Dad's videotaped rage spurs discussion of when physical punishment is abuse
Outside the home, punishment can include fines, suspension, job loss and prison. Can you find a news report involving one of those?
Now look for coverage of a non-family personal relationship, such as coach-athlete, boss-employee or teacher-student.
Try to spot another story about something that happened years ago and is getting fresh attention.
What happens between parent and child in the home usually stays in the home – or at least it did before YouTube. Now millions of people have seen a stark, disturbing video secretly recorded in 2004 by a Texas teen who says she was regularly whipped by her father, a family court judge. Hillary Adams' seven-minute video has gone viral, prompting outrage and debate about when discipline goes too far. (The video and news reports about it are disturbing and graphic, so no clip is embedded here.)
The scenes, recorded when the daughter was 16 and turned on a hidden camera in her bedroom, show Judge William Adams cursing and using a belt to whip her for illegally downloading music and games. "In my mind," he told a Texas TV reporter, "I haven't done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing." For her part, the 23-year-old daughter says she posted the saved video recently because of continuing family tension. "The disputes and the harassment were escalating," she said on NBC's Today show last week, "and finally it was just the straw that broke the camel's back." Her parents are now divorced.
While some specialists condemn harsh physical discipline and child-safety advocates say Judge Adams should lose his county job, many Americans defend the father in online comments and interviews. They believe it's a parental responsibility to shape character through discipline, including what's called corporal punishment (spanking, slapping or whipping). State laws allow broad leeway unless parents cause serious injury. Even some teachers can get physical: All Southern states except Virginia allow corporal punishment in school. One result of Hillary Adams' widely seen video, the Christian Science Monitor national newspaper noted last week, is that "web-savvy teenagers will realize they have a new tool to use to combat beatings."
Daughter says: "I told him [her dad] I had the video and he brushed it off. He didn't seem to think anything of it, and basically dared me to post it." -- Hillary Adams on Today show, Nov. 3
Father says: "I did lose my temper, but I've since apologized. It looks worse than it is." -- Judge William Adams last week on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Texas
Researcher says: "For a lot of people, this is child abuse, not corporal punishment, but . . . this would not qualify as a crime or child abuse in any state." -- David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire
Front Page Talking Points is written by
Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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