Massachusetts Rules That Father Not Guilty Of Assault In Spanking 3-Year-Old Daughter

Conrad,_Giorgio_(1827-1889)_-_n._202aWe have been following rulings on spanking where parents have been arrested for the disciplining of their children. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has overturned the conviction of Jean Dorvil who was arrested after he spanked his daughter in public.

The incident occurred in 2011 in a Brockton bus terminal while Jean Dorvil was walking with his daughter and her mother. Witnesses said that Dorvil kicked his daughter in her backside while yelling “shut up,” and then spanked her. An officer said that he saw the mother shield the daughter from him as the child was crying. When confronted, Dorvil said he was disciplining his daughter and denied kicking her. Another officer said that he witnessed a slow and hesitant kick. His wife later said that he spanked her because the child refused to go to her mother and continued to play near the street.

He was conviction of assault and battery and the judge stated that if “you’re in public with your kids, it’s not appropriate to discipline in this fashion.” That is a curious distinction. Could he do these same acts in private?

Dorvil lost his appeal based on the appellate courts view that the child lacked the capacity to understand the discipline and that the father spanked her “when he was upset and angry.” Again, another curious distinction. Does that mean he can spank her if he is not angry?

The Court laid out guidelines for spanking in overturning the conviction. This includes permitted spanking so long as the use of force is reasonable; it is used to safeguard or promote the welfare of the child; and it doesn’t cause severe emotional distress, “gross degradation” or physical harm “beyond fleeting pain or minor, transient marks.”

Writing for the seven-member court, Justice Barbara Lenk sought to balance protecting children against abuse and avoiding unnecessary interference with parental rights.

Here is the full opinion: Dorvil opinion

52 thoughts on “Massachusetts Rules That Father Not Guilty Of Assault In Spanking 3-Year-Old Daughter”

  1. Good heavens! Is it possible some level of sanity is sneaking into the People’s Democratic Republic of Massachusetts? This has to be an aberration.

  2. Spanking is not abuse–it depends how it is used, how often, area of body where it is applied, circumstances, and with what instrument.
    If a child is told to do something a couple of times, that child deserves to be removed from the area–no spanking. If a child is screaming and told to quiet down, that child needs to be removed from the premises and put in a time out until he/she behaves. If a child is obstinate and continues to be disobedient when corrected a few times, then the parent should remove the child from the premises, give one and no more than two swift spankings to the posterior.
    Multiple spankings, hitting in the head or other sensitive areas, continuous hitting, kicking, and other inflictions are abusive. One or two spankings is not abusive.

  3. All kids are different, many need that swat on the backside. Some will only laugh no matter how it hurts. It depends on the child how he should be disciplined. Of three I had, one would scream like I was killing him when I slapped him on the backside with my bare hand. Believe me my hand hurt worse from the blow. than his backside did. He would tow the line afterwards though. The oldest would listen to reason and with a little reinforcement by withholding something dear to her was all it took. However the middle one was one who would dare you to discipline her and would not let herself cry if she was swatted. She was a challenge.

    Each child is different and responds to different stimuli. With the middle child I had to keep a closer eye on her and was accused of never trusting her and honestly, I never could because she was very intelligent and an instigator. However, I gave a deep sigh of relief when she graduated from college w/honors and I never had to bail her out of jail. All are quite successful with children of their own and I now stand back and watch them trying to raise theirs.

    As I said before, all children are different and to keep a child from being disciplined is to assure that he will likely some day get into real trouble. CHILDREN HAVE TO HAVE BOUNDS AND KNOW HOW FAR YOU CAN BE PUSHED. THAT IS WHY THE BIBLE SAYS, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Controlling your temper is even better. It doesn’t always take the rod to discipline, knowing the child’s temperament is the best guide. Every parent needs to be allowed to discipline their children, however there is a big difference between discipline and abuse. A bruised up kid is abused. And a parents hand that stings from hitting a child on the backside when he is wearing jeans with brads will never hurt anyone but the parent. Raising kids is the parent’s job, not the Government’s job. Just look at all the foster kids that wind up pregnant, in gangs, stealing, on drugs, and having no respect for anyone ……….Making a foster parent sign a paper that they will never discipline and the only discipline can be time outs for 5 minutes is proof that the Govt. has failed on all counts, the kids know you can’t punish them so they laugh at any direction you give them.

    Just my opinion

  4. Who kicked? Did the father kick the child? Did the kid react by giving a slow kick?

  5. @ Inga-Annie

    And teenagers will test a parent, sensitive or not….

    Had a good friend with two teenagers while I had a pre-teen.

    Her sage advice: “Teenagers are God’s way of making you want to let go of your children and allow them to become independent!”

    Truer words. Never spoken.

  6. By the way, the decision of Supreme Court was well written, nuanced enough to allow for many differing scenarios – which is, I think, one of the values of common law.

  7. I’ve raised three kids with very little physical discipline – and always wondered whether I was using it wisely when it did come up. I considered the issue extremely important. I’ll point to two conditions when I absolutely knew that my choice was right- 1) my very young child (maybe 2 or 3) darted into the the street and one big smack on his behind, with immediate explananation to never do it again – lesson learned clearly. And again when my other son, at about the same age, decided to eat a huge mouthful of filthy sand – same quick reaction and admonition. Both were pure instinct, no anger, but accompanied by a loud voice indicating that THIS behaviour was not tolerable, period. The instinct was to protect, and it did. Neither runs in the street or eats sand. Of course time helped – they’re both over 40 years old and love me. Steve- should I have been arrested?

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