WEST CHESTER - A Coatesville woman "crossed the line" in disciplining her step-granddaughter and has been ordered to complete anger management and parenting classes for beating the child repeatedly with a belt, a judge said Tuesday.
Lisa W. Friday, 45, of the 600 block of East Chestnut Street, pleaded guilty to a single count of simple assault for the January incident involving the 15-year-old girl, who was living in her home at the time. Charges of endangering the welfare of children, related to punishment the girl described as being kept in her room for a month and not given dinner, were dropped in exchange for the plea.
She was given 18 months probation and is forbidden from having any future contact with the victim in the case, who now lives with her father outside Friday's home. The girl is the granddaughter of Friday's husband.
The girl, who was not in court on Tuesday, told a school counselor she was in such pain from the beating days after it happened that she could not sit down. The counselor told police the girl had 1œ-inch thick welts on her arms that were clearly visible.
Judge Anthony Sarcione told Friday while he acknowledged corporal punishment was sometimes necessary, there is a line between appropriate punishment and physical abuse.
"Discipline is important," Sarcione told the woman, a graduate of Immaculata University who works at a local environmental engineering firm. "Children don't see enough of it, and sometimes that leads to problems later in life.
"However, in your case, I think you went to the other extreme," he said.
According to Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Pitts, the assault took place on Jan. 9. She said Friday beat the girl on the legs, arms, back and buttocks with a leather belt.
Jan. 9 was a Wednesday. At school on Friday, Jan. 11, the girl - whose name was not mentioned in court documents - told Coatesville 9-10 Center guidance counselor Ken Archer about the beating, saying her back hurt and she had trouble sitting down because of the pain in her buttocks.
Police interviewed the girl on Feb. 8. In the interview, according to court records, the girl said that on the day of the beating, Friday, who is also known as Lisa Gillard-Friday, "hit her more times than she could remember for too long a time period to remember." She said the welts the beatings left did not go away for weeks.
In addition, the girl told Coatesville Detective Kevin Campbell that after the beating, Friday confined her to her room for 30 days at all hours, allowing her out only to go to school, to church, and occasionally to the store. She said Friday did not allow her to eat dinner, and the only way she got food was when her siblings would sneak food to her. She told Campbell she lost 10 pounds during the month.
The girl concluded she had been beaten with the belt many times over the past few years.
Friday, in her comments to Sarcione, said whipping children with a belt was the way she had always disciplined them, although she said she has stopped since her arrest.
"I do admit that I beat her with a belt," she said, accompanied by her attorney, Thomas Bellwoar of West Chester. "It's part of our community. It is how we discipline our children. But I'm not doing it anymore. I've learned my lesson."
Sarcione picked up on her choice of words.
"What you just said sums it up," he told Friday. "'I beat her with a belt.' When you use the word 'beat,' it goes beyond what is appropriate. I'm glad to hear you quit. It is overboard."
Pitts, who heads the district attorney's child-abuse unit, said after the sentencing that her office fields several complaints of child abuse that occurs ostensibly as discipline or punishment, but prosecutes very few.
"A lot of times we don't prosecute because we can't prosecute," because of the so-called "corporal punishment defense" that allows parents and others to hit their children under certain circumstances, she said. "We in the DA's office have a very difficult job evaluating" when a prosecution is justified for such actions. "But when there is significant injury or other reason, we will prosecute."
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