The parents kept a warning on their fridge–a threat of a spanking, in the form of a paint stick–to frighten the children, a supposed deterrent of misbehavior.
On Monday, it was one of the parents’ behavior–his alleged disciplining of one of the children–that landed Ramon Pardo, 45, in jail, facing a charge of felony child abuse.
Officials at the children’s elementary school in Palm Coast had reported to the Department of Children and Families that they’d detected signs that the 10-year-old boy had been abused: he had a bruised neck, and later bruises were found on his foot.
The child was asked about the bruising. It was from Papi-Obi, the child said, referring to Pardo. The boy said he was spanked because he had lied and was being punished, according to Pardo’s arrest report.
Pardo and his partner, Billy Sprayberry Jr., who adopted the two children when they were very young, spoke to Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies about the incident. The afternoon of Nov. 18, the two parents were speaking with the boy about his schoolwork. The boy allegedly told a lie, they said, upsetting both parents. According to Sprayberry, Pardo was going to grab the boy by the shirt and tell him to go to his room and strip down to his boxers for a spanking. When Pardo grabbed the boy by his collar, his hand moved or slipped, according to Pardo’s partner, causing Pardo to “scratch” the boy on his neck and upper chest area.
Pardo then went to the boy’s room, removed his (Pardo’s) leather belt, and whipped the 10-year-old boy on the back of his legs. Only then, when Sprayberry saw that Pardo “was more upset than usual,” the report states, he stepped in to stop the whipping.
Investigators spoke with the boy’s 8-year-old sister, who corroborated the information. The boy told investigators that both parents had spanked him before, using a belt or a paint stick. The paint stick is kept on top of the fridge. Sprayberry, according to the report, told investigators that the paint stick is kept there as “a way to threaten a spanking, in hopes that the children will stop doing the action that was getting them yelled at.”
Deputies noted that the relationship between the parents and their children appeared warm and affectionate in their presence. When Prado arrived, for example, they embraced him in hugs and kisses, and at no point appeared afraid to be with either parent or in the home. A Department of Children and Families child protective investigator was also there during the preliminary investigation, and told the parents that a safety plan would have to be implemented, “especially since both parents were present during the incident and the abusive actions were not stopped until after the marks occurred,” the arrest report states.
The DCF investigator told the parents that Ramon was to have no unsupervised contact with the children. That was made moot by a pre-trial court order forbidding Pardo from having any contact with the victim. A Child Protection Team meeting was to follow. Pardo bonded out eight hours after he was booked at the jail.
Corporal punishment is permissible in all 50 states as long as it does not cause injury. Often the standard is “reasonable” as opposed to “unreasonable” force. Thirty-one states have banned corporal punishment in schools. Florida is not among them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics last fall updated its 20-year-old guidance on discipline with a strongly worded policy statement against spanking that was based on more recent research. “Corporal punishment – or the use of spanking as a disciplinary tool –increases aggression in young children in the long run and is ineffective in teaching a child responsibility and self-control,” an AAP statement read. “In fact, new evidence suggests that it may cause harm to the child by affecting normal brain development. Other methods that teach children right from wrong are safer and more effective.” The American Psychological Association adopted a similar policy this year.