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Peterson Case Sparks Debate Over Corporal Punishment

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Adrian Peterson says he is re-evaluating the way he disciplines his child. But he also credits some of his success to the similar way he was disciplined by his own elders.

It's ignited a national discussion on corporal punishment, and when and how it's legal.

The question some are asking: Did Peterson use corporal punishment or was this something more?

In Minnesota, law says "reasonable force" can be used on a child by a caretaker if circumstances exist or the adult thinks they did. And that's similar to the law in Texas--it can be used "within reason."

"Unquestionably in Minnesota, as in other states, you can spank your child, you can physically discipline your child," said Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Debbie Lang. "Some parents don't believe in that, [but] legally you can."

Lang says the law in Texas, where Adrian Peterson's case is playing out, is similar.

"Then the question becomes, 'Was the force that was used reasonable?'" she said. "And that would be a determination for a jury to make, and it would be the states' burden to prove that it was not reasonable. They certainly would rely on those photographs as well."

Photos show Peterson's son four days after being hit.

"If you're breaking the skin, if you're using an item that's slashing or drawing blood, that's problematic," said Becky Dale, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota.

Peterson's hometown family friend is saying the same thing Peterson's been saying.

"The orientation for child discipline in this area does include some switches," said a Palestine, Texas, pastor and 20-year friend of Peterson.

"It's worked effectively, and I don't think we're a community of abusers at all," he said. "I think we're a community who cares about children."

But some Minnesota activists say it's a short-term dangerous practice.

"The danger is that you may hit them harder than intended, you may cause more harm," said Dale. "The danger is whatever it is they did, you're not going to teach them a new behavior by spanking them."

Now a court will decide if a superstar's spanking was instructive or abusive.

For more perspective here, Minnesota took spanking out of public schools back in 1989. But in Texas and 18 other states, it's still legal in schools.

Lang says if this case goes to trial, the fact that Peterson was spanked as a child will likely play a part in his defense.

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