Honors College Theses

Childhood, Moral Obligation, and the Law in the Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

Allison Williams, Georgia Southern University


In 2020, the documentary on The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez was brought to the screens of people all across the world. The film investigates the issues of the Child Welfare System and how children are affected. The case discussed in the film in which an 8-year-old boy was murdered sparked a new discussion on the rights of children and their protection. The Gabriel Fernandez case exposes the multitude of failures across the system. During the Trial, Gabriel’s mother and stepfather were convicted for murder without parole. However, as more details emerged about the ones tasked with protecting Gabriel, many critics pointed out that there were dozens of people who were responsible, both directly and indirectly, for Gabriel’s death. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that many failed Gabriel and broke the laws put in place to protect children, those have not yet been held accountable. This introduces the conversation regarding accountability, obligation, and child vs. parent rights. Immanuel Kant, a late 18th century philosopher, was one of the first philosophers to discuss the rights of children and their parents. Following an analysis of Kant’s definition of right and the parental roles that must accompany a child, this paper will seek to determine the difference between the rights of children versus the rights of parents, and how such differences contribute to who should be held accountable in the frequent instances of child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.