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Will child obesity spark arrests of parents for child abuse?

July 21st, 2009 12:00 am by Staff Report

According to a report in USA Today, Jerri Gray was doing all she could to help her son lose weight, but something had gone terribly wrong for the 14 year-old boy to weigh 555 pounds.

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.  Gray's attorney says it could open the door to more criminal action against parents whose children have become dangerously overweight.

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.

CLICK HERE for the full report.

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