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Name: Gonzalez v. DSS
Case #: H038241
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/21/2014
Summary

Remand is required where the trial court did not consider mother’s assertion that spanking with a wooden spoon was done for a disciplinary purpose. Mother was reported for child abuse after she spanked her 12-year-old daughter with a wooden spoon with enough force to leave bruises. DSS concluded that the report was substantiated and submitted it for inclusion into the Child Abuse Central Index. Mother unsuccessfully sought relief. On appeal, she contended that neither the Department nor the superior court gave sufficient weight to the right of a parent to impose reasonable discipline on his or her child. The appellate court agreed and reversed. The Legislature has recognized the right of parents to impose reasonable corporal punishment on their children as a legitimate disciplinary measure. The record did not show that any consideration was given to the parental disciplinary privilege. The record also supports a conclusion that the spanking was entirely the product of a genuine and deliberate disciplinary purpose. There was no evidence of any other reason for mother’s actions. There was no reason to believe that mother should have known she was inflicting bruises. Therefore the trial court erred in rejecting mother’s assertion that the conduct reported as child abuse constituted a reasonable attempt to discipline her child. Remand was required with instructions either to conduct a new hearing at which that issue is addressed, or to find the report unfounded. Further, the court held that the trial court erred by refusing to permit the daughter to testify, citing the rationale that she would be traumatized by the experience.