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Court: Striking Your Child Once in Face May Be Abusive

Judges say parents go too far if the blow leaves a handprint or bruising.


A parent who strikes a child in the face hard enough to leave fingerprints and bruising has used excessive force and can be put on a list of abusive parents, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

In their 16-page opinion, judges Victor Ashrafi and Douglas Fasciale reviewed two other cases in which a parent who slapped a teenager and another parent who struck her child on the shoulder were found not to have used excessive force. But in this case, the judges held that striking the child in the face, and with enough force to leave a mark the following morning, crossed the line.

"Slapping the face of an eight-year-old child with sufficient force to leave a hand imprint and cause bruising goes 'beyond what is proper and reasonable,'" the court held.


Click here to read the court's full opinion in the case.

But the judges made it clear that the specific circumstances of the case were what determined their conclusion. The mother reported that her son had been unruly for some time and had been disciplined at school two days earlier. According to the court record, he had kicked his younger sister in the stomach and his father had come upstairs and yelled at him to stop.

At that point, the mother, who was nine months pregnant, confronted her son and asked why he kicked his sister. When he “shrugged his  shoulders, ‘as if he didn’t care,’” and then said that he had kicked her because he “felt like it,” the mother slapped her son's left cheek.

In the morning, she applied a cold washcloth to his face and his father took him to school. But school officials noticed a red mark on the 8-year-old's face that resembled fingerprints, and reported the incident to the Department of Youth and Family Services.

In an initial hearing, an administrative law judge decided that the slap was not excessive punishment, but the DFYS reviewed the case and overruled the judge. While the child was not removed from his parents' care, the mother was put on a state list of abusive parents.

The appellate court considered two other cases where parents were found to be within their rights in striking their children. In one, a parent had slapped a teenager in the face, but without leaving any bruise or mark. The judges in that case held that the parent's action did not constitute abuse.

In a second case, a single mother had struck her 8-year-old daughter four or five times on the shoulder, leaving a bruise. But the judges distinguished that case, noting that the mother had been alone, had first given the child a time out, which had not worked, and struck the child on the shoulder and not in the face.

"The location of the blow that [the mother] landed upon her eight-year-old son was particularly vulnerable; striking [her son] in the face intensified the potential for harm, as this is a risky area due to the presence of many sensitive organs located nearby. The risks associated with such blows are numerous and serious and could include bone damage, tooth damage, eye injuries, jaw injuries or worse," the judges wrote.

The court also considered that the mother did not first try some other means of getting her son to behave, before striking him.

The mother's attorney, Walter Schreyer, said the ruling, "doesn’t make a lot of sense to me," according to NJ.com.

Do you agree with the court's opinion?

Amber Wright April 12, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I agree with you - hitting a child is never the answer - we can parent without resorting to that!
Amber Wright April 12, 2012 at 02:59 PM
If the police were called because a man and woman were fighting and the woman had a hand print on her face it would, rightfully so, be considered abuse and the man would get arrested. I see no difference between that slap and this one. A child should never be hit in the face - what kind of barbaric teaching is that?? Discipline yes - by all means - but physical abuse - no - never. A child should be taught to respect others by being respected, should be taught compassion by being shown compassion, empathy by having empathy shown to them. Exactly what does hitting teach a child? Let me tell you - it teaches a child not to trust, that if someone makes them angry enough you can hit them. Not the lesson I want my child to receive.
Amber Wright April 12, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I graduated school in 1983. I went to an all white school in an upper middle class neighborhood and guess what - we had a retired police officer at school everyday and on many days we had uniformed officers. I know of more kids that died of drugs or really screwed up their lives because of it. The cops were there to prevent the spread of drug use - it did not work - drugs were a plenty in my school - and the kids had the means to get them. I do not know if you people grew up in Andy Griffiths town - but in the real world we had cops in schools in the 80's, drug use was rampant and a lot of kids died because of it.
Amber Wright April 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM
The child had fingerprints on his face - are you seriously comparing that to being tickled????
John Fleming Sr April 12, 2012 at 03:14 PM
OK Folks, according to the Superior Court of NJ in 2003, it is not abuse to continually beat your children even if you have a video of it. This is my (now ex) wife beating my children (2 videos) (if links don't work search youtube for "mother beats children and husband and gets custody OR TheAmazingOlderMan) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9u5lxc3Ccw&list=UUhRn3KhQP5Lf50xPcvLusHg&index=18&feature=plcp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC0edn3O6aA&list=UUhRn3KhQP5Lf50xPcvLusHg&index=1&feature=plcp
Nina Parrilla April 12, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Good for you mama.
Nina Parrilla April 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Its always been abusive.
Nina Parrilla April 12, 2012 at 03:50 PM
That was sickning to watch I had to turn it off. Where is she now? eating everything at a free buffet?
Eggs-n-Toast April 12, 2012 at 03:58 PM
There is now and has always been a very fine line between controlled spanking (on the butt, through clothing) and 'abuse' or 'beating'. Unfortunately many parents cross that line because A; they don't know where that line is, or B; they intentionally want to cross that line and hurt children. John, the woman in your videos is not spanking, she is abusing. Not only is she physically abusive, but she is very much verbally abusive which is many times more damaging than any smack on the butt, and yes, even more damaging than a beating. I'm sorry for your children. I'm sorry the judge in your case had his head up his butt. I really think your ex had /has some serious mental issues she needed to have addressed. I hope she got help.... Nina, was that comment about the woman really necessary or appropriate? Not very mature of you picking on her because of her weight. Wasn't what she had done enough reason to comment? Why does her appearance warrant that kind of childish remark?
Rebecca Savastio April 12, 2012 at 04:33 PM
My mother slapped me across the face exactly one time in my life, when I was 16. I don't remember what we were fighting about, but she was a single mom under a lot of stress and I'm sure I was being a major brat. When I look back on it at the age of 42, I can say my mom was/is probably one of the best moms that ever was or ever will be. Abusive? No way. I certainly learned my lesson well that day and probably came out better for the experience.
Xavier April 12, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I graduated in the mid 90s and we never had police in the schools.
dhhex April 12, 2012 at 05:19 PM
The violence in our schools comes from parents not parenting effectively. How many parents are in contact with their child teachers? When you are a parent your life has to evolve around them. You have to know where they are, who they spend time with and what is on their minds. You have to talk to them, spend time with them. They have to be the no 1 priority in your life. If you have hit your child recently, go and sit down with this child and ask him/her how they could have handled the situation better and also ask them how you could have handled it better. And come up with a compromise or solution with your child, for the next time you need to discipline your child.
makemyday April 12, 2012 at 05:57 PM
When I was growing up, I was hit with a belt, a wooden spoon or whatever my mom could grab fast. I vowed not to do that with my kids. I was a yeller and my kids knew I was mad! They were sent to their room afterwards to think about things. They are successful and they have never been in trouble with the law!
Babe Truth April 12, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Oh yeah, well when i was growing up I was whacked upside the headpiece with an anvil while eating a bar of soap and acting as an ashtray. I am successfully lounging in a prison cell so that proves violence works! PS Simpletruth, your kids were the biggest trouble makers ive ever met.
lisa April 12, 2012 at 08:54 PM
jeez, how hard are u hitting a kid when it leaves a bruise on their face. i've given my daughter a smack here or there but never hard enough to leave a bruise. wow
MG April 13, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Personally I do not believe in hitting children, and here is the reason why. Many people hit their children not to "teach them a lesson" but rather to release their own frustration at the child not listening to them. The child is forced to be physically abused and does not have the right to defend themselves. There just isn't anything right about that. How would an adult feel if they were hit everytime they ticked somebody off and then were not allowed to fight back?
Mattie April 13, 2012 at 01:13 AM
My mom was a stay at home mom for most of our childhood. There were 5 kids. My dad worked a lot and commuted, too. Mom still has the " spoon-wit-da-holes " that she used on our butts- IF she could catch us! We usually ran like the wind and jumped into our beds and under the covers to protect ourselves. To this day we still laugh about some classic scenes of getting caught and still having the moons and stars (the holes) imprinted on our backsides! I could would never, in all honesty, say my mother abused us.... we drove her nuts and she could only take so much. When yelling didn't work, da spoon came out! Even then, it really didn't happen that often. None of us turned out to be big into spanking or hitting our kids, either. I think that comes from natural progression into 'knowing better' and realizing what's culturally acceptable and what's not from generation to generation.
bud April 13, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Most parents today are afraid of their children and want to be their friends. They negotiate with them. As the "children" grow up, they cannot accept authority as in the case of a boss at a job. They become unable to function in a structured environment. A good kick in pants when they deserve it is good for them. The jails could not hold all the parents who have smacked their kids.
Da Brickz April 13, 2012 at 01:41 AM
I agree besides a Taser gun is much more effective way to keep my kids in line
Dave Bell April 13, 2012 at 02:13 AM
A smack on the butt if really needed when they are little avoids a need to abuse them as they get older. Maybe a little more involvement by parents as kids grow and learn would make beating them or medicating them as they get older unnecessary.
makemyday April 13, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Babe truth.. jealousy will get you nowhere! We prefer to stay on the "right" side of the law! According to your lounging arrangements, you must prefer the"other" side. I feel for you.
Jane Healton April 13, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Striking someone who is in your face and offensive is a normal, simple and unlearned human reaction. When you become a parent your relinquish your rights to those sorts of simple reactions in regards to your children. You consider who the child is and apply appropriate measures. A toddler is not an 8 year old is not a 12 year old is not a 15 year old. A tractable child who changes into a hell-raiser needs investigation, not knee jerk reactions. That being said no one has focused on the brother acting out on the sister. One sibling cannot be allowed to abuse another, period. Abusing the offender in return teaches no lesson worth being noticed. If the court system in turn teaches that the parents are powerless in regards to their children we have the mess we are in. It's all about emotional intelligence and having the wisdom to apply power in a way that causes growth.
Mattie April 13, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Well said, Jane.
Dan Reynolds April 14, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Had to stop watching... man, brutal...
Lashanda ImSingle Burton April 19, 2012 at 05:13 AM
I think a slap across the face is degrading in any situation between any2 ppl... Also he was only 8 a slap in the face is not age appropriate punishment, and you have to take into consideration the fact that there was a mark still there in the mornin and after asking a cold compress. That seems like excessive force
Leif Moldskred July 25, 2012 at 04:12 AM
To hit a child in the face or head with force is, to my mind, a declaration of failure as a parent,
joy alford December 06, 2012 at 01:45 AM
I don't necessarily agree with time out but slapping a child in the face is a very abusive act.. The buttocks can be used instead of the face. You could cause ear damage, bone damage, neck injury, eye injury, such as a busted eye vessel.
Rick Dean April 18, 2013 at 03:53 PM
I raised 4 kids. Never paddled any of them more than 3 times. I grew up slapped and beat regularly. My mind was impaled with violent rejection, coldness and unfairness. I've been in more fights than anyone else. Marines, boxing and street. My mind churns with conflict when its not occupied with pleasant things. I had empathy and dedication to my kids. I broke my side of the curse for them. And they are well.
Mel Sharples April 18, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Yeah, I miss those days of "Taxi Driver" era NYC and America.
Mel Sharples April 18, 2013 at 04:54 PM
The ONLY thing slapping your kid teaches them is to slap their kid when they're an adult. That's it, that's all, nothing else.


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