In Woodson v. Commonwealth, 871 S.E.2d 653 (Va. Ct. App. 2022), the Court of Appeals of Virginia cited Restatement of the Law, Children and the Law § 3.24 (Tentative Draft No. 1, 2018) in upholding the parental privilege to use reasonable corporal punishment on the ground that it would protect low-income and Black families from excessive state intervention. The court reversed and dismissed a mother’s conviction for assault and battery, holding that the government failed to set forth sufficient evidence that the mother striking her children’s buttocks, leaving no serious injuries, was excessive or immoderate such that she lost her parental privilege to use corporal punishment.

The court looked to § 3.24 to explain the purpose of that privilege, pointing out that a substantial number of low-income and Black families continued to use physical punishments such as spanking. “Limiting the significant costs on the family that accompany state interference” was an important goal in light of the fact that such families, without the privilege to use moderate corporal punishment to discipline their children, would be disproportionately impacted by “incarceration or invasive community supervision.”


Seo Ho Lee

The American Law Institute


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