Court ruling isn’t a green light for parents to whack kids
By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
Star-Ledger, February 3, 2011
Admit it: The minute you saw the headline — “Smacking your teen not abuse, court rules” — in The Star-Ledger last week, you e-mailed the link to your kids with an evil smile.
The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled the state Division of Youth and Family Services was wrong to remove a teenage girl from her home because her father slapped her once, and because he and a stepmother took money from the girl’s paycheck to help with household bills. Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said the adults “may not have been exemplars of stellar parenting,” but the behavior wasn’t abuse.
In other words, they stink as parents, but not enough to lose custody.
The court also ruled that an occasional slap, “although hardly admirable,” is not excessive corporal punishment.
Let’s be clear to parents who believe the courts just awarded them a freebie: Adults should stop hitting kids, no matter what judges or the spare-the-rod numskulls say. Those of us who were smacked around as children realize our lives would have been better without the welts. Prisons are filled with men and women who were beaten as children.
Americans are making progress. A report last year found that U.S. child abuse has dropped markedly since 1993 — because we’ve been educated about the damage it inflicts, because more people are watching, and because cops, teachers and others have been trained to spot abuse.
Despite the trend, still too many adults hit their children. They consider themselves strict disciplinarians, of course, not abusers. But if they want to hit somebody, they should sign up for a kickboxing class.