"free-range kids"

Virginia towns' trick-or-treat laws threaten over-12s with jail-time

In Chesapeake, VA, trick-or-treaters over 12 face fines of $25-100 and up to six months in jail (under-12s who trick-or-treat after 8PM face fines of $10-100 and up to 30 days in jail). Read the rest

Utah passes America's first "free-range kids" law

After years of free-range kids campaigning, a state legislature has taken heed: Utah just passed the Child Neglect Amendments, affirming that common activities like letting your kid walk to school or leaving them in the car while you duck into a shop are not neglect or child abuse. Read the rest

Police Chief says 12-year-old girls who take nude selfies are "guilty"

Peters, Pennsylvania Police Chief Harry Fruch has ordered his police force to investigate middle school students who are taking and sharing naked pictures of themselves.

“If the photograph was taken by the individual, male or female between the ages of 12 and under 18, she’s as much a guilty party as the person who received it. She is not a victim in this case or he is not a victim,” said Chief Fruch.

From Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids:

Huh? So are they both perps? Are they going to be registered as sex offenders?

I have no idea if the authorities will go in that awful direction. But the fact that other young people have been prosecuted for the same behavior just means that young people are in danger of ruining their lives NOT because their naked pictures are out there — at some point, even employers won’t care, because these will be so common — but because the cops swooped in and declared the kids deviants.

Read the rest

New US law says kids can walk to school by themselves

After years of documenting instances in which parents and kids are terrorized by law enforcement and child welfare authorities because the kids were allowed to be on their own in public places, the Free Range Kids movement has gotten some justice: a new Federal law gives its official okey-doke to parents who let their kids get to school on their own. Read the rest

Cops pick up Maryland kids again, hold them for hours without informing parents

The Meitiv kids of Maryland, whose parents free-range them, were picked up by the cops yesterday and kept in the back of a patrol car for three hours. This happened once before in January and the parents are getting tired of it.

In the Interests of Safety: using evidence to beat back security theater

"Health and Safety" is the all-purpose excuse for any stupid, bureaucratic, humiliating rubbish that officialdom wants to shove down our throats. In the Interests of Safety, from Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon, is the antidote: an expert dismantling of bad risk-analysis and a call-to-arms to do something about it, fighting superstition and silliness with evidence.

Bizarre, paranoid warning about imaginary predators choosing victims through bumper-sticker-ology

Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy points out a new and disturbing artifact from the weird parallel world of bubble-wrapped-kids: a post warning you that the treacly "My family" minivan stickers are an invitation to canny predators who are after YOUR KIDS. No one's saying that this has ever happened, just that they can imagine it, and if they can imagine it, bad guys can imagine it, and if you can imagine a bad guy doing something bad, then you should drop everything to prevent that imaginary thing from coming true.

When in trouble/Or in doubt/Run in circles/Scream and shout.

That Sticker on My Car Is NOT Endangering Me! Read the rest

Child in wet bathing suit made to stand in -5F weather because school policy forbade her from waiting in teacher's car

Kayona Hagen-Tietz, a ninth grader at Como Park High School in St Paul, MN, says she developed frostbite when she was made to stand in -5F weather wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit. She had been in swim class when the fire-bell rang, and evacuated in nothing but her wet swimsuit. Faculty offered to allow her to wait in a car, but school policy prohibits students from entering cars other than those belonging to family and their delegated help. Eventually, common sense won out, though apparently not soon enough.

(via Free Range Kids) Read the rest

Knife use workshops for kids

If you live near Pennsylvania's Lackawanna State Forest and want your kids to learn to use knives responsibly -- an important skill, endangered by scaremongering and helicopter parenting -- you can take them to Sharp Kids, a half-day workshop on knife use for kids aged 8-12. It's $20, knife included. Read the rest

Teachers open camping kid's sealed letter home; eject kid for confessing to eating chocolate

An 11-year-old girl was sent home from a week-long summer-camp on the Isle of Wight for smuggling in a chocolate bar; a fact that her teachers discovered after they opened a sealed letter addressed to her mother and read it. Her mother, who is unemployed and cares full-time for her autistic son, had to drive 160 miles through the night to pick up the child. She had saved for six months to pay for the trip. Teachers conducted a full search of the child's possessions -- including pulling out her suitcase lining -- to discover the banned chocolates. Read the rest

American Girl dolls: from adventure heroes to helicopter-parented, sheltered junior spa-bunnies

Writing in The Atlantic, Amy Schiller documents how Mattel has spent the past 15 years transforming the expensive, highly detailed American Girl dolls from a source of radical inspiration that signposted moments in the history of the struggles for justice and equality in the US, into posh upper-middle-class girls who raise money for bake sales. As Lenore Skenazy points out, the original American Girls were children who had wild adventures without adult oversight; the new crop are helicopter-parented and sheltered, and their idea of high adventure is a closely supervised day in the snow.

Saige is white and upper-middle-class, just like McKenna the gymnast and Lanie the amateur gardener and butterfly enthusiast, both previous Girls of the Year. Even in their attempt to encourage spunky and active girlhoods, their approaches to problem solving are highly local—one has a bake sale to help save the arts program in a local school, another scores a victory for the organic food movement when she persuades a neighbor to stop using pesticides.

By contrast, the original dolls confronted some of the most heated issues of their respective times. In the book A Lesson for Samantha, she wins an essay contest at her elite academy with a pro-manufacturing message, but after conversations with Nellie, her best friend from a destitute background who has younger siblings working in brutal factory jobs, Samantha reverses course and ends us giving a speech against child labor in factories at the award ceremony. Given the class divide, Samantha's speech presumably takes place in front of the very industrial barons responsible for those factory conditions.

Read the rest

Parents in danger of having six-year-old daughter taken away for letting her walk to their local post office on her own

A reader of Free Range Kids is in danger of having his six-year-old daughter taken into protective services custody because he let her walk a few blocks to the post office in their Ohio town. The kid, Emily, asked for a little independence, and was given permission to take some unsupervised, short walks. Neighbors and cops freaked out, detained her, detained her parents, sent CPS after them, and has made their life into a nightmare -- one that's just getting worse and worse.

Day 41: We are served with a complaint alleging neglect and dependency. The County wants to take Emily into “protective supervision” or “temporary custody.” The complaint contains many factual errors and inaccuracies.

There is also a motion for “pre-dispositional interim orders.” As I understand it, this is a mechanism by which CPS can intervene even before the merits of the case against us for neglect are even heard, but less decided. It is scheduled to take place more than a month before the hearing on the neglect charge. It asks the court to force my wife and I to “allow ______ County Children Services to complete an assessment with the family. This is including allowing the agency access in the home, allowing the agency to interview the children, and participate openly in the assessment process.” In other words, they want to search our house, interrogate the children, and force us to testify.

We are trying our best to raise Emily to be responsible, curious, and capable. We have chosen to include teaching her about using the library, navigating the neighborhood, and mailing letters as elements of her homeschooling.

Read the rest

Proposed Maryland anti-zero-tolerance law would tell schools to stop suspending kids who point their fingers at each other and say "bang"

Maryland State Senator J.B. Jennings (R) has introduced Senate Bill 1058, The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013, which is aimed at ending the incredibly stupid "zero tolerance" policies that result in kids being suspended or expelled for pointing a stick at another kid and saying "bang!" Here's the preamble:

FOR the purpose of prohibiting a principal from suspending or expelling a student who brings to school or possesses on school property a picture of a gun, a computer image of a gun, a facsimile of a gun, or any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose; prohibiting a principal from suspending or expelling a student who makes a hand shape or gesture resembling a gun…

Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy sums up some of the incidents that inspired the bill: "the Hello Kitty bubble gun, and the Lego gun, and the imaginary grenade throw in a game of imaginary save-the-world, and last but not least the terrifying pastry gun."

Zero-tolerance is the same thing as zero-intelligence. You don't need human beings to enforce zero-tolerance systems -- if you want to run schools on the basis of "zero-tolerance," you could fire all the teachers and replace them with Commodore PET personal computers running very short BASIC programs.

Right to Bear Gun-Shaped Pop-Tarts Law Drafted

(Image: Gun, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from pedroalonso's photostream) Read the rest

Virgin Airlines Australia moved firefighter from seat next to boys because men can't be seated next to unaccompanied children

An Australian firefighter named Johnny McGirr was told to move seats on his Virgin Airlines because he'd been seated next to two unaccompanied boys. The airline's policy is reportedly that men may not be seated next to children traveling without adults, though women may be. McGirr believed the policy presumes that all men are presumed paedophiles, and wrote about it in a blog post called My Virgin experience as a Paedophile!, in which he publishes the Virgin policy provided to him by a company rep: "Unaccompanied children will have spare seats allocated next to them when they are flying. In the case of a full plane then a female will be sat next to the children."

Here's his account of how it happened:

The fasten seat belt sign was illuminated and we were clear for takeoff. Then the stewardess approached me again.

‘Sir we are going have to ask you to move’

‘Why’, I said.

‘Well, because you are male, you can’t be seated next to two unaccompanied minors’.

Shocked, I replied, ‘ Isn’t this sexist and discriminatory?’

She replied, ‘I am sorry, but that is our policy’.

I just hate this stuff. I've gotten the weird looks when I take my daughter to the playground, and I've found myself having minor anxiety when her friends fall down and need help or a hug. In situations where children and adults mix, men are often presumptive suspects (this goes double for any place where the Murdoch press has spent 20 years publishing innumerate stranger-danger scare stories that ignore the reality that most child abusers attack their own children or the children in their care). Read the rest

Leave your kids alone: a free-range parenting journey

Writing in Boston Magazine, Katherine Ozment recounts how she went from hovering over her kids to keep them from harm to adopting a hands-off regime that let them take risks and play on their own. I had dinner last night with my writing-collaborator Benjamin Rosenbaum and he said he saw his duty as a parent as "preventing damage," not "preventing pain" -- pain (emotional and physical) teaches us a lot, and parents need to allow some measure of it in their kids' lives to help them learn important lessons, but a parent also should intervene to prevent pain from giving rise to damage. Knowing the difference is tricky -- of course.

My heart sank. How times had changed. I still remember the time my two older brothers built an igloo in our front yard. It had a domed roof and arched entrance, and they strung an overhead work lamp from the ceiling and laid out a small rug so we could all sit in it for hours. Witnessing my children’s paltry fort-making skills, I thought, Is this what our kids will remember of winter — digging little holes in the snow as their mother hovered nearby? Where has the childhood I once knew gone?

In my nine years as a parent, I’ve followed the rules, protocols, and cultural cues that have promised to churn out well-rounded, happy, successful children. I’ve psychoanalyzed my kids’ behavior, supervised an avalanche of activities, and photo-documented their day-to-day existence as if I were a wildlife photographer on the Serengeti.

Read the rest

Popsicle test: evaluating a neighborhood's livability with frozen treats

Here's an ingenious heuristic for evaluating the livability of a neighborhood: can a kid get to a store on her own, buy a popsicle, and get home again before it melts? It comes from a Vancouver, BC planning official's presentation at the 2003 New Partners for Smart Growth conference in New Orleans.

He went on with a series of slides showing a neighboring child from his downtown building taking to the streets, visiting a shop, playing in a tot lot. I remember being quite inspired by the idea and I imagine others were too, as it wasn’t too much later that “the popsicle test” — the ability of an 8 year old to safely get somewhere to buy a popsicle, then make it home before it melts — became the go-to elevator speech for a lot of New Urbanists making their case.

Now jump ahead to 2011. Just last week, in fact. Doing some work in Canada, I stumbled into a conversation on “the Vancouver model” — typically characterized by the pencil-thin towers that brought new density, and new life, to Vancouver’s revitalizing streetscapes — when something funny happened. “If you were to ask Larry Beasley (the city’s former planning director) today, in retrospect, what he sees as the biggest shortcoming of his legacy there,” someone said, “he would say it was the failure to bring kids downtown.”

Smart Growth = Smart Parenting

(via Free Range Kids)

(Image: IMG_0844, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from crimsonninjagirl's photostream) Read the rest

Man with camera in park who fled angry parent sought by police (turns out he was taking pix of his grandson)

A woman in Pocatello, Idaho spotted an "older white man" taking pictures of "children" at a park, so she ran up to him and screamed at him until he left, and then called the police, who duly issued an alert asking the public for information about this mysterious stranger. The local press picked it up.

Then the man called the police himself. He was in the park with his grandson, and he was taking pictures of his grandson. He didn't run away from the woman, he left because she was freaking him out with her wild, unfounded accusations that he must be up to no good because he was a) an adult, b) in a park, c) with a camera. For some reason, the police found this to be suspicious, too -- despite the fact that statistically the most likely abuser in a child's life is a relative or close acquaintance, not a stranger. Who needs evidence-based policing when you've got unfounded terror, though?

Pocatello Police are warning people of a suspicious man spotted taking pictures of children at Ammon Park.

Police say parents spotted the man photographing their kids, and when they confronted him the man ran off. He is described as an older white man with white hair and a beard. He was wearing a western-style button-down shirt and blue jeans and was driving a tan/brown van. If anyone has information about this man, police would like them to call police dispatch at 234-6100.

...

Lt. Paul Manning said the man in question called in the Pocatello Police Department himself, saying he was at the park taking pictures of his grandson.

Read the rest

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