One day a girl we’ll call Sally met a boy at school. Even though she was only seven years old, Sally gave the boy a kiss. The next day, Sally was absent from class. When she returned, and for the next couple days, Sally wore long sleeve blouses. Sally’s teacher thought this a bit strange, considering it was June.
A few days later, the teacher noticed that Sally’s arms were covered with bruises and marks. The teacher reported her observation to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). A representative came to the school and interviewed Sally.
Sally said that when her mother found out about the kiss, she was furious. As punishment, Mom made Sally write out the word “sorry”. While Sally wrote, her mother beat her with a belt! The mother continued the beating because Sally kept spelling the word wrong. Sally had to endure the pain, until she finally spelled the word correctly.
When DYFS examined the girl, they found more than just a few bruises on her arms. The child’s legs, buttocks, and back were also injured. She had cuts on her thigh and buttocks as well, apparently from the metal belt buckle. DYFS immediately asked a judge to remove Sally from her mother’s custody.
But when the matter got to court, the judge shrugged it off. He said that Sally didn’t “even seem that upset about it.” Furthermore, he commented that “getting a spanking on the rear end is sort of customary.” The judge then gave joint custody to Sally’s mother and father.
DYFS appealed the decision, arguing that the mother’s treatment of Sally constituted child abuse. The appeals court agreed, and took custody away from Sally’s mother. The court decided that, although New Jersey law recognizes a fair amount of parental authority, the parent here had gone too far.
As every parent knows, sometimes children need discipline. But puppy love kisses, not to mention spelling mistakes, are not grounds for lacerating your daughter. I would suggest that any parent facing the same problem first consider, say, withholding ice cream. Most seven year olds prefer eating ice cream to kissing the opposite sex. (Actually, considering the girth of many people you see on the street these days, it seems that so do a lot of adults). And taking sugary ice cream away from your kid might even save you thousands of dollars over the long haul… in dental bills.
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Marc S. Berman is an attorney with offices in Fair Lawn and Paramus. You can follow him on Twitter here. Disclaimer: The articles posted here are for informational purposes only, and are not intended as legal advice for specific cases. Readers should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information presented here, but rather should retain an attorney to advise them.