If a 5-year-old kills another child, is she really to blame? A tragic story in Kansas City has authorities asking this very question after a 5-year-old in the care of a teenager drowned a toddler to whom she was related. The story is beyond sickening.
Police said the 5-year-old wasn't arrested and the case was moved to the family court system, but how on Earth does one prosecute a 5-year-old who drowns a 2-year-old? It's impossible.
The story really demands the answer to some questions: Can a 5-year-old form intent? Can they maliciously plan and execute a murder and understand what "murder" even means? And if they can't, how can they accuse a child of doing something they don't understand?
According to what is already known, the death was ruled accidental at first and then changed after social workers reported that the girl told them she brought the toddler into the bathroom and drowned him.
I am well-acquainted with a child who is almost 5 (my daughter), and it isn't hard to imagine her thinking it's a great idea to pound, hit, or even drown her way out of something that is annoying her. And I do hold her responsible for those actions. She is punished when she hits and sent to time-out. She loses privileges and gets in trouble.
This story, of course, is way beyond some minor infraction. This child killed someone, another child who was related to her. How does one punish that? Should she even be punished?
Officer Darin Snapp, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said:
The five-year-old became upset when the child wouldn't stop crying and took the two-year-old into the bathroom and drowned him. As of right now yes, from her statement, she is a possible suspect.
It's hard to even imagine what the parents of this baby must be feeling right now, but certainly there is no jail that can accommodate a 5-year-old. Certainly she needs counseling and some sort of consequence, but she is just barely out of toddlerhood herself. Children that age cannot possibly understand the permanence of death and so they cannot be held responsible for their actions. Even though it's sickening to imagine that this poor baby's death would go without justice, punishing a 5-year-old severely will not bring him back.
Maybe the 18-year-old who was supposed to be watching them is the one who ought to be punished for this. Where was s/he when all this was happening? Why was this even possible?
It's an unimaginable tragedy, but punishing her will not bring him back.
Do you think she should be punished?
Image via coolmathteacher/Flickr