Peterson Case Sparks Discipline Debate In Oklahoma

Monday, September 15th 2014, 4:59 pm
By: News 9

The arrest of NFL star Adrian Peterson has reignited a big debate over when discipline becomes abuse. In Oklahoma, the law allows parents to spank their children, but does not specify when it crosses the line.

Parents reacted to the injuries left behind on Adrian Peterson's 4-year-old son after a "whooping."

“Back in my day is a spanking, that was considered a light spanking,” said Carlos Spencer.

“In my opinion, what he did was too much, but to someone else, it may not be,” said Dani Tull.

Oklahomans seem to be split on Peterson's case, as well as the broader issue of corporal punishment and when that form of discipline crosses the line.

“I'm really a bad one for that because I didn't spank my son, he just got time out and grounded,” explained Tull.

“That's how I got to where I am today,” Spencer told News 9. “It molded me, spanking does mold. The Bible says spare the rod, spoil the child, so at some point, you have got to do the proper discipline,” he added.

Oklahoma law allows any parent to use "ordinary force as a means of discipline including, but not limited to, spanking, switching, or paddling."

What the law does not specify are injuries.

Oklahoma's Department of Human Services (OKDHS) said it looks at whether discipline is abuse on a case-by-case basis.

According to OKDHS policy for investigating abuse, a minor injury on the legs, shoulders, arms or buttocks of a child older than ten years of age is generally not considered physical abuse, unless the adult's actions that caused the injury created a probability that the child would sustain a more serious injury.

Our expert, Dr. Phil, said Peterson went too far.

“When it gets to the point that there are physical remnants of that spanking, there are whelps, the skin has been broken, there is bruising, then clearly it has crossed the line,” said Dr. Phil.

DHS said it also looks at cultural differences and upbringing when considering what is child abuse versus reasonable parental discipline.