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People ex rel. C.F.

Supreme Court of South Dakota
708 N.W.2d 313 (2005)


A mother (plaintiff) believed in corporal punishment and spanked her three minor children. About four times a year, the mother would spank her minor daughter, C.F., with a belt, as a last resort in order to discipline her. Following an incident with C.F.'s sister, the Department of Social Services (department) visited with the mother and stepfather. The department required that the mother and stepfather attend parenting classes in order to keep the children in the home. The parenting classes taught the mother and stepfather to use a sliding scale for discipline and to always start with the least violent form of discipline. A few months later, an incident with C.F. led the department to visit the mother's home again. C.F. had been acting out and was grounded for weeks, but the mother found that the grounding was not improving C.F.'s behavior. On a day when C.F. had been particularly bad, the mother eventually resorted to spanking C.F. six times with a belt over her clothes. The spanking left no marks or bruises. Even still, C.F. was removed from the home. The State of South Dakota (defendant) filed an abuse and neglect petition on behalf of C.F., and a hearing was held. The trial court found C.F. was abused and neglected based upon her mother striking her six times with a belt. The mother appealed the trial court’s findings.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Gilbertson, C.J.)

Concurrence (Meierhenry, J.)

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