complete Failure, but this agency is very quick to do anything to take your children away from you.

For instance, let's say your child brought home a report card with D's and F's. You get upset, which is natural. However, you get so upset that you go ahead and spank your child using an object, such as a belt. The next day, you send your child off to school and you have a conference with your child's teachers in mind to see what is going on in school that caused the poor grades to begin with.

Suddenly, the phone rings. It's your child's school, with an urgent message that you need to come to the school as soon as possible. You ask why, but the school personnel cannot tell you. Once you arrive at school, you show your ID and sign in per school policy but when a staff member greets you, you are shown down the hall to a conference room where your child's school principal, a police officer, and an investigator from the Florida DCF are there. The reason: The spanking you gave to your child the day before for that poor report card left behind visible welts on your child; one of your child's teachers noticed difficulty in your child sitting down at his desk and took him down the hall to the school nurse. The school nurse saw the welts you made as a result of spanking your child and informs the school principal, who in turn notifies DCF and police resulting in both showing up.

Your nightmare as a parent has just begun. Your child is being taken into protective custody by order of the DCF and you, the parent, is being arrested on charges of child abuse. The police officer places handcuffs on you behind your back and you are placed in the back seat of the police cruiser, transported to the county jail to be booked on the child abuse charge.

Not only do you, the parent, now have an arrest record for child abuse, if the charges are later dismissed by the State Attorney your nightmare still continues. You can try to get your arrest record expunged, but your name will more than likely be entered into Florida's abuse registry as a child abuser. Simplest explanation: If you go on to apply for a job later on down the road, and that background check includes a check of the Florida abuse registry, chances are you might not get the job you want, all because of your decision to discipline your child by physical means.

Moreover, if the charges against you for child abuse are dropped and your child is eventually returned to you, welcome to a lifetime of harassment by the Florida DCF. After all, DCF involvement in your child's welfare is frequent.

I am not sure what the laws and procedures are in Texas when it comes to child abuse and mandatory reporting by certain personnel such as school officials, but did Hillary Adams report the savage beating to school officials when she was in high school when the beating took place? What would have happened if Hillary told her school principal and in turn made required reports to the appropriate state agencies in Texas? Unfortunately, these questions we don't know and we won't even know.

In light of the video of Hillary Adams being savagely beaten by her father, Judge William Adams, our state legislators - both in Florida and Texas as well as everywhere else in the United States - need to take a second look at corporal punishment, both at the school level and at the home level. I think a Sweden-style law banning corporal punishment in any form - whether it may be in school or by parents in public or private - is in order. After all, corporal punishment is completely banned in many European countries, and it's time in America to put an end to violence against children even if it means banning corporal punishment completely.

After all, in Florida if you hit, touch or strike another person you can be arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery. If the person you hit happens to be a police officer or a specified person listed in the Florida Statutes, then it becomes a felony. But you, as a parent, can get away with it by hitting your own children without risk of being arrested (just make sure no visible welts or bruises are on your child to avoid possible DCF involvement).

Now for my take on corporal punishment, in light of Hillary Adams posting the video of her being beaten by her father on YouTube:

Corporal punishment has no place in the home.

Corporal punishment has no place in the school.

Corporal punishment has no place - anywhere.

Corporal punishment teaches children that it is OK to solve problems with violence. In other words, corporal punishment teaches children that it is OK to hit other people to solve problems.

Corporal punishment needs to be illegal anywhere in America. It's already illegal in most European countries.

Parents have a duty to raise their children as they see fit, within reason. The doctrine of minimal interference by government as far as America is concerned I think should come to an end.

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