After three hours of running in Attalla, Alabama, 9-year-old Savannah Hardin collapsed and died from a seizure brought on by severe dehydration. Her grandmother ordered her to run as a punishment for lying about eating a candy bar.
Savannah's 27-year-old stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, called for help when Savannah was found unresponsive and having a seizure, but the girl died a short time later at the hospital.
Neighbors saw Savannah running but didn't suspect any problems. Her death, however, was ruled a homicide, and her stepmother and grandmother are in custody.
We all can remember times when as a child we ourselves lied about something we had done or said, simply to protect ourselves. If we were lucky, our parents punished us by taking away our TV time or giving us extra chores. Corporal punishment was more common during my growing up years than it is today, but certainly not to the extent that Savannah endured.
Every parent has had his or her child tell an untruth. Children lie for all sorts of reasons, and it's a parent's job to teach their child about honesty, integrity, and respect. I will never understand why some adults think that the best way to help their children learn from their mistakes is to inflict physical and psychological pain on them.
Children look to the adults in their lives as role models. From infancy, they know who is their caregiver, and who will meet their basic survival needs. Sadly, for some, they also learn who makes them feel unsafe. Regardless of the neglect of their rights, most children are fiercely loyal to their caregivers. Abused children endure far too much pain from the adults that are supposed to be caring for them.
Where was the protection for Savannah's rights as a child? According to a UNICEF Child Poverty Report in 2007, "The true measure of a nation's standing is how well it attends to its children - their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in families and societies into which they are born." Wasn't Savannah's life worth valuing?
Parents should know better. Parents should feel the obligation to protect their children. Parents should support the rights of their child. Our children are our future.
After all, isn't a child's life is worth so much more than the cost of a candy bar?