Minnesota lawsuit tees up spanking debate

It’s unlikely there’ll be many people on the sidelines in the case of a lawsuit that alleges children have been taken from parents in Minnesota because they were spanked. You’re either for spanking or you’re against it.

“It was every parent’s worst nightmare,” Dwight Mitchell, of Apple Valley, tells the Star Tribune, which reports on the lawsuit from a group of parents. “My children were legally kidnapped for a bottom spanking that was done out of love, because I want my children to grow up to be hardworking members of society.”

Mitchell lost one child for 22 months, and another for five months, after a babysitter reported that he spanked one of the children.

Dakota County and state human services officials aren’t talking.

Not since Adrian Peterson beat his child with a switch has the issue of corporal punishment — a practice popular with Minnesotans according to a poll — been on trial.

And there’s a question of racial equality in the dispensing of child protection, the Star Tribune says. A state report said African-American children are more likely to be “screened in” to child protection that whites.

Mitchell is black.

“I am not the only parent who thinks that the 30-year social experiment of removing corporal discipline from our homes and schools has gone too far,” he tells the Strib. “You look at all the school shootings and have to ask where it’s gotten us. Kids have a total lack of respect for teachers and adults.”

“The abduction by child protection services ruined my son’s life and changed it forever,” Mitchell said. “Can you imagine if you thought that your father abandoned you?”

“I simply can’t believe that I owe my middle-class, home-owning, productive lifestyle to having had my butt beaten,” a commenter says.

Coincidentally, research released earlier this month shows the child welfare system is more likely to intervene in households in “less neighborly” neighborhoods and in which parents spank their kids.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University found that living in neighborhoods where neighbors are willing to help each other and generally get along — protects families against getting involved in the child welfare system.

About 57 percent of the 3-year-olds in the sample had been spanked by a parent or parental figure in the past month. CPS investigated 7.4 million children for suspected maltreatment during 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Unlike previous research that only factored spanking and neighborhood conditions separately as precursors of child maltreatment, the current study examined these factors simultaneously, said study lead author Julie Ma, assistant professor of social work at UM-Flint.

Spanking is a practice ingrained in culture. In the recent strike of teachers in Oklahoma, one legislator suggested spanking could help the lives of teachers.

“Maybe if we spanked our kids at home a little better with a paddle, made them mind and be good kids, the teachers wouldn’t have it so hard in the classroom,” Rep. John Bennett said during floor debate.

“The parents need to do what they’re supposed to do as parents, put them on the learning foundation and then send them to school. And, then our teachers can do their job, which they do so well, and teach their kids,” he said.

In the Minnesota case, the lawsuit demands jury trials for all termination of parental rights proceedings.