A Mom Is In Jail For Daring To Let Her 9-Year-Old Play At A Park While She Worked

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Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.25.17 PMA South Carolina woman is in jail for letting her daughter play at a park during the day while she was at work. Debra Harrell has been booked for unlawful conduct towards a child. I’m trying to figure out what is unlawful about this.

The state of South Carolina has guidelines for leaving children home alone; no child should be left home alone before they are eight years old. I guess Harrell should have made her daughter stay in the house all day. If she did that, she probably wouldn’t be in jail right now.

Lenore Skenazy offers some details about the case on

Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell agreed and gave her daughter a cell phone to take with her. According to Skenazy’s article, the daughter played there all day for two days, and on the third day a woman who had noticed her playing by herself all day decided to question her. The woman had seen the girl in the morning before she went to work – and noticed that she was still there when she came home. She asked the girl where her mother was, and the girl told her that she dropped her off at the park before she went to work. She then asked what she had to eat, and the girl explained that she either walked to the McDonald’s where her mom works or to Walmart to get something to eat.

The woman called the police. Harrell was questioned and arrested and the state has taken custody of her child.

One witness said to the local news station, “What if a man would have came and just snatched her because you have all kinds of trucks that come up in here so you really don’t know.” Another said, “You cannot just leave your child alone at a public place, especially. This day and time, you never know who’s around. Good, bad, it’s just not safe.”

Well the first witness was right – she did get snatched. By the police.

So because a mother decides her daughter is capable enough to not be trapped in a McDonald’s all day and actually enjoy herself at the park in the summer – she’s in jail. Never mind that the child seemed happy to play at the park, wanted to be there, and was capable enough to walk to her mother’s job for lunch.

I guess like one of the witnesses said, in this day and time, you never know who’s around. And it may be someone who thinks letting a nine-year-old play outside instead of sitting in the house all day or in a McDonald’s is criminal.


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