Even in South Carolina, corporal punishment is becoming highly problematic

Posted Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Law and Culture, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to General Public

When I first started practicing family law in South Carolina a quarter century ago, “Spare the Rod; Spoil the Child” was a biblically sanctioned cultural meme. Not only would family court judges approve of corporal punishment as a method of disciplining children, many believed that failing to use corporal punishment for a thoroughly misbehaving child would lead to a spoiled child.

This didn’t mean that all corporal punishment was allowable. S.C. Code § 63-7-20(6) excludes from its definition of “child abuse or neglect” corporal punishment that is not “excessive” if it meets five conditions. One of those conditions is that it is “reasonable in manner and moderate in degree.” Another condition is that it “has not brought about permanent or lasting damage to the child.” Corporal punishment that was “excessive,” immoderate in degree, or left lasting damage was considered abuse. This would suggest that corporal punishment that wasn’t these things was allowable.

Until quite recently, it had been well over a decade since I was involved in a South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) abuse proceeding involving corporal punishment. In the past, the DSS might bring child abuse proceedings if a parent’s use of corporal punishment resulted in open wounds or broken bones (which, in my experience, rarely happened). However I don’t recall DSS bringing proceedings for corporal punishment that merely left light bruising.

It could be coincidence, but in the past three months, I have represented three different fathers investigated by DSS for “excessive” corporal punishment in which the injuries were nothing but bruising and there was no evidence of repeated bruising or lasting damage from this corporal punishment. That such corporal punishment might not meet the statutory criteria of “child abuse” did not provide these fathers safe harbor. They still had their visitation curtailed and needed to retain counsel for guidance through a DSS investigation. Some of them became defendants in DSS proceedings.

I’ve never been a fan of corporal punishment as a method of discipline. Just this week the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that corporal punishment not be used as a method of discipline, finding it to be counterproductive. Yet South Carolina law and culture still approves of it. Thus, in the past, when clients asked about it, I would inform them that it was allowable so long as it didn’t cause injury.

Yet experience shows that parents often cannot limit their force sufficiently to avoid leaving a mark and that, at least under current DSS guidelines, leaving a mark or bruise is sufficient for DSS to begin child abuse investigation protocols. Given contemporary mores, the best approach to corporal punishment for South Carolina parents is to abjure it. Whatever benefits parents think they achieve from this method of discipline not longer outweigh the risks of DSS involvement.

2 thoughts on Even in South Carolina, corporal punishment is becoming highly problematic

  1. Anne Frangos says:

    Is corporal punishment allowed to be carried out by a step father when the biological father has specifically prohibited this type of punishment for his child? Also is spanking a 2 year old when they wet their pants while learning potty training considered reasonable by anyone?!? My grandson no longer wants to go to his mothers home because he’s now afraid of his stepfather even though she has joint custody. What are the legal options for a father with joint custody to prohibit the stepfather from spanking his son?

    1. Alice Dunlap says:

      If no physical handicap with intentions were noted or irrational or irrational behavior occurred; there’s nothing that says hate was there for chil or mother, nothing with intentions. There’s not nothing harming in his form of chastisement. The part about the parents are fair not the rods for the child that’s a very in-depth situation or a case however it goes for the law and it goes for the home. The parents are in charge of that home and it’s telling you how to govern your home the rod didn’t say what the rod was and is really like that for reasons because some will take it too far they take the law out of the parent’s home. However for the child could mean a rod is what just what it says it’s something hard it don’t have to be thick it don’t have to be long but instead of right now the Bible does not intentionally say to beat that child with that rod but what is it the rod or the Chesney rock is something that you’re going to use that helps get that child to identify with the behavior that you’re trying to help them out of submit to or you’re trying to get them to stop the bad behavior. The whole reason for chastising is so that you can get them to see the the verse or adverse effect of something to make a change for a better life or reasoning but not necessarily for the beating them being a child to say that you’re the stronger person. The law has been fixed so that the child can be in control and the controlling Factor is that school or all of these affiliates of the system is what hairing up the child’s home because they did not get that proper discipline. They took the punishment away from the parents they took the control from the parents and the child feel in control so if the child is in control that also means that the courts are in control and they have good children being taken from their homes under false pretense. I will say the child is not fearing The stepfather he’s hearing the spanking why because he wants to continue to do what he’s doing and that’s thinking to him no you can’t that is exactly what chastising is supposed to do the father or stepfather is doing his job. If he is a man known in his household or grew up in his community or his community people know of his bad attitude personality even school they knew him as in such a way then I would say yes that child probably do need to protect if you and you’re seeing signs of the of abuse otherwise you just on the chastising the Sun. How can we stay that a bill is the only thing that the child understand however a child can be being with the switch or belt or whatever the case it can still break now yes I would say what how much well how many licks you give a child but sometimes it takes that for some children and to prove that slavery is the proof of all of it a person can want to run away all they want to but until they get that freedom what they looking for they going to keep on doing it until but see that Master kept proving to him that he was going to keep his hands on him he couldn’t have he couldn’t run he couldn’t do anything and he had to face his child well guess what that makes him right to have done that and he was the one that put into the father here it is okay to whip your child or to beat your child. the biggest reason for a women or a baby is to say I don’t want your you in the hands of the law I’m trying to protect you from the law I’m trying to protect you from harm I’m trying to protect you from going down the wrong road, to help you to become a better person. That’s what chastisement is all about, we are missing the boat. Society have let our children down and our parents. They have weakened the nation from growth they have wicked the belief in the minds of the people all because of what somebody told them that they thought made sense and it May not true. The only violation is where the law steps in to protect the child as they think but they only weakening the nation because somebody want to make money and profit off of these kind of cases. This could be the reason why we have so much traffic in the United States because somebody trying to make money off the little man or put the little man in in prison take the children their property and that is wrong on the legal note on a biblical note and a community note all of that is wrong well what society fail to see each one have to pay for their own deeds that they have done even the father if they did wrong that should be the thing that the father would have to pay it is better for a father to spank and they’re not that right to that child therefore that child to get into the hands of society who’s going to only kill him they going to beat him molest him or whatever the case is it’s better for the child to stay in the house and get that punishment.

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