LA Attorney General to review controversial 'whipping' arrest

DCFS: 'Where is the line between reasonable discipline and child abuse?'
Schaquana Spears (Source: EBRSO)
Schaquana Spears (Source: EBRSO)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - UPDATE: Attorney General Jeff Landry announced today that the Louisiana Department of Justice will be looking into the case involving Schaquana Evita Spears, a Baton Rouge mother arrested for disciplining her children after they were accused of breaking into a neighbor's home and stealing items from there.

"Because the State faces potential liability related to Schaquana Evita Spears, I am involving the Louisiana Department of Justice in this matter," explained General Landry. "We will be contacting Ms. Spears' attorneys and requesting a meeting in our office to hear their version of the events that took place on June 17, 2016. Additionally, we will be contacting the Department of Children and Family Services to verify Ms. Spears' children were removed from her custody and, if so, their justification for such action."

"To be a peaceful and moral society, it is imperative our children learn right from wrong," said General Landry. "I am grateful for my loving mother who did not spare the rod to teach this valuable lesson."

ORIGINAL STORY: Did a mother go too far in the way she allegedly whipped her sons? The controversial arrest has sparked debate regarding whether or not she should have been arrested.

"We feel compelled to address a question that many are asking: Where is the line between reasonable discipline and child abuse," said Marketa Walters, the secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services in a statement.

Schaquana Spears, 30, was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Tuesday for felony cruelty charges. Three of her sons allegedly broke into the home of Alisa Nicholson near Satinwood Drive in Baton Rouge, down the street from Spears. The victim of that burglary doesn't believe the mother should have been arrested.

But the question doesn't seem to be whether or not they should have been disciplined, but rather how they were disciplined.

"Reasonable, constructive discipline is a healthy part of parenting and an essential element of child rearing, but it crosses into abuse when it leaves a child cut, burned, bloody or bruised,'" said Walters. "We're referring to something more than a mere 'spanking.'"

Nicholson was not home at the time of the burglary. She said they stole her young son's electronics and socks.

Nicholson believes Spears didn't do anything wrong, and even went over to Spears's home to thank her.

"The way she handled the situation was to spank them or whup them," Nicholson said. "Which is what I would have done. I don't believe that she should have been arrested for that. And I think she's a fine parent and she does you know what she can for her kids."

According to the probable cause report, deputies with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office were contacted by the Department of Children and Family Services. The report notes that three children had visible marks including cuts and scratches.

"[She] admitted to hitting [the child] and her two other sons multiple times as they were moving and running away," the deputy noted.

Spears was released from jail after her bond was posted by a private citizen who is not connected to Spears but empathized with her situation. Her bond was set at $2,500.

Spears appeared in juvenile court Wednesday afternoon. Family said she was trying to get back custody of her oldest 13-year-old son.

Spears's attorney Brenden Craig said he could not comment on the result of that hearing or the custody situation for Spears's six children, four boys and two girls. Craig did say he believes Spears is innocent.

"A mother is simply using the reasonable discipline of a minor to make sure that her kids are on the straightened path," Craig said. "And she gets arrested for it its absolutely outrageous."

District Attorney Hillary Moore said his office will have to review all the evidence in the case before determining whether or not his office will pursue formal charges.

"The degree of physical discipline will be reviewed," said Moore. "The law does not allow excessive pain or cruelty but does allow physical parental discipline.

He did say he doesn't want to discourage parents from disciplining their children.

"In my life if I had done that, those allegations, I guarantee you that by the time I came home, I'd be met by a four-foot-eleven mother with a pot a pan and a stick and later on by a six-foot tall dad who instilled discipline and inflicted discipline on me and I believe that surely helped me in growing up," he said.

Moore said his office will review everything and meet with DCFS "to get a better picture of the entire family dynamics" before deciding whether or not they want to prosecute Spears.

"What the law says, it's really simple, although it makes it difficult," said Moore. "It's unjustifiable pain or protracted pain that's inflicted on a child. That's what the facts are and that's what if have to prove."

He added that "parents have the right and obligation to discipline and teach their children."

"We often time see children who have no parental authority or discipline which eventually results in delinquency and criminal acts," Moore said. "We need more parents who discipline their children. Surely you would expect a parent to discipline a child who is burglarizing other people's homes as this could be a deadly encounter for the child."

Moore said calls about this case have come in from people across the U.S. giving their opinions.

"She shouldn't be arrested. She should be given a medal," said Patricia Williams in the comment section of the post published on the WAFB Facebook page. "I bet those boys think twice before burglarizing another house!!"

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office has not yet responded to requests for a comment regarding the arrest.

State Treasurer John Kennedy sent the following letter to Walters on Wednesday:

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