Child discipline vs. juvenile cruelty: Where's the line? - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Child discipline vs. juvenile cruelty: Where's the line?


With a rash of recent arrests in Calcasieu Parish of parents charged with cruelty to a juvenile, KPLC's Gerron Jordan set out to find where the line between discipline and cruelty is and what parents need to know before crossing it.  

"We're in no way saying that you can't discipline your child. They're children, they need discipline ... but there is a line that you can't cross," said Stitch Guillory, Chief Deputy of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office. 

To determine that line, Guillory refers to what he calls, the "deputy's Bible" or the Statutory Criminal Law and Procedure Handbook.

"Against any child under the age of 17, whereby unjustifiable pain or suffering is caused to said child," read Guillory. "I think that's where the line is drawn when you say 'unjustifiable pain and suffering is caused to the child.' "

The definition of cruelty to a juvenile doesn't mention physical markings, but Guillory said that is what school officials are trained to look for.
"When you have children going to school with bruises and warps from being disciplined at home, that's probably crossing the line," he said.

Parenting is different for every family. So, how do you handle the contrast of discipline without crossing that line?

"If you know, or are aware that your child is easily bruised, then you may want to pick another form of discipline," said Guillory. "If there are marks or scaring and it's reported, we're going to investigate."

Robin Daugereau, a licensed counselor with the Lake Area Resource Management Center, agrees. 

"When you look into a child's eyes and you see pain, I think the decision should be fairly easy," Daugereau said.  

Daugereau finds now, as opposed to in past generations, parents are more quick to react and more quick to discipline. 

"Calm yourself down before you discipline, take a breath... take a breather," said Daugereau. "A lot of people react in anger. Take a breath."

If that doesn't work, she said communication is key. 

"We don't spend enough time talking one-on-one with our children... we're screaming, we're hollering, and we're just going from one thing to another," she said.

While Guillory and Daugereau aren't promoting the use of spanking and whipping for discipline, they both said it's fine and completely at the discretion of the parents.  

But like Guillory said, if that shows signs of anything deeper than a simple correction of bad behavior, they'll have no choice but to investigate.

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