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. All four of my children grew up without spanking, their teachers rarely ever had to discipline them, they came home with excellent grades, scholastically and in conduct. It’s not necessary to strike children to get them to behave, “sensitive” or not. One could only “hope” for children like mine, proud of every single one of them.

    1. Inga – my job as a student was to terrorize teachers. To make their life a living hell. Each day was an intellectual minefield.

  2. DBQ: “Some are sensitive and will respond well to verbal discipline, others are completely immune to verbal discipline.”

    That’s exactly what I meant when I said my kid was sensitive.

    Time outs or taking a toy away work for him. I’ve also said that although I don’t believe in spanking, myself, I do believe in discipline. I’ve taught him from an early age that he’ll get in far more trouble for lying than for telling me he did wrong. So he tells me when he does something wrong or gets a time out at school. I’m glad he has a conscience and I hope it helps him through the teenage years in the future. One can only hope.

  3. Squeeky,

    That was good. Good thing I wan’t drinking coffee at my computer.

  4. ‘My child is so sensitive’…. that’s what I’ve heard from parents who expect other parents to discipline their own kids because their special snowflake is so sensitive they couldn’t possibly have been the instigator. It’s always those “sensitive ones” that “have if behind the ears” as my mother used to say, lol.

  5. Tyger

    It’s called an oligarchy and Plato warned about it. It is the impossibility to have a successful democratic society with voters who are complacent and ignorant of the issues. Complacent because it seems hopeless and ignorant because all that comes from the candidates is BS. This is why money has to be taken out of the equation. A billion dollars repeating a name is no substitution for a pamphlet from the government printers with the issues from each candidate.

    As long as money is the criterion for electing someone, we will have an oligarchy and there will be only this sham of a democracy.

  6. Spanking threads always bring out strange people for some reason??? Anyway, here is an Irish Poem about one of them:

    Drop Trou Fred???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    There once was a liberal named Fred,
    Who begged them to spank him instead!
    “Hitting kids with a stick,
    Is perverted and sick!”
    “And plus, I’ll pay extra!”, he said.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  7. @Karen

    It IS true that child abuse can be verbal, not just physical. Constant disparagement or belittling can be as damaging in some ways as being physically abused. Children need to be appropriately praised and encouraged…..appropriately. Too much negativity or even benign neglect can be damaging.

    Each child is different. Some are sensitive and will respond well to verbal discipline, others are completely immune to verbal discipline. That, of course, doesn’t mean that you need to “beat” the more stubborn child. Parenting is hard. We learn how from our own parents and family members. I consider myself lucky to have been raised by good parents who treated us as thinking reasoning beings and didn’t have too many instances of corporal punishment in my childhood. When I did…..I deserved it.

    Discipline is not abuse.

  8. I think a discussion on the best parenting techniques is a completely different one from what constitutes child abuse. That line needs to be clear and firm and protect children from real harm.

  9. Ronda Rousey’s mom used to throw arm bars on her. Why isn’t she in jail?

  10. I do not agree with spanking as a parenting approach. However, the majority of parents do spank. If we apply the law equally, then they would all get arrested and foster care would be overwhelmed. My child is very sensitive, but all kids and all parents are different. I don’t spank, but I do believe in discipline.

    Child abuse is causing severe physical or emotional abuse. The story did not state that she was injured, and described a “slow, hesitant kick.” Did either the spanking or the alleged tap with the foot leave a mark/bruise? I do not know the circumstances about the child playing by the street. I do know that feeling when your child gives you a heart attack running towards the street and you stop them in time, are glad they’re OK, but angry for the close call.

    There is certainly debate on the best parenting technique, and you can buy 10 different books with 10 different approaches. I don’t want to criminalize a parenting approach I don’t agree with, unless it rises to the standard of child abuse.

    I also disagree with cutting your child down with remarks that they’re not good enough, lack of discipline, teaching a child that they will win every single time they play or that they’ll get a trophy every year, spending too much screen time, not reading to them, etc, but although there are negative consequences associated with each of these, if we criminalize them most kids would be cast adrift in a foster care system that doesn’t love them or produce a good outcome.

    Child abuse is a very serious crime and, like rape, we should not lower the bar to include non criminal behavior. Nor should we impose a government standard of parenting.

    1. Karen – your comments remind me of the parent-teacher conference where the parent told the teacher “My child is so sensitive, you you want to punish him, yell at the kid next to him.”

  11. Although I do not favor spanking, I do like to keep it as an option. And we all know a three year old we would like to do more to than just spank. 😉

  12. I’m a member of a small, untaxed religious organization so my mind has no such stranglehold. I do keep an eye out though for any effort to put a stranglehold on my mind which is the natural right of any person in this republic.

  13. Steve, I’d say the American people have a Fascist state in their national government, controlled by rich bankers and owners of large corporations who own the media, along with huge, untaxed religious organizations, who have a stranglehold on the minds of the country’s citizens. Just as you described in your last paragraph. You’re very perceptive.

  14. Steve is posting anti-diversity content, much as a large majority of blacks and a good third of Hispanics favor corporal punishment.
    Even a third of Swedes favor it.

    Steve is a cultural bigot, flexing his white privilege.

  15. My mother used my father’s fraternity paddle to discipline me. I tried hiding it, but she promised the punishment would be even worse if I didn’t tell her where it was, so I finally revealed that I had put it in the back of the closet.

    One time BTP, (before the paddle), she had me lie across her lap and spanked me with her hand. She said I got up and looked her indignantly and didn’t cry. She was right. Somehow I felt the spanking was unjust, and I wasn’t about to let her win by crying. Soon my father came home and she told him about what happened. Then I got a second spanking. Still I refused to cry, and he continued to spank me harder and longer. Suddenly, I realized the only way I was going to get this to stop was to cry. Once I did cry, the spanking ended. I was still mad, and still felt the punishment was unjust, but I had gotten the spanking stopped. That was my first lesson in dealing with government.

  16. Nick, please re-consider your dispute with bans by ::ahem:: “liberals.”

    Should we ban child prostitution or children working in coal mines sixteen hours a day or does these types of bans infringe on your sense of liberty?

    Do you believe in bans on running red lights as constructive social engineering or does that infringe on your sense of liberty?

    Do we have a Republican form of government or a fascist state in which media and religion have a compelled stranglehold on your mind?

  17. The parent’s will be doing plenty of “remembering, talking and sharing, etc.” after they stand by and watch her run into oncoming traffic and then scrape her off the pavement. Yeah, that’ll teach the little 3 year to not listen to Daddy.

  18. As with so many things, it’s a question of degrees. A ‘smack’ on the bottom along with communication on a regular basis is not a bad thing. It is not a good thing. The smack is not necessary. It is a short cut. Two hundred some pounds delivered through a kick could do some serious damage, not to mention the demeaning character of the blow. Kicking someone is not punishment. It is all on the kicker’s side.

    Smacking and ‘whooping’ kids is nothing more than negligence in the more important departments: remembering, talking, sharing, etc. Of course there is also that other almost impossible to perfect ingredient, your own actions. No matter how you phrase it or how often you say it, kids see through hypocrisy.

  19. I’m surprised this got overturned. After all, this is the same state where CPS and the courts take away parental rights to seek medical care they believe is in the best interests of the child.

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