Is Public Shaming a Form of Child Abuse? Part 1

August 9, 2017 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Child crying in public
Is shame an effective form of discipline, or a type of child abuse?

Parenting issues and how people choose to raise their kids are issues that blaze a trail through social media on a weekly basis. Usually this happened in the form of public backlash and parent-shaming for the way a particular issue was handled. A temper-tantrum in the grocery store; a socially inappropriate birthday party theme; a culturally insensitive Halloween costume; a spanking at a public park…. the list is endless. But few things incite the rage of the masses quite like shaming-as-discipline.

This can take many forms, from forcing two fighting children to wear a get-along shirt and then posting pictures of them on Facebook, to making a badly behaved kid wear a sign proclaiming their “crime” on the side of the road for all to see. Shaming a child in order to teach them a lesson, or drive home a point about behavior isn’t a new concept. However, the question many people are asking, is whether or not it’s child abuse?

While some aspects of child abuse are very clear cut and leave little room for debate, others are a little less well defined. Does public shaming count as child abuse? Ask around and you’ll find that most people have very distinct opinions on this subject, they just don’t all agree. So we’d like to shed a little light on the subject.

One particular Michigan case that comes to mind, where this subject was hotly debated, was the Devine/Tweed case in Monroe. According to Rob Devine, his 4-year-old son hitting girls in his class was an issue because it happened often, and previously tried methods of discipline, like talking to him and confiscating his toys, hadn’t worked to change the behavior.

In a desperate attempt to find something that would work…

Devine made his son stand at a busy intersection for an hour with a sign that said: “I hit little girls. ” The boy’s mother, Brittany Tweed, was furious, and argued that the exercise didn’t teach him anything. She picked her son up, and then after hearing about what had happened, decided that she would not be returning him to his father’s house for the scheduled custody visits.

Tweed also reported Devine to CPS, claiming that what he did was child abuse because it was degrading and humiliating. However Devine told the media that he didn’t regret his choice, and would do it again if he felt the situation called for it. Tweed, on the other hand, went on record to say that while it’s unlikely that the situation would result in CPS intervention or the court granting her full custody of her son, she hoped that Divine would be required to take parenting classes.

So what happened? Well, join us next time, as we look at this case a little more, and what Michigan law has to say about the matter. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of abusing or neglecting a child, contact the experienced family defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. We have spent decades defending parents, and we can help you too.