Slidell Sentry News, April 3, 1998

Second parent arrested in spanking incident
By Steve Miller

SLIDELL For the second time this week, a parent has been charged with cruelty to a juvenile for spanking a child.

Gregory Magee, 28, of 2021 Covington Hwy allegedly whipped a 9-year-old boy in his care with a belt, inflicting deep bruises on the boy's legs, said Tim Reichenbach, spokesman for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.

Magee told investigators that he had spanked the child, which is not illegal. But investigators believed the spanking was "carried too far." Magee allegedly whipped the boy because he was acting out in school and getting bad grades, said Reichenbach.

Deep bruises on the boy's legs prompted school administrators to report the suspected abuse. The injuries did not require hospitalization.

The sheriff's office investigated the case for two days before determining it merited an arrest of Magee for cruelty to a juvenile.

A local woman was also charged this week with cruelty to a juvenile after a spanking incident. She allegedly spanked her 10-year-old son three times after he was suspended from elementary school for five days.

In that case, police and juvenile authorities in Slidell made the determination that Himber had gone beyond corporal punishment and into the realm of cruelty to a juvenile.

The boy's grandmother initiated the police investigation into Himber's disciplinary actions. The grandmother reported seeing bruises on the boy's arm, said Slidell Police Department spokesman Lt. Butch Jacobs.

Reichenbach said investigators must make the call as to what constitutes cruelty and what is acceptable physical discipline. The Office of Community Services, Child Protective Services and juvenile authorities help investigators make that determination, he said.

The question of parents' rights versus children's' rights becomes complicated when corporal punishment is at issue. "It is a bit of a grey area," said Alan Black, an attorney in Slidell whose practice includes both criminal and family law. "These are tough cases. ...

You need to look at every case on its own merits."

Parents have the right to discipline their children, said Black, but >there are limitations as to what is acceptable.

"There was a time when (corporal punishment) was generally accepted. Then it was viewed as disastrously negative for children. Now we are back to using more physical punishment and believing it is OK," said Peter Clark, a child psychologist in Slidell.

There is a trend toward more rigid discipline these days born out of a worry that society has become too liberal and out of control, said Clark.

He never advises people that corporal punishment is a necessary parenting tool, "but how they discipline their children is up to them," he said. "Some people believe one thing and other believe another."

"There is nothing that can be achieved through corporal punishment that cannot be achieved through some other means," said the psychologist. As far as inflicting long-lasting damage on a child's psyche, Clark said there is no reason to believe it causes profound harm. Of course, that would depend on the severity of the beating.

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