September 17, 2019

How Dare She Dash In for Muffins?

“The family’s nightmare began with a stop for muffins in their hometown of Elizabethtown, Ky., on March 30, 2017. Holly Curry was on her way to her 5-year-old’s morning karate practice. It was 67 degrees and partly cloudy. She had all six of her kids — ages 5, 4, 2 (twins) and 10 months (also twins!) in her 10-seater van. To get the kids a quick snack, Curry parked in front of the Cobbler’s Café. Police officers frequent the area because it’s near the courts — about the last place any kidnapper would nab a child, let alone six of them. Into the cafe Curry went.

When she came out less than 10 minutes later, two officers rebuked Curry for leaving her kids in the car. They told her she wasn’t being arrested, just “detained.” She started to cry and asked permission to call her husband, Josiah, but that request was denied. No one asked to see the kids, still sitting in the car.

The officers told Curry that while they were not charging her with any crime, they were going to file a “JC3 form” — a hotline-type alert to the Kentucky child protection system.

All this, and much of the harrowing account that follows, is laid out in a suit that Curry and her husband later filed in U.S. District Court. We spoke to the Curry family and to their attorneys. The defendants, represented by counsel, have denied liability in court.

Similar parking lot encounters have become common across the country. One was the topic of a book last year by Kim Brooks, “Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear.” She was arrested for letting her son wait in the car for five minutes on a mild day in Virginia. Barbara Sarnecka, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, and her colleagues have studied the moral judgments that often underpin these run-ins, where mothers are judged harshly for seeming to put their own needs above keeping their children safe.”

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