Get the Switch: Minnesota Supreme Court Rules Spanking Not a Crime

Parents across Minnesota this morning are searching for switches. The state supreme court has held that parents who spanked their son with a paddle did not commit a crime. The case began when Shawn Fraser decided to paddle his son Gerard for running away from home — using a wooden paddle 36 times on the boy. Gerard was then 12 and weighed 195 pounds. Gerard called the cops and Shawn was arrested.

In a unanimous decision rejected the state’s “bright-line rule that the infliction of any pain constitutes either physical injury or physical abuse, because to do so would effectively prohibit all corporal punishment of children by their parents.”

Gerard says it worked and he is now a better kid. To get his two sons back, Shawn had to agree to stop spanking.

My father would spank us (I, of course, rarely required such punishment but my brothers are demons) but never used anything but his hand. I always thought that was a wise distinction. I have never understood the use of switches, belts and paddles. Moreover, I have four kids and I have never had to spank one of them. I have certainly yelled a lot but never had to use spanking. Experts increasingly oppose the use of such punishment as abusive. Nevertheless, I do believe that parents have a right to make this decision for themselves. Indeed, I have not signed on to the Non-proliferation of Spanking Treaty — reserving the right for handling major family felonies.

Nevertheless, it can become abuse so I certainly understand the investigation in this case where a child called police and a wooden paddle was used.

The question is what I will do with my pediatric pillory in the backyard.

For the opinion, click here.

For the full story, click here.

8 thoughts on “Get the Switch: Minnesota Supreme Court Rules Spanking Not a Crime

  1. The use of pain compliance, abuse, or outright torture by one individual over another is wrong, whether it’s adult to adult, or adult to child. I do understand the distinction between these levels of force, but still reject the argument that “benefits” to children or parental “rights” supersede the sanctity of any individual.

    If physical methods are useful for educating children, shouldn’t we be arguing that they should be applied at all levels of schooling by teachers and administrators? Why is corporal punishment outlawed in schools by about half the states? Don’t the citizens of those states care about their kids?

    If physical methods are useful for education and indeed correction, shouldn’t there be judicial punishments including spanking, strapping, or measured beating handed down by children found guilty in the juvenile courts? If strapping is too brutal, perhaps tasering would appeal? Don’t we want our kids to learn about consequences? About life?

    Why is it that many believe these educational and correctional benefits only accrue to the child when applied by the parent? Perhaps enlightened Americans know something that citizens of more than twenty countries now fail to understand? Doubtful.

    Many will see this ruling as a victory, but the failure of our society to protect children through the legislature and the courts will be judged by history as nothing less than a brutal disgrace.

  2. This is a tricky issue, but I agree with the Minnesota Court. As a parent of children, I’m reluctant to spank, but I do believe it has its place in an array of discipline options for parents. I am even more reluctant to say let’s remove children from the home of someone because we disagree with their disciplne methods.

    Child abuse should not be tolerated. However, its almost as nonsensical to suggest that swatting a child on the butt constitutes child abuse. I agree there may be other methods of discipline that can be substituted for spanking/swatting. But my goodness, that’s what parents are for. It should be parents not the government or some social scientist somewhere who makes discipline choices for children.

    If people really want parents to stop spanking their children I have a suggestion for them: Instead of trying to criminalize spanking, focus on educating parents about more positive methods of training and disciplining their children. The vast majority of parents who spank would be thrilled if they felt they had equally effective alternatives at their disposal that did not involve swatting.

    I guess it can be argued there is some qualitative difference to spanking with an object as opposed to spanking with a hand. Personally, I’d be more focused on whether the child received a physical injury as a result of either. If the child receives a physical injury as a result of discipline with either a hand or an object, I’d say may well be abuse. If there is no injury, than I see no difference in spanking with a hand or a switch.

    I see alot more serious problems out there and no one is served by comparing actual cases of abuse (such as a parent burning a child’s hand with a match)to a child who has been spanked and has a barely visible purple mark on their buttocks. In fact, such comparisons are an insult to the many true abuse victims who are never appropriately dealt with by an overburdened system.

  3. Our society has experimented with raising children without spanking for long enough. The experiment has failed. Legislation or judicial rulings of any kind that obstruct *legitimate* spanking – reasonable levels of pain inflicted for the specific purpose of training one’s own children – are a travesty.

    Of course, there is a line between legitimate spanking and physical abuse. Parents who throw, cut, burn, punch, or otherwise abuse their children deserve the worst the judicial system can throw at them. There is never a need to go beyond a bare open hand, a switch, a belt, or the like… and there are reasonable limitations on force and frequency even there.

    I applaud this court for recognizing the difference between abuse and spanking.

  4. WOW… It took the Minnesota Supreme to Court to jusify spanking… you liberals make me sick with this jabber and hand wringing… if you don’t believe in spanking… fine do what suits you and yours but DO NOT invade my personal liberty and prevent me from raising my child or living my life as I see best.. Spanking has always been a last resort in my home … it’s strike 3… know what it works…

  5. Spanking is what an out of control, weak minded “adult” does when they let themselves become mentally defeated by a child. It is a pathetic form of bullying and has no place in a loving relationship. A child is societies weakest member, yet it’s the only one NOT protected from violence. That’s absurd. If you think there is no other methods to rear children, look up the 32 nations that have banned corporeal punishment. Since the 70’s and 80’s countries have reared children without the use of violence and guess what? Their societies didn’t fall apart or fail as Jordan would try to convince us. They have middle aged adult populations now that were reared completely without the use of violence. To all the pro spanker’s, it’s time you grew up and learned how to handle things without acting out in violent tantrums.

  6. Steven, you may want to rethink your position based on data that you do not seem to have in hand. Do a quick google search on the results of the Swedish spanking ban (the one in effect the longest) and take a look at the increase in serious child abuse and youth violence that has resulted from criminalizing spanking in that country.

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