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Detective Surgenor Answers Your Questions
If you have a question, send it to Robert Surgenor at "FamilyDefenseNet@cox.net"
Answer: No. According to Ohio law, a parent must create a "substantial risk of SERIOUS PHYSICAL HARM" to the child in order to be considered child abuse. A minor bruise would never be considered serious physical harm under Ohio law.
Question: I was told by a social worker that it is illegal to spank a child with any type of instrument other than the hand, such as a wooden spoon or a belt. Is that true?Answer: No, the social worker is wrong. Ohio law places no restrictions on the way the spanking is administered, but it does consider whether or not serious physical harm could occur. Spanking a child on the buttocks with a wooden spoon would never create that risk, but swinging a baseball bat at his head would create a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the child. Whether or not the parent uses a bare hand is not the question. The type of physical harm that could occur is the concern.
Question: I was recently arrested for spanking my child under the Domestic Violence law. I was told by the police officer that I am not allowed to hit anyone in my family, including my children. I thought that Ohio law gave a parent permission to spank their children.
Answer: Ohio law does give a parent the right to spank their children. Unfortunately, the Domestic Violence law appears to conflict with that parent's authority. Fortunately, several parents who have been arrested under the Domestic Violence statute for spanking their children have appealed their cases to the Ohio Appellate Courts. The Appellate Courts have agreed that spanking does not constitute Domestic Violence. In EVERY instance where a parent was convicted under the Domestic Violence law for spanking their child for misbehavior, the conviction was OVERTURNED by the Appellate Court (See "Court Decisions" on this web site). If you are charged with Domestic Violence for disciplining your child you need to contact the Family Defense Network of Ohio for advice.
Question: A social worker came to my front door and told me that she had received a report that I was abusing my children. She told me that she was "required by law" to investigate the allegations, and that I should let her into my home. I asked her if she had a warrant, and she told me that she didn't need one. When I refused to let her in, she told me that if she had to go get a warrant, she would return and take my four children from me. I have not heard from her since then. Should I have let her into my home?
Answer: You should never let an officer of the court into your home without a warrant. A social worker, along with police officers and deputies, are required to obtain a warrant from the court to enter your home if they believe you are breaking the law. Although there are exceptions to this rule, like an "emergency" or an officer in "hot pursuit" of a criminal, a "report" that you are allegedly abusing your child does not allow a social worker to enter your home without a warrant. When she told you that she would take your children from you if you didn't let her into your home, that may have been a violation of your 14th Amendment right to Due Process. Social workers have used deceit in order to gain access to homes. DO NOT allow any government official into your home if they do not have a warrant in their hand!
Question: I attended one of your lectures in the Cincinnati area, and you discussed the Ohio laws that deal with child abuse. You mentioned that there could be circumstances when a parent seriously injures their child that would NOT be considered child abuse. How is that possible? If you break a child's arm, isn't that child abuse under any circumstances?
Answer: Section 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code, titled "Endangering children," states... "No person shall ... administer corporal punishment ... which punishment ... is excessive under the circumstances and creates a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the child." The word "and" is an inclusive term. That means that BOTH criteria in this statute must be met in order for the parent to be guilty of child abuse.
A prosecutor once argued with me about this fact, and gave the same argument you did. If a mother breaks her child's arm, doesn't that have to be child abuse? One of our Municipal Court judges settled the argument. If a mother is being attacked by her 15 year old son with a chain saw, and mom grabs a baseball bat and swings it at the boy in an attempt to disarm him, and mom fractures the boy's arm, is it child abuse? The answer, according to the judge, is NO. Although the mother caused "serious physical harm to the child," the action was NOT "excessive under the circumstances!" This does not give the parent the right to seriously injure their child when they discipline them under normal circumstances. If serious physical harm does occur, the parent better have a very good explanation as to why it occurred.