COUNCIL BLUFFS — A Pottawattamie County jury drew a line this week on the use of corporal punishment by a parent.
A 37-year-old Council Bluffs woman — who used a cricket bat to discipline her special-needs son — was found guilty of child endangerment causing bodily injury, a felony.
The trial centered on two questions — whether the mother caused the boy's bruising with the bat and how much corporal punishment is permissible before it becomes child abuse.
Alina Tenorio, a child care provider whose license has been suspended, was charged after a teacher at Longfellow Elementary School reported seeing a bruise on a 7-year-old boy, who is mildly developmentally disabled.
The boy, now 8, said the bruise was caused by his mother when she spanked him with a "whoopin' stick."
State investigators interviewed Tenorio at her home April 29 and, they said, she admitted to hitting her son on at least 10 occasions with what was determined to be a cricket bat.
After deliberating for about six hours, the jury found Tenorio guilty Thursday of the felony charge. She was acquitted of a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury.
"Parents are legally allowed to physically discipline their children, but there are some cases that clearly cross the line," said Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber. "Striking a child, especially one with special needs, hard enough to cause bruising with a cricket bat — we believed that this crossed that line."
Tenorio will be sentenced Dec. 19. She faces up to five years in prison, although Wilber's office has indicated it will seek a sentence of probation.
Wilber said Tenorio's child care license was suspended pending an investigation by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Tenorio is appealing the suspension, he said, but her day care business is closed for now.
Neither Tenorio nor her attorney, Mike Winter, could be reached for comment Friday night.
World-Herald staff writer Roseann Moring contributed to this report.