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Is It Legal to Publicly 'Shame' Your Kid?

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 07, 2013 10:06 AM

Creative judges have taken to shaming criminals by wearing signs on busy street corners, but now parents have started doing it too. So is it legal to publicly "shame" your own kid?

In March, a Florida family decided to punish their 13-year-old daughter by by having her wear a sign at a busy intersection stating that she was "self-entitled" and had "no respect for authority," reports the Northwest Florida Daily News.

The girl's parents defended their decision to "shame" their daughter after photos of her punishment went viral. But did they break any laws?

No Law Against Shaming Criminals

Stupid crimes and arrogant criminals often spark creativity in judicial sentencing. Generally speaking, there is no law against shaming criminals in public.

Criminals who are made to wear signs, "Scarlet Letter"-style, to shame them for their crimes have not been successful in stopping these types of punishments.

And while the Eighth Amendment does prevent cruel and unusual punishments from being carried out by the government, it doesn't say one lick about parents disciplining their own children.

Some Parental Punishment Illegal

In general, state and local governments do not try to squeeze their way between children and their parents, but there are some cases in which severe parental punishments can break the law. For example:

  • Beating your child. Threatening or dealing out physical abuse to your children is illegal in all states, but some states do have exceptions for corporal punishment.
  • Abandoning your child. If you leave your child alone without any supervision or support for a long enough period of time, it can rise to the level of child abandonment. However, this does not include a typical "time out."
  • Not feeding your child. Parents are responsible for the general well-being of their kids, and not providing them regular meals (except in cases of poverty) may constitute illegal neglect. Parents who make a child skip dessert, however, are not criminals.

Stand By Your Shaming

Parents who put their children in dangerous situations unsupervised, even if it only is to shame them in public, may be guilty of child endangerment.

In the case of the Florida girl in March, her parents didn't send her out to stand on a busy street corner by herself. Instead, her father stood with her the entire time.

So remember parents, it may not be illegal to shame your kids, but odds are you may have chaperone their punishment.

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