A South Carolina woman is being charged today with criminal neglect, a felony that could land her up to ten years in the slammer. Why? Because her 14-year-old son weighs 555 pounds. The kid’s mother, Jerri Gray, was poor and often had to work back-to-back shifts, so her son was home alone a lot. Gray claims there wasn’t a lot of junk food in the house, but that her son was stuffing his face in school, eating several lunches each day and feasting on snacks given to him by his friends.The mother tried to get help for her son. She got a $30,000 scholarship to take her kid to a weight treatment center. However, when she arrived the people at the facility said they were not equipped to deal with her boy because he was just too damned big.
If Gray is found guilty, it will set a rather scary precedent. If letting your kid eat too much is a crime, what should happen to parents of kids who are anorexic or bulimic? Or to parents of kids who get pregnant? Or to parents of kids who rob or kill someone? Yes, parents can influence their children. But at the end of the day, they’re not in the driver’s seat.
On the flip side, being morbidly obese is dangerous. Parents should try to keep their kids healthy. But I think it’s hard to dole out punishment. I mean, isn’t the school partially at fault? I bet this kid’s teachers were around him more than his mother—should someone have intervened when they noticed the kid was eating way too much and getting dangerously fat? And while we’re passing out blame, isn’t this partially an epic failure on the part of “the system”? We live in a country where not everyone has equal access to great health care. So shouldn’t those rich, fat, white men in Congress share the blame, too? And what about the weight loss center that refused this kid treatment? And the friends who gave him snacks? And the kid himself? Obviously, this mother isn’t the greatest ever. But she is not the only problem here.
So what do you think? Is Jerri Gray a criminal for letting her son get fat? [CNN]