Family Law

Despite bruising, spanking daughter, 12, with wooden spoon wasn't child abuse, appeals court rules


It may have been at the outer limit of permissible parental discipline. However, spanking a 12-year-old girl with a wooden spoon so hard that it left bruises wasn’t sufficient grounds for a “substantiated” child-abuse report, a California appellate court has ruled.

In light of the mother’s motivation to prevent her daughter from engaging in problem behavior, as well as her lack of intent to harm the girl, “we cannot say that the use of a wooden spoon to administer a spanking necessarily exceeds the bounds of reasonable parental discipline,” said the 6th District Court of Appeal in a Tuesday opinion. Justice Conrad Rushing authored the unanimous decision, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Relatives said spankings were unusual in the family, and the girl had come home late at night, sparking the April 2010 incident. Her parents were already concerned that she was “boy crazy” and becoming interested in gangs and her schoolwork was deteriorating.

The appellate ruling reversed a trial court’s determination that the Santa Clara County Department of Social Services appropriately determined the mother should be referred to the state Department of Justice for inclusion in a child-abuse database.

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