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David Daggett Speaks on Parental Right Laws and Child Abuse

Frank Mickens: All right. A whole lot involved in cases like this. The law on parental rights, the rights of the child. So okay, when is discipline now child abuse? I have some experts here, Susan Spidell, Director of Family Support Services with Family Service of The Piedmont, and attorney David Daggett, with Daggett and Shuler Law.

All right. So Sue, let’s start with you. What do you tell parents about how to discipline their child?

Susan Spidell: Well, it’s a difficult subject, and we do believe that the parents are the experts. But there are some points that you can remind them, and that is you never want to discipline a child when you, the parent, are angry and where emotions are out of control, because that’s when you get into trouble. So that’s an important thing.

The other thing is to remember that there are age appropriate disciplines that can . . . they need to fit whatever the crime is so that we’re fitting that with what they’ve done.

Frank Mickens: So the younger the child, probably less likely to do physical things, right? I mean . . .

Susan Spidell: Absolutely.

Frank Mickens: Okay.

Susan Spidell: Absolutely and . . .

Frank Mickens: Well, obviously, we would love to get more into that, but we do want to talk about some other aspects of it.

Susan Spidell: Sure.

Frank Mickens: And that is to talk to David about things like this: what is the definition legally of child abuse? People want to know that.

David Daggett: Well, child abuse, the definition is inflicting serious injury not by accident.

Frank Mickens: So someone can interpret that in various ways I imagine, serious injury, right?

David Daggett: Well, like any other area of the law, there is a gray area.

Frank Mickens: Right.

David Daggett: The Department of Social Services usually looks at something that lasts for more than 24 hours or an injury that needs treatment.

Frank Mickens: Okay. So what we saw pictures of someone that has . . . a kid that has broken skin and lacerations, that might qualify?

David Daggett: That’s probably over the line.

Frank Mickens: Oh wow. All right.

David Daggett: That’s probably over the line. Now all 50 states allow corporal punishment, the old-fashioned spanking, and the views on that, they go across the whole spectrum.

Frank Mickens: And Sue and I talked that. Generationally, we hear about back in the day somebody had pulled out a belt and a switch and this and that.

Susan Spidell: Right.

Frank Mickens: Was there a shift, at some point, where something that was done, perhaps back in the day, is no longer considered okay?

Susan Spidell: I think that the shift might have happened when we gave children a voice. Prior to when they were being maybe what would be considered today abused, no one was speaking up for them, and so as a society, we began to say, “They don’t have that voice. Let’s speak for them and protect them.”

Frank Mickens: Well, thank you both.

David Daggett: Thanks for having us.

Frank Mickens: Obviously, we could talk a lot more about this.

David Daggett: Yes.

Frank Mickens: Very good, Julie.

I would like to take time to thank the staff at Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law. To Megan Youngblood for helping me get my disability started; thank you so much for everything!

Olivia Winston