The popularity of running is rapidly picking up speed with kids, but the story of a woman who allegedly ran her 9-year-old granddaughter to death has me worried about how safe it is for kids to run for exercise… and about how parents have lost sight of the line between punishment and child abuse. But, before you debate how far is going too far, find out all the facts about the case now headed to trial.
In February 2012, Joyce Hardin Garrard was arrested for forcing her 9-year-old granddaughter Savannah Hardin to run non-stop for three hours, allegedly costing the third grader her life. And, now as the case is heading to court next week, it seems to have taken Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson reportedly hitting his son with a switch to make people really question what’s OK in disciplining your kids. And it worries the heck out of me.
In this case, Savannah lived with her father Robert Lee Hardin, her stepmother Jessica Mae Hardin and her paternal grandmother Garrard in Alabama. On Feb. 17, 2014, she allegedly lied about eating a chocolate bar and the grandmother forced the little girl to run for three hours straight until Savannah collapsed into seizures. After her stepmother told 911 that Savannah was unresponsive, the little girl died in the hospital three days later. Although Savannah’s father was away on business, the little girl’s stepmother is being accused of murder for failure to intervene during this unusual punishment.
Now, let’s talk about the medical facts here. The hospital cited dehydration and low sodium as the cause of Savannah’s death, a condition common in marathon runners. And research found that kids age 6 to 18 years old suffered an average of more than 16,000 cases of running-related injuries in U.S. emergency departments each year from 1994 through 2007. So, the fact that the girl’s father sued the hospital for malpractice and that defense attorneys are blaming the girl’s pre-existing unspecified medical issues as the cause of her death makes me a little sad. Ultimately, a little girl’s life has been lost at the hands of an adult family member.
Although it’s likely that this case of a woman facing charges of running a 9-year-old to death will come down to medical facts, I’m still stunned by the fact that adults continue to blur the lines between punishment and child abuse. Who knows how long Garrard would have made Savannah Hardin keep running if she hadn’t started seizing. And, I know that every person was raised differently, but times have changed. Adults need to stop causing harm and death to those innocent children who we’re supposed to keep safe.