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Friday, June 13, 2008

Ind. Decisions - More on "Physical discipline of child not abuse"

Updating this ILB entry from Thursday on the Supreme Court's 4-1 decision Tuesday in the case of Sophia Willis v. State of Indiana (see ILB entry from Tuesday here, 2nd case), is the subject of a story today in the Gary Post-Tribune, reported by Sharlonda L. Waterhouse, and headed "Reversal stuns abuse caseworkers." Some quotes:

A recent Indiana Supreme Court decision to overturn a battery conviction for a parent who hit her 11-year-old with an extension cord, undermines but won't stop regional work to stem child abuse, local experts say.

The 4-1 decision, written by State Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker of Gary, backs a Marion County parent who left marks on her son's buttocks and arms in 2006 because those five lashes were "reasonable" and left no "permanent" mark.

The bruises were cited by school nurses and social workers in Marion County who reported the case.

Counterparts here are shocked by the reversal, but said peers must remain vigilant of even temporary marks.

"Wow. I'm disappointed. I hope that won't be the end of the case -- to say the mom is off the hook and isn't responsible," said Becky Kirkpatrick, Valparaiso Schools social worker and member of Prevent Child Abuse for Porter County.

"There's a danger anytime a parent picks up something to use on a child, whether it's an electrical cord or a wooden spoon -- that they can cross the line into abuse."

Kirkpatrick said she doesn't believe the excusing of nonpermanent bruises translate into less reporting.

"It's not our job to determine whether it's substantial. If we see a bruise that doesn't make sense we have to report it. I hope that continues," she said. * * *

Even if a case goes unpunished, Joy Sunday, Northwest Indiana representative for the Indiana Association of School Nurses, said children need school staff "not hesitate" in watching out for them.

"Every child that walks in the door -- in the back of my mind I'm checking. It's unfortunate but that's what we need to be doing," Sunday said.

That such a reversal would occur in Indiana doesn't surprise Nadine Block, organizer of the annual National Spank Out Day which drew 1,000 backers in April, including many Hoosier families.

"What do you think the child thinks after he's seen the parent go through this and the court says it's fine?," Block said

"We wouldn't allow hitting that left temporary marks on a wife or a neighbors' dog. It's a barbaric kind of thing ... but there are some states where it's just more acceptable."

Block said Indiana is one them: "Indiana is one of 21 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools." About 577 incidents occurred in 2007.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 13, 2008 08:28 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions