Appellate court addresses parental privilege in 2 opinions

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In two cases involving the parental privilege defense, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a teacher who “flicked” a special education student’s tongue and against a father hit his daughter numerous times with a belt.

In Trinda Barocas v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1007-CR-732, special education teacher Trinda Barocas appealed her conviction of Class B misdemeanor for “flicking” the tongue of a student with Down syndrome. Barocas had twice told the student to put her tongue back in her mouth and when she didn’t, Barocas flicked her tongue, causing the student to wail and cry.

Barocas argued she wasn’t guilty because teachers have qualified immunity for reasonably necessary disciplinary acts. Parents have legal authority to engage in reasonable discipline of their children, even if that conduct would otherwise be battery, and that justification has been extended to teachers, within reason, wrote Judge Melissa May. The judges looked to Willis v. State, 888 N.E.2d 177, 180-81 (Ind. 2008), which discussed the parental privilege defense and noted for the state to sustain a conviction of battery where a claim of parental privilege has been asserted, the state must prove either the force the parent used was unreasonable or that the parent’s belief that such force was necessary to control the child and prevent misconduct was unreasonable.

The appellate court found Barocas’ force against the student was not cruel or excessive, and it doesn’t rise to the level of “unreasonable force.” The judges were unable to find any decision in which a parent or teacher’s conviction of battery was upheld based on the use of force as minimal as that used by Barocas, wrote Judge May. The state also didn’t prove the second element of the test adopted in Willis – that the teacher was unreasonable to believe a physical prompt was necessary to control the student’s behavior of sticking out her tongue. They reversed Barocas’ conviction.

But in Jeffrey L. Hunter v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1011-CR-1224, a different Court of Appeals panel ruled against father Jeffrey Hunter who argued his Class A misdemeanor battery conviction should be reversed because the evidence didn’t rebut his parental privilege defense.

Hunter had ongoing disciplinary issues with his 14-year-old daughter B.H. and after finding out she had someone forge a signature on a permission slip to go to Indiana Beach, he ordered B.H. to strip down to her underwear and come to him in the living room. When she wouldn’t tell him who paid for the trip, he hit her around 20 times with a belt, leaving injuries that were still present months later. The “degrading and long-lasting physical effects” of her injuries differentiate this case from Willis and the appellate court concluded he used unreasonable force. They upheld his battery conviction.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues