It used to be so well-understood in America that it formed a familiar scene in many a Western movie.
The self-righteous biddies would ask the sheriff to "do something" about a young woman visitor, of supposedly checkered reputation, whose dress and demeanor did not meet with their approval.
"Ladies," the lawman would drawl, "It don’t matter to me what you say she was up to in Deadwood. She hasn’t broken any law in this town."
Last Wednesday, three local children, aged, 13, 10 and 8, were ordered by their mom to stand alongside a well-traveled intersection in Pahrump, holding signs that indicated their transgressions — the mom had arrived home to find them frightening a kitten and the family’s pet goat, which they were chasing around the house.
"Taunting and scaring an animal is not tolerated in our family," the kids’ mom — who was present to supervise the punishment — told a reporter for the Pahrump Valley Times. "As parents, we have to stop that kind of behavior before it gets worse."
But predictably in this day and age, some passers-by phoned the local sheriff’s office, reporting that the punishment constituted child abuse.
Yes, the punishment may have been somewhat unusual and perhaps even moderately cruel. It might even be an approach many parents consider beyond the pale. But it hardly rises to a level of abuse requiring intervention by the authorities.
Which is why we’re pleased to report the official response to those complaints.
Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo called the matter "a private parenting affair," beyond which he had nothing to say.