Mom scolds hospital staffer for comment to her injured 4-year-old

Oct 13, 2015 11:50 AM by CBS News, Photo: Merritt Smith/Facebook

Tears were running down Joni's face after she was hit with a children's metal teapot at preschool last week.

The 4-year-old girl had a small cut on her face, a light black-and-blue bruise mark and a swollen cheekbone.

Her mother, Merritt Smith, took her to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, to get two stitches.

As the pair explained the situation to a hospital staff member, noting that a little boy in her class was the culprit, a man standing behind the registration desk turned to Joni and said: "I bet he likes you."

It was a comment that the mother of an injured girl didn't care to hear.

"As soon as I heard it, I knew that is where it begins," Smith wrote in a Facebook post on Oct. 6 that has since gone viral. "That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior."

Before Joni entered preschool, Smith made sure she taught her daughter what to do in a situation where she's scared, frustrated and not feeling in control of her body.

My 4-year-old knows that's "not how we show we like someone," Smith said.

So, when a man in a "position of influence" decided to make light of the situation, she decided to write about it -- in hopes of making a change.

"It is time to take responsibility for the messages we as a society give our children," she continued. "Do not tell my 4-year-old who needs stitches from a boy at school hitting her, 'I bet he likes you.' No."

More than 30,000 people shared the mom's message and hundreds showed their support.

"I recall being told the same thing as a kid," another woman commented on Facebook. "Power parenting medal to you...for setting the example of how we should treat people."

On Monday, the Nationwide Children's Hospital told CBS News that they are aware of the comment that was made by a staff member.

"Although we know the comment was made with no malicious intent, it is our wish to apologize and express to you that this is something we are taking seriously," the hospital said in a statement. "This comment does not represent our philosophy as an institution."

The hospital contacted the Smith family the same day the Facebook post was written.

"We have reached out to the family, met with the employee and their management team, as well as our leadership in order to understand the situation and take measures to prevent this from happening again," the hospital said.

Smith appreciated the gesture and said it was never her intention to "attack the hospital" or get the man who "genuinely meant no harm" to get fired.

"This is about all adults being part of the village and creating a culture where people know what healthy relationships look like and sound like, what it feels like to be in a healthy relationship," she said.

"The fact is that stereotype about the boy who likes the girl pulling her pigtails has got to go," one Facebook user commented.

Smith agreed, "Pulling hair is not affection either."

Draw a picture, write a letter, a poem -- but do not confuse aggression with affection, she warned.


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