Saturday, April 19, 2003

It's not always about the children...

For all the unconstitutional laws passed in the name of “protecting the children,” some basic acts of child abuse continue to be legal, as evidence in this report from Pennsylvania:

A woman and her male partner - a psychologist who works with autistic children - do not belong on a state list of alleged and confirmed child abusers for punishing her 13-year-old son by paddling him with a plastic serving spoon, a state court ruled.

Even if the boy suffered bruises and had trouble sitting for a couple days, the injuries did not justify keeping the two on the list, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel said Thursday.
Now, I question the wisdom of child abuser “lists” as a means of law enforcement, but that’s a secondary issue here. The question is whether paddling a child with a spoon constitutes abuse. There’s no question in my mind that it is. If you believe the initiation of force against others is immoral, then you cannot justify harming a child in such a cruel manner. The notion that this is “discipline” is irrational on its face. You do not teach someone good behavior by resorting to a wanton act of violence.

The Pennsylvania court concluded the paddling here was legal because there was “no malicious intent and no evidence of negligence by adults or severe injury to the boy.” None of these rationalizations justifies the paddling. Intentionally harming a child—or any human being for that matter—is malicious regardless of whether you consider the act to be disciplinary rather than punitive. As to negligence, a parent who resorts to paddling her own child, it seems to me, is simply taking a shortcut rather than taking the time to actually teach their child right from wrong. That certainly approaches the line of negligence. Finally, the severity of the injury should not be a determining factor for legal purposes. Is rape not a crime if the woman is not severely injured? Of course it’s not.

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