Anthony Sanchez, a California water official, became unwittingly internet famous when a clip a horrified neighbor shot of him whipping his stepson for poor baseball skills during an abuse-laden game of “catch” went viral, and the former state worker was charged with felony child abuse.
Anthony Sanchez’s actions were certainly jarring, upsetting and arguably immoral based on the tape alone, but the footage again raises old questions as to whether spanking or any variant thereof is child abuse, discipline, or somewhere in between — and what happens to the parents and children that fall into the gray area of Someone Else’s Ideas About Parenting.
The clip of Anthony Sanchez whipping the child during the outdoor baseball practice was filmed by neighbor Oscar Lopez, who can be heard in the background taking Sanchez to task for his cruelty. In the video, Lopez challenges:
“That’s enough. I’m having a (expletive) problem with you for beating the (expletive) out of him because he won’t catch the damn ball.”
When Sanchez fires back asking if Lopez knows his son, Lopez replies:
“I don’t know your son but I’m watching you. I’m a (expletive) father too. Why don’t you come over here and teach me?”
The clip, below, is clearly judgment most of us would not exercise as parents. But is it criminal? A felony? A lawyer for Sanchez, Ryan Childers, doesn’t deny the accusations — a fruitless endeavor it would be, as the incident was not only caught on tape, and viewed internationally — but says that not only is it legal in California to spank, it’s legal to spank with objects:
“This was discipline as a result of behavior during a game of catch, and that’s all it was… It’s not illegal to spank a child, and it’s not illegal to do it with something other than your hand.”
The issue of spanking and permissible physical discipline indeed seems to be muddied, as the Sanchez case illustrates. It seems that while you or I may see the actions as not our choice to parent, if they are not explicitly or reasonably assumed to be harmful to a child or illegal, far more parents could find themselves facing a judge for similar, and still common, parenting infractions.
[Image courtesy of NBC-11]