The following controversial case was reported in a local newspaper. It involved a father from Guatemala who exposed the hand of his 5-year-old son to an open gas flame as punishment for stealing a packet of gum. School staff noticed the bandage on the boy’s hand and having learned from him how he sustained the injury made a report to Child Protective Services. Citing, “we find ourselves in the cross-current of customs and habits,” the judge reduced the charge from a felony with punishment of up to 6 years in state prison to a misdemeanor and fined the father $100.00. The prosecutor proposed state prison for the father, and others commented that exposing a child’s hand to an open flame is not an accepted form of punishment in Guatemalan culture or in the Latin culture generally. The parents reported being unfamiliar with American culture, but now have learned their lesson and plan to be better parents. It was the father’s first time being charged with child abuse, but during the court hearing, the judge rejected the notion that several incidents of the father hitting the child with a belt could be interpreted as child abuse.
After reading the case study for unit 3, do you think the judge was too lenient in the case? How is this a good example of cross-cultural conflict? Would you have reported this case to Child Protective Services? Why or why not?
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