Mom Thrown in Jail for Letting 9-Year-Old Play at the Park

playground swing setA mother in North Augusta, South Carolina named Debra Harrell went to jail earlier this month, charged with "unlawful conduct towards a child." Whatever she did must've been well-deserved, right? Not so much. Harrell's alleged crime: Her daughter was "left behind at a nearby park, for hours at a time," according to the local news. This all because Harrell works at a McDonald's, and for most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had saved up to buy her. But when their home was robbed, and the laptop was stolen, the little girl asked her mom if she could stay at the park that was practically adjacent to the McD's to play.

Harrell said yes, equipped her daughter with a cellphone, and allowed her to play at the park, surrounded by about 40 kids at any given time, three days in a row. But the third day, an adult asked her where her mom was. When she said she was at work, the other parent called the police, who declared the girl "abandoned."


If the story sounds a bit absurd to you, you're not alone. In the days following the story breaking, the general reaction has been of shock, disbelief, and frustration at this news. Sure, there are some who think Harrell was putting her daughter at risk. But most believe it's nothing short of ludicrous that a mom could be thrown in jail for allowing her 9-year-old to play like a normal kid at the park instead of keeping her cooped up inside, staring at a laptop all day -- while she's working. 

This culture of fear-mongering and distrust some parents have for other parents and their children are really frightening. We need to give kids room to be kids and trust them to look out for themselves by a certain age. Parents who think they're doing others a favor by calling out moms like Harrell need to take a step back and assess what exactly they're "blowing the whistle" on. If there are really any dangers present to warrant an over-the-top reaction like this. And if the parent in question is actually doing something unlawful -- or maybe just parenting differently, perhaps in a way that's more trusting and less helicopter-like.

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At least it's heartening to see most parents are siding with Harrell. With hope, they'll continue to stand up for moms like her, in turn preventing parents like the one who called the cops here from sticking their nose where it doesn't belong.

How do you feel about what happened to this mom?

Image via fredrocko/iStock

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