Posted On: November 8, 2012 by Stephen Bilkis

On January 2, 2008, an eight year old girl became defiant with her mother

On January 2, 2008, an eight year old girl became defiant with her mother. They lived in New York. The child became physically aggressive and threw objects in the room and then went to her room and slammed the door. Her mother followed her into her room and took one of the child’s belts down. She prepared to swat the child on the buttocks with the belt, but the child jerked around. The belt buckle came into contact with the child’s face. The contact caused a small scratch to the outside corner of the child’s eye.

When the child went to daycare, she told the school that her mother had struck her in the face with the belt buckle. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services investigated the occurrence. They determined that the mother had mistreated her daughter and used excessive corporal punishment. They charged the mother with child neglect under the law. The law that applies to this type of situation is Social Services Law §412[2][a][i] and Family Ct Act § 1012[f][i]. To this point, the ACS stated that the woman punished the child to the point where the punishment damaged or was in imminent danger of damaging the child’s physical, mental, or emotional state.

The mother contends that when the child became unruly and she followed her into her room. When she got into the room, the child was disrespectful and throwing objects. The mother stated that she picked up the belt in order to smack her on the bottom and could not foresee that the child would turn and the belt would inadvertently strike her child on her face. She contends that the incident was isolated and that it has never happened before. She also contends that the incident did not cause any damage to the child. The scratch was so minor that it was treated with just a band aid and no further treatment was necessary. The child’s mental and emotional states were not damaged by the isolated incident. The mother requests that the court grant summary judgment to her dismissing this case since there is no evidence that this incident rises to the status of neglect.

The ACS worker contends that the matter does rise to the level of neglect and that even if the mother did not intend to hit the child in the face, the use of the belt was neglect. They contend that because the mother was going to hit the child with the belt that it was unnecessary corporal punishment and that it is likely to cause injury to a child. The court does not agree. The court contends that corporal punishment may include smacking a child on the buttocks with a small child’s belt. The act in and of itself is not likely to cause the child any kind of severe trauma either to their physical body or their mental state. The fact that the child was being unruly and violent and was in need of correction reveals that the corporal punishment in this case was not excessive. The small scratch that the child sustained was not large or deep and did not require any special treatment by a doctor or other medical professional. Further, the court contends that there was no evidence presented by ACS to demonstrate that the mother was accustomed to using corporal punishment on a regular basis. In fact, the record demonstrates that just the opposite is true. There was no evidence that would lead the court to believe that the mother had ever at any time used excessive punishment to discipline the child. The court determined that the ACS had failed to establish the necessary elements of the crime of neglect. The case was dismissed.

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