Massachusetts’ highest court has for the first time ever ruled that parents cannot be held criminally liable for physically punishing their children.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that it’s permissible for parents to discipline their children by spanking, provided “reasonable” force is used and the child isn’t harmed.
The state’s highest court also reversed the assault and battery conviction of a Brockton, MA, man who was seen by police spanking his three-year-old daughter.
1. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that parents cannot be held criminally liable for physically punishing their children.
The Supreme Judicial Court has heard corporal punishment cases before, but the question of whether spanking was allowed under any circumstances in Massachusetts had been left open.
Explaining the court’s decision, Justice Barbara Lenk said that two important interests had to be balanced: protecting children from abuse and avoiding unnecessary interference with the parental rights to raise children as they see fit.
Justice Lenk said that spanking or other mild physical punishment was allowed if “the force used against the minor child is reasonable” and used for the purpose of “safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor, including the prevention or punishment of the minor’s misconduct”.
However, the court ruled that force can never be used if it causes or risks causing any lasting physical or emotional harm to a child and that the overall balance must always tip in favor of protecting children from abuse masked as discipline.
2. Pope Francis says it’s OK to spank your children to discipline them, as long as their dignity is maintained.
Read more: The Boston Globe.
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