September 23, 2009

I tried it.  I had to.

We are covering the case of a (now-former) Miami-Dade teacher charged with child abuse, accused of giving two of her autistic students hot sauce-spiked soda.  She took the stand in her own defense today and said that the spiked soda was her soda, she loves to drink her soda with hot sauce, and those children took a sip of her soda by accident.  Here’s exactly what she said on the stand:

“I love it… That’s our culture. We eat hot sauce a lot…  My soda, my food, my salad…”

After hearing that, how could I hope to offer a full and fair report without the essential understanding that comes from first-hand experience.

Admittedly, this was not scientific.  I have no idea just how much hot sauce she put in the can of soda, how much of a gulp the students may have taken.  I didn’t have Luzianne, her sauce of record, so I had to go with what was in the fridge, which was Crystal brand.  I aimed a few shakes of it into a half glass of Mountain Dew, the only soda I found in the house, which was all but flat since someone didn’t twist the cap on the two-liter bottle all the way.

“I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink.”    

Full disclosure: I don’t like soda, never drink it.  And I love the more gringa versions of hot sauce, thanks to years of training by my husband, who has been known to throw a challenge to chefs at the Thai restaurant to make dinner too spicy for him.

And the verdict is…

… Not as bad as I expected.  I wouldn’t recommend hot sauced soda, mind you.  But I can see why, if you are the kind of spice-addicted pain-as-pleasure gastronome that I have met in some BBQ, Tex-Mex and/or Thai circles, you might like the little kick that a few dashes of pepper sauce adds to counter the sweet syrup of soda.

I can also see why a special needs child whose ability to communicate is challenged might freak out a bit if the soda he expected to taste left a slight but sudden burning sensation in the back of the throat.

Did teacher spike the soda to teach the kids a lesson, modify their behavior?  Would that meet the legal definition of child abuse?

And the verdict is…


Who’s Your Daddy
August 26, 2009

Two Miami courtrooms, two cases, one very interesting juxtaposition of Florida law:

In criminal court, prosecutors dropped a child abuse case against a man named Loscar Rodriguez, a father, who decided that a good belt lashing would teach his 8 year old son to get better grades.  Did the boy get better grades?  Not sure, but he did get raised welts on his leg and backside, bruises big and purple enough to alarm a teacher, and a butt that hurt him to sit upon.

At the same time, across town at the District Court of Appeals, a man named Frank Gill fought to protect his status as the father of two boys he first fostered then adopted.  He and his partner had taken in the two young brothers who had known no other healthy family, and were eventually called exemplary fathers and family, but the state is appealing the adoption because Gill is gay.

Florida law bans gay people from adopting children.  But it protects the right to beat a child with an object until he/she is black and blue.

Back in criminal court, prosecutors cited case law that helped them decide the belt-wielding, lash-giving Rodriguez is not a child abuser under the law.  Turns out, in cases past, Florida appellate judges have opined “even significant bruises or welts from paddling” is discipline, not abuse; that “a strike on the face, a split lip, forced feeding” is – you guessed it – discipline, not abuse.   Exactly what does a child learn from that?  How and when to dole out the same violence when he/she grows up?

Back to the DCA.  Attorneys for Gill argued Florida’s exclusion of gays in the adoption process is unconstitutional.  The ban has been law for decades and has prevented countless children from the benefits of loving, responsible, nurturing parents.   

The appellate court ruling usually takes a few months.

The criminal court case was dropped in 12 minutes.