Monday, November 30, 2015

In Re D.M. (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 24, 2015)

Now that we're in the midst of the holiday season, the Court of Appeal lets you know whether it's okay to spank your child with a shoe.  Here's a quick summary:

"A mother used her hand or a sandal to spank her two children on the buttocks on those “rare” occasions when lesser disciplinary measures proved ineffective, but never hard enough to leave bruises or marks. May a juvenile court conclude mother has inflicted “serious physical harm” within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 3001 without first examining whether her conduct falls outside the right of parents, which exists elsewhere in California civil and criminal law, to discipline their children as long as the discipline is genuinely disciplinary, is warranted by the circumstances, and is reasonable (rather than excessive) in severity? (E.g., People v. Whitehurst (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1050 (Whitehurst).) We conclude that the juvenile court may not. Because the juvenile court’s ruling in this case relied on its categorical view that “hitting children with shoes” is “physical abuse” and “not a proper form of discipline,” we vacate the court’s jurisdictional finding as to mother and remand so that the court may in the first instance apply the reasonable parental discipline doctrine."

Hands versus belts versus switches versus shoes.  Bruises versus welts versus red marks.  These are the types of lines that separate permissible versus impermissible corporal punishment.