Appeals Court rules for parents who paddled teenage son

(AP) - The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that parents who spanked their 13-year-old son with a wooden paddle weren't physically abusive. The boy weighed 195 pounds at the time.

The decision overturned a Hennepin County District Court order requiring protective services for the boy and his younger brother, after the boy told authorities his father paddled him 36 times for sneaking out of the house.

Court papers identified the family members only by their initials.

The ruling said the parents resorted to physical punishment after withdrawing privileges and grounding their son, G.F., didn't stop his unauthorized excursions.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

In the incident that prompted the case, the ruling said the father used "moderate force" after previously warning the son that he would face physical punishment if his behavior didn't change.

Midway through the spanking, the son grabbed a kitchen knife and threatened to kill himself, the ruling said. The father took the knife away and spanked him some more.

The Appeals Court noted that state law allows parents to use "reasonable force" to restrain or correct their children. The ruling also mentioned the boy's weight while concluding that the discipline wasn't "cruel" or "excessive."

"Appellants' chosen form of discipline for G.F.'s knife wielding and suicide threat may not have been the best approach under the circumstances, but parents, who are in the best position to make those judgments, have a wide degree of latitude regarding the discipline of their children," said the opinion written by Judge Christopher Dietzen.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)