Kudos to Jonathan Turley for finding this head-exploding story.
In Dixon, Illinois, police stopped a woman who was driving her Audi SUV with an inflatable pool on the roof—and her two children riding inside the pool. Jennifer A. Janus Yeager explained that she had driven into town to inflate the pool at a friend’s house, and then had her two daughters ride inside of the pool to hold it down on the drive home.
Oh! That explains everything, ma’am! Sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m sure you understand that we have to investigate these things. Have a nice day, and be careful up there, kids! Hold on tight!
The police arrested this idiot on two counts of endangering the life or health of a child, two counts of reckless conduct and failure to secure a passenger between 8 and 16.
So far, I haven’t been able to find out how old the kids were, not that it matters much, but since no teenage girl I’ve ever known would be caught dead in a kiddie pool like that one even if it wasn’t perched on a speeding car, I’m guessing they both were pre-teens.
Turley is getting at the question I ask in the headline with his question, “What should be the punishment if she is a first offender in your view?”
In my view, the fact that she is a first offender should carry no weight at all, because this is signature significance. No competent, trustworthy parent places a child in danger in such an obvious, stupid way—not once, never. This cannot be excused as “a mistake.” You can’t fix stupid, as the saying goes, and a woman this stupid has signaled that her children need to be protected from her. (Ironically, it would be more encouraging if she were drunk. Then at least the reason for her stupidity could be addressed. I have found no indication that she was, however.)
This is another moral luck situation, in fact, such a great example of moral luck that I’m going to start employing it in seminars as my moral luck example. If the two girls had fallen off the car and died, the woman would be facing negligent homicide charges, and only through the intervention of a guardian angel, a good fairy, a leprechaun or some other benign intervention were the children spared.
If the system allows this woman to continue to have unsupervised custody of her children, it will be complicit in guaranteed tragedy. This woman is too stupid, foolish and irresponsible to be a parent.
If there is no process in which conduct this egregious results in removing children from a parent, it is only because such conduct is so rare. Abusive parents, addict parents, neglectful parents can often be reformed through intervention and treatment. I don’t see how this conduct can be fixed. Yeager can be taught not to put her children in an inflated pool while it’s driving down the street, perhaps but then she’ll put one of them in the washing machine to keep a delicate garment from getting tangled, or rent them to an aspiring racer as crash test dummies to make some extra cash. The possibilities are endless. In this case, the usually invalid and emotional “Think of the children!”and “Do something!” are ethical, indeed mandatory responses.