Jerri Gray was doing all she could to help her son lose weight, her attorney says. But something had gone terribly wrong for the boy to hit the 555-pound mark by age 14.

Authorities in South Carolina say that what went wrong was Gray's care and feeding of her son, Alexander Draper. Gray, 49, of Travelers Rest, S.C., was arrested in June and charged with criminal neglect. Alexander is now in foster care.

The case has attracted national attention. With childhood obesity on the rise across the USA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gray's attorney says it could open the door to more criminal action against parents whose children have become dangerously overweight.

"If she's found guilty on those criminal charges, you have set a precedent that opens Pandora's box," Grant Varner says. "Where do you go next?"

State courts in Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, New Mexico, Indiana and California have grappled with the question in recent years, according to a 2008 report published by the Child Welfare League of America.

In all of those cases, except the one in California, courts expanded their state's legal definition of medical neglect to include morbid obesity and ruled that the children were victims of neglect, the report says. Criminal charges were filed only in the California and Indiana cases, but the parents weren't sentenced to jail time in either.


What do you think - should the mother be jailed and charged for criminial neglect because her son is obese?

If it's not her fault, then whose fault is it?

Post your comments!

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Comment by CJfrom Jersey on July 24, 2009 at 3:24pm
He might have some kind of condition that cause this we dont know. It is child abuse only if the mother give the child food he should not have. I had a junk food child but he had to stop eating that mess cause it cause health problems. No do not srnd his mother to jail and donot take that child away from his mother they have to learn how to right. Each one teach one remember.
Comment by Beverly Vercher on July 21, 2009 at 9:56pm
I don't think it's child abuse, but I do feel that it's a form of neglect. Although I am an overweight woman, I provide healthy meals and snacks for my family and try to teach them healthy eating. I have 3 children, ages 17, 16 and 12 and they are all normal weight for their height and ages. I also make sure they are involved in activities. My son, 17, weight trains, my daughter, 16, trains the high school football team and my 12 year old daughter is a cheeleader. It is OUR responsibility as parents to make sure our children are healthy.
Comment by karina martinez on July 21, 2009 at 9:50pm
Both need immediate intevention and rehabilitative services, jail and foster care is not the answer, it's only making matters worst! We must educate parents not send them to jail, mom may have been overfeeding her son out of ignorance and pure love, just to satisfied his voids (maybe an absent father). Limited resources, mental health issues are other factors need to be considered!
Comment by Pitt on July 21, 2009 at 9:42pm
it is a parents responsibility to teach their children how to and how not to eat. Buit to me there's moral laws which can only be enforced buy god and not man. this seems to fit that case
Comment by Biker Kim on July 21, 2009 at 9:24pm
It can be abusive if the parent has knowledge that gross obesity is a danger to human beings, and most do nowadays unless they live under the proverbial rock. I have seen parents and siblings ridiculing very obese kids in public places. Verbal abuse at the very least. Very harming IMHO.
Comment by AUDRA on July 21, 2009 at 9:23pm
THE MOM SHOULD NOT BE JILL. MY SON IS 15 AND OVER WEIGHT BY 150P. HIS DAD AND I TRY AND TRY TO HELP HIM THE DR. SAD AT THIS POINT HE HAVE TO DO IT FOR HIS SELF WITH OUR HELP. MY SON WELL EAT 2 A.M. WHEN WE R SLEEP SO I STOP HAVEING LEFTOVERS. I HAVE BEEN TO A CLASS TO TEACH ME HOW TO COOK HEALTH. AND I BE DAME IF HE IS SILL GEANING WEIGHT.3 OUT OF 5 IN THE HOUSE IS OVERWEIGHT AND WE R LOSEING WEIGHT BUT HE IS NOT SO HELL NO SHE SHOULD NOT GO TO JILL. SOME OF USE HAVE TRY TO HELP OUR KIDS. I COULD NOT HELP US BECOUSE I DIDNOT KNOW BETTER BUT NOW I DO SO I DO BETTER. AS PARENTS WE DO WHAT WE KNOW SOME TIME WE THINK WE R DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR OUR KIDS WHEN WE COOK A 3-5 COURSE MEAL 6 DAY A WEEK. IF U DONT HAVE ANYBOBY TO TELL YOU DIF THEN HOW DO U KNOW U R WRONG.
Comment by Brownskin1 on July 21, 2009 at 8:37pm
If she has proof that she has taken that child to the doctor on numerous occasions and reached out for help, then no she should not go to jail. However, if she just sat there and let this happen she should be held accountable. I saw a little fat gurl today she wasn't even 5 and was too damn young to be overweight at her age.
Comment by Cheryl on July 21, 2009 at 8:26pm
Child abuse is not just about hitting your children or sexually abusing them, it is also about neglect...It is the responsibility of the PARENT. ALL parents should be held accountable for a child's health.
Comment by LaTonja Muhammad on July 21, 2009 at 6:11pm
I don't believe that over-feeding children should be lumped in the same category (child abuse) as people who do things to children like chain them up in cages, burn them, beat them severely, lock them in closets for days, starve them, etc. I do believe that they should be required to get some type of supervised counseling to help them manage the child's diet, beginning with their own. Most of these parents of obese children are themselves obese, so they are not doing something to the children that they wouldn't want done to them. They overeat too. To me, this is totally different from physical or sexual abusers who wouldn't want to be treated in the same way they have treated others. Over-feeding children is not something that these parents do to hurt the children. In some cases, they reward the children with food, try to console them with food, offer them food when they are bored, etc. That is not good parenting, but it is not malicious either. I think they need supervised counseling and guidance. That boy is probably miserable without his mom. Even some abused children want their parents back, but this boy probably never felt like he was in danger by being fed too much.
Comment by NIKNIK on July 21, 2009 at 5:43pm
OH ! YES, SHE IS RESPONSIBLE ! HOW DID HE GET THE FOOD? IT IS EASIER TO STUFF CHILDREN WITH MCDONALD'S OR ONE OF THOSE FAST FOOD PLACES THAN TO COOK A HEALTHY, FRESH MEAL. EASIER TO GIVE IN TO THE CHILD'S EVERY DEMAND FOR SWEETS AND CALORIE FILLED SNACKS,WHICH HAVE NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE. HAVING HER CHILD IN FOSTER CARE AND PUTTING HER IN JAIL IS REDICULOUS. SHE COULD HAVE BEEN PROVIDED WITH SERVICES AT HOME TO HELP WITH THE CHILD'S OBESITY. SHE COULD HAVE BEEN EDUCATED ABOUT OBESITY IN A YOUNG CHILD. NOW WHAT- THAT CHILD IS TRAUMATIZED. PROBABLY BLAMES HIMSELF FOR HIS MOM BEING IN JAIL. WHO IS THE IDIOT WHO AUTHORIZED THE ARREST. GREAT LOOKING OUT FOR THE CHILD !


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