A Principal Calls CPS After Mom Lets Daughter, 10, Ride City Bus to School

Readers — This letter has me shaking with every unpleasant emotion: Rage, frustration and, sorry to admit this, contempt. It is a perfect snapshot of the way excessive fear for kids coupled with authority can turn parenting into a defensive art, where we must FIGHT for our right to raise kids the way we believe is safe and good. It comes to us from a mom named Anna who lives with her boyfriend, 10-year-old daughter and two cats in Rockville, MD. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: There is something about school administrators that can make even the most accomplished adult feel 8 years old again. So when the person on the other end of the line said “Hello, this is Ms. X, the principal of your daughter’s elementary school,” my heart momentarily decided to go hide somewhere in the area of my kidneys.

It had been brought to her attention, the principal said, by some “concerned parents,” that my daughter had been riding the city bus to and from school. I said, yes, we had just moved outside of the neighborhood, and felt that this was the most convenient way for our 5th grader to get there and back. The principal asked was I not concerned for her safety? “Safety from what?” I inquired. “Kidnapping,” she said reluctantly. I said that I would not bore her by talking statistics that, being in the business of taking care of young children, she surely knew better than I did. She reminded me that our transfer application (a formality in cases such as ours, when the student has less than a year left to complete at their former school) has not yet been submitted, and that if we were “unable to provide transportation,” the central office would not approve this transfer. I assured her that we were perfectly able to provide transportation, but were choosing to avail ourselves of the city’s excellent public transportation system instead.

It is hard to summarize our long conversation without seeming flippant, but I actually managed to keep a friendly, even tone throughout. I understood her concerns. It made me happy that the other parents cared about the safety of my child. I thanked her profusely for recognizing that this was not a situation requiring an immediate call to Child Protective Services (CPS), as these parents were urging her to do.

As soon as we got off the phone (and my hands stopped shaking), I wrote the principal an email where I reiterated some of the above points and concluded by saying:

We did a lot of planning and preparation before we allowed L. to ride the bus. As a parent I feel that it is my job to advocate for her right to practice this new skill, for as long as she wants to do it and for as long as we her parents continue to feel it is safe.

Here is the principal’s complete response. The italics are mine:

Hi. I did follow up with central office. They said if you want to explore the bus option that they would have CPS determine whether or not they felt this was ok to do. They wanted to know how L. gets to the stop each morning and then how she gets home. Does she walk there on her own? Apparently, the Change of School Assignment office got in touch with a liaison who works with the school system and CPS and this is how they would like to move forward should you decide to not drive her. Do you want them to meet with you? This would not be a report regarding neglect or abuse but rather a confirmation or not that it is ok in the eyes of CPS.

In my response, I detailed how one of us usually walks L. to the bus stop and how someone is always home when she gets back. I resisted the temptation to mention that a 10-year-old is perfectly capable of walking three blocks and staying home alone for an hour after school and that in fact many of L. classmates who live within walking distance of school do both. I did tell the principal that if the meeting with CPS was necessary for central office to feel comfortable with this, we would be happy to meet with them.

It was raining hard the next day so I offered to drive L. to the bus stop. I thought she’d want to wait in the car with me, but she said, “It’s okay mom, you go work. I want to say hi to my friends.” “Your friends?” “Well, they are not my kid friends. They are just, you know, my people friends.” There was the Chinese lady, the lady with the baby who cried a lot (but it’s not his fault, he can’t help it), and the grandma who always got on at the next stop. In a few short weeks, my daughter had surrounded herself with a community of people who recognized her, who were happy to see her, and who surely would step in if someone tried to hurt her.

Three weeks later, I got another call from the principal. The transfer application was approved. However, the central office was still urging her to call CPS. And would I mind driving L. to school until she’s had a chance to make that call, tomorrow at the latest? I said okay. But when I did not hear back from the principal for three days I sent her another email. I informed her that my daughter would be going back to riding the bus. That I trusted that CPS has confirmed this to be a non-issue. And that if anyone else comes to her with concerns to please give them my number. Her quick response was that she hadn’t had a chance to call yet but will do so “today.” It has now been three days without a word from her or anyone else.

I do wish that this story had a more satisfying ending. I doubt that I’d be hearing from the CPS any time soon. On the other hand, I also doubt that the other parents, the majority of whom have never ridden a city bus themselves, will follow my lead. But I am going to continue mentioning how my daughter gets to school, every time I talk to them. And when they invariably get that twitchy look in their eye, I am going to tell them about “people friends.” Thank you for reading. — Anna

Thank you for remaining rational and strong in the face of fear and threat. – L

The girl made friends on the bus with people of different ages. The horror!


148 Responses to A Principal Calls CPS After Mom Lets Daughter, 10, Ride City Bus to School

  1. Naomi Mat November 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    When do kids magically become big enough to handle life? This is my biggest fear, that I end up coddling DS too much so when he is legally an adult, he really has the abilities of a small child. I’m constantly checking myself to make sure that I let him try new things and making him push himself a little harder. And Anna – Nuts to all of those nosy parents that don’t have the guts to say it to your face. And nuts to that principal who threatens you with CPS. And Brava to your daughter for have a group of friends on the bus that watches out for her.

  2. Silver Fang November 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    In Japan, kids routinely take city buses, trains and subways to school, or walk. In fact, in the most crowded areas, parents are FORBIDDEN to drive their kids to school to avoid clogging the streets.

    How I wish the USA were as enlightened as the Land of the Rising Sun.

  3. Marcy November 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Very well done Anna! I hope if I am ever in a similar situation that I can handle it as calmly and rationally, while sticking to what I feel is best, as you did. There are plenty of “people friends” at my boys bus stop, and they tell me how much they miss the boys over the summer.

  4. Violet November 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    The principal must not be concerned that CPS employees have to attend to the needs of children who are actually being abused.

  5. Kristen S November 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Oh, this irks me- especially as a resident of the county where this is happening! This is a suburb of DC and I commute into DC everyday. I also ride the buses in Montgomery County often. I see kids on public transportation all the time and I think that’s great. Not sure if she is taking a Ride-on bus or a Metro bus, but the Ride-on even has a youth pass for anyone under 18… and a link on their website of which routes to take to school if you have missed your school bus. Sadly it only lists middle schools and high schools, but I was 10 when I started middle school as are, I assume, a lot of middle schoolers. If a 10 year old middle schooler can take the bus, why not a 10 year old elementary schooler?

  6. Marc November 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    I wonder if the next step for parents these types of things happen to is to contact whatever local media is available that would care to do a story on the incident.

    At some point, we have got to get our sense of community back. Since the media is so good at broadcasting all the dangers of society, perhaps they could also be good at broadcasting the good things, and maybe swing that pendulum back a bit.

  7. Kristy November 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    I think I was probably in the 4th or 5th grade when I started riding the city bus alone. It’s a great experience, a great feeling of responsibility and independence, and certainly nothing worth calling CPS over!

  8. Stephanie November 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I am outraged by this story, but I love that your daughter has “people friends.” It’s just so heartwarming. I used to ride the city bus from time to time, starting at age 10. My 13 year old French cousin (who spoke little to no English) and I (who was 6 or 7) navigated the city bus to get to the beach. It was no problem.

  9. Karen November 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Gosh. When my daughter is 10.5 she will be in what we call “high school” here. At the moment she goes to school locally, a 5 minute walk from our house, and because she is 6, I walk her. Once she is 8, she is allowed to walk to school alone (those are the school rules, not mine, I was flying alone from Thailand to London “unaccompanied” as in they “supervised” me during the flight – this was in the ’80’s, there wasn’t much supervision, I was left to get on with it) and when she is 10.5/11 she will be getting 2, (shock horror) buses to school. I won’t be able to drive her, (her younger siblings will need to be at the local school taken by me, at the same time) and I’d say at nearly 11, she will be perfectly capable of a bus ride. I think it’s insane that they’re getting CPS involved! What about the parents who drive drunk? Who let their kids sit in the car unrestrained? Why are they hassling a parent for using common sense, encouraging independance and freedom?

  10. Mike B November 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    That was painful to read. That Anna kept her cool and played along to the extent she did is remarkable.

    I rode the city bus to and from school throughout 7th and 8th grade, and would likely have done it earlier if there had not been a school bus. The bus stop was on a busy road four blocks from my house, and at the other end I had a two-block walk through an iffy urban neighborhood. I was not always crazy about it, as I was the only kid on the bus so it was a solitary experience, and I was not as gregarious as Anna’s daughter. But I don’t recall ever being afraid, nor did I have a sense that my parents were afraid for me. And I don’t recall my parents ever being pressured to drive me several miles to and from school just to protect me from random commuting strangers. If anything, the experience made me more independent and competent.

  11. Jenni November 15, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    “This would not be a report regarding neglect or abuse but rather a confirmation or not that it is ok in the eyes of CPS.”

    What?! When did CPS become the judge of all parenting decisions everywhere? They are busy enough taking care of children who actually need help due to abuse and neglect—it’s not their job (or responsibility or right) to determine if anything that’s not a matter of abuse or neglect is “OK or not.”

    I do, however, wish it was someone’s job to determine whether some of the people serving in public education have any clue about what it means to educate, nurture and support children.

  12. DarkMarcsun November 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    This is ridiculous. I routinely took the bus to elementary school in Oakland, California while in 6th grade – the district even sold discount bus tickets to those who came from out of the individual school district. The only danger that ever befell me was that the driver occasionally forgot to let us (yes there were more than one of us on the city bus – gasp!) off at the last stop before the Bay Bridge. Fortunately we were aware enough to make sure we got off before making an unscheduled visit to San Francisco. I also walked the three blocks to the stop and waited by myself every morning, the only danger of which was that I had to pass the Mexican deli which sold delicious candy.

  13. Rich Wilson November 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    There’s a lot of privilege going on. The principal thanks that because the people in his own little sphere all drive their kids to school in SUVs with DVD players, that everyone can/should do so.

    What is beyond the principal’s sphere is that many Americans can’t/don’t live that way. Many families don’t have cars, or have to work hours that don’t allow them to drive kids to school. Real American families have to be resourceful and use other solutions such as public transportation.

  14. Seth November 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    This is garbage. As a point of fact though, Rockville does not have a ‘CPS’ but a CWS, Child Welfare Services.

  15. Andrea November 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    How dare that principal hold this over your head? If she truly believes that this is an issue that CPS needs to hear about, she has an obligation to call them within 24 hours. It’s just cruel to string a parent along for weeks with threats. I don’t see a third option. Either she’s negligent for not calling yet or she’s being cruel.

  16. Danielle Meitiv November 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    I grew up in NYC (Queens) where the policy was for ALL children to ride the city buses after 2nd grade. They gave us a 1/2 fare bus pass and set us loose.

    Now I live in MD, in the same county as Anna and I have every intention of letting my son go to school solo – via bus or walking ~ 1.2 miles – as soon as he turns 8 years old.

    I’ll let you know what the principal says to that!

    (The good news is that the bus is free for kids that age from 2pm-7pm. Ah ha! Maybe the county is hoping to save $$ by keeping freeloading free-rage kids on the bus! 😉 )

  17. SKL November 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Why does the principal think she needs to check with CPS? Is there some manual or training that administrators are given that requires this? Or has someone gotten on her case before for something of a similar nature? It seems odd that this would just pop into her mind out of the blue.

    As far as I know, CPS isn’t a lawmaking body in relation to the general public. Maybe I should learn more about what CPS is empowered to do.

    I rode buses myself at that age, and not just to school. I was either 9 or 10 when my mom started giving me bus money to go to the optometrist’s office after school, because both of my parents worked and I was capable of handling the appointment myself.

    You’d think that if a kid was showing up at school each day, dressed and fed and ready to learn, nobody would give a thought to how she got there – especially at that age. CPS has enough to do dealing with families whose kids don’t get to school regularly etc.

  18. Danielle Meitiv November 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    (I meant “off the bus” of course)

  19. opsomath November 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    It’s absurd that anyone thinks that CPS has the right to rule here. I second other commenters that I wonder where that idea came from, and maybe this is something that FRK can look into.

  20. Jen Holland November 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    It’s probably a much tamer bus ride than the middle school bus my son has to ride. The stories he comes home with and the vocabulary he wants definitions for is shocking. I think he would be better off on a city bus, the people are probably better behaved and friendlier than the middle school kids!

  21. SKL November 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Danielle reminded me of another thing.

    When I was a kid, “busing” was instituted in our city. That meant that large numbers of public school kids were forced to go to school at locations that were clear across town, to implement racial integration. Many of them didn’t have transportation other than the city bus, and I recall parents’ outrage at being told that their little ones (1st grade if not KG) were being assigned to be bused into the “dangerous” parts of town. (That’s one of the reasons lots of people moved out or switched to parochial / private schools. The city does have a lot of crime and was very racially divided at the time.)

    No, I wouldn’t want to put my 5yo on a city bus to be dropped off in a faraway, inner-city neighborhood. Flame me if you must. But 10yo is a whole different story. If the parents decided it was OK, that should be the end of the conversation.

  22. Jo November 15, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Germany, Hamburg (the third largest city of the country): in 4th grade the school on one day sends all tbe kids off to explore public transportation. For the brnefit of the kids who do not use it with their families. Because they are expected to know to use it- just as swimming or math. Elementary school just had a special day: walk to school.

  23. Hupernikao November 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    My oldest child attends a magnet school that is a fair distance away. They bus kids over at the regularly scheduled times, but if they have to be there early or late for any reason – no busing. My daughter is very involved in multiple activities, and the cost of gas was just KILLING our budget. So, we started buying her a monthly pass for the public transportation system. I never have had an administrator comment about it – because she is a SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL! BUT – I cannot tell you how many other parents have looked at me crosswise, made snide comments and/or questioned my judgement in allowing her to ride public transportation. It’s sad. I have a well-rounded, smart, and capable daughter that I am very proud of!

  24. Jennie Murphy November 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    “People friends” warms my heart.

  25. David November 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    I would have flipped out on that principle. How dare they threaten with calling CPS for what is clearly not an issue of neglect or abuse.

  26. gap.runner November 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    How cool that Anna’s daughter made “people friends” on the bus. Kudos to Anna for the way she handled the situation.

    Since when does a school principal decide how kids get to and from school? Don’t school principals have better things to do?

    @Jo, I live in the opposite part of Germany (Garmisch-Partenkirchen) and the kids here also practice riding the bus and train in 4th grade with their teachers. The kids start riding the bus or train to school on their own in 5th grade. Kids who live over 3 km (about 1.8 miles) from the school are eligible for free bus or train passes. Many of the smaller towns in my area don’t have a secondary school, so the kids take a public bus or train to the secondary schools in Garmisch. There are no adults chaperoning the kids on the bus or train; the only adults are the bus driver, train conductors, or unlucky tourists who happen to get on the train or bus with a bunch of kids ages 10-18. Unfortunately, my son can’t get a bus pass because we only live 2.5 km from his school. But he is an experienced bus and train rider nonetheless. Whenever one of his out of town friends has a birthday party, he insists on taking either the train or bus instead of having my husband or me drive him.

  27. Donna November 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I’m still puzzled as to why the school believes that it has any business involving itself how ANY child gets to school outside of those on the school bus. If I want to let my child ride a unicycle backwards to school, I should be allowed to do so. As long as she gets there clothed and fed, how exactly is it the principal’s business how this occurred?

    Very little about my daughter’s US school bothered me, but the one thing that really did was the requirement that they know, first thing in the morning, how my child is getting home every day and the lack of ability to change this during the day. And that kids are broken into groups at the end of the day – bus riders in one group to wait for their bus, car riders in another to wait for their car, and walkers/bikers in another to wait for their adult to pick them up to walk home.

    When I was a kid, a bell rang and everyone walked (okay ran) out of the school together. Bus riders got on their bus and walkers/bikers went home. If mom was out and about and decided to swing by the school to pick Jr. up, she just honked when she saw Jr. and he ran to the car. No long explanation and special permission needed. I don’t recall a wealth of lost and confused children wandering around the school because they didn’t know where to go if not escorted. The one thing that all kids know how to do within a few days of starting school is how to get the heck out.

    By middle school, my intended mode of transportation changed by the minute. I was assigned a bus but lived close enough to walk and did both with regularity. Unless I had definite plans for after school, my opinion of the best way to get home usually changed several times as the day went on and I never really knew which way I’d go until that final bell rang.

  28. Molly Eness November 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    My son is also in 5th grade and prefers walking to riding the bus. There are stoplights at the crossings and but it is considered a “non-walking” school. I was walking him to the corner when I walked the dog in order to teach him how to cross driveways and watch for idiots at the light in hopes that he would soon be able to take himself to school. (Next year he will be in middle school and have almost the same walk.) All he was doing was walking half a block and around the bus circle (on a sidewalk) by himself, but when the person who watches the kids get off the bus saw “this little kid walking up to school by himself” she called me. Then the principal called me. Then they told me that I have to walk into the bus circle with him. It makes me sick.

  29. Kathryn November 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    Remind me how children in New York City (said, in my head, with that accent from the Pace Salsa commercials) get to school? If it’s ok to do there, um, this should be a non-issue. Well, should be a non-issue anyway.

  30. Andrea G. November 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Wow, how aggravating. Personally, I think the call to CPS may have been an idle threat and Anna called the principal’s bluff. Or maybe she called and CPS told her they had kids with real problems to deal with? It’s suspicious that she came on so hard, with threat of the CPS call (every parent’s dread), and then was too busy to actually make the call. I think she was just a power tripping bureaucrat who doesn’t like it when parents don’t say “yes’m” and bow their heads when she makes her demands.

  31. Warren November 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I would be working hard to get this principal removed from the position. Extortion is illegal, is it not? Threats of CPS, implying that the transfer was at stake?

    The people of the United States have got to do something. You live in fear of CPS, and their gestapo type power.
    You need to work on getting CPS neutered, to some extent. So that they do not have this power.

    I honestly do not know how you can live as parents, with CPS hanging in the background.

  32. Lollipoplover November 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    I think the 10 year-old in question here needs to challenge the folks in the “central office” to see who rides the bus better. Why on earth would CPS ever be involved with choices in transportation?

    Owning a car is expensive. Not all families can afford one. Public transportation is a very safe and arguably better environmental choice for children. Plus, the 10 year-old clearly knows how to do it. If she was doing cartwheels at the bus stop, maybe this would be a normal conversation. But it’s taking away the freedom to choose transportation away from parents and limiting the choices in education to those who can afford car chauffering for their children.
    It’s not right.

  33. Warren November 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Something has me wondering?
    Is there some sort of law, or jurisdiction policy that entitles a school administrator, to dictate what a child does, outside of school hours, and off school property?
    A child’s behaviour on a school bus, would yes be in the school’s authority. But if the child is not taking a school bus, then they are not under the charge or care of the school, until they arrive. In all reality the school has no more power than someone living in a dumpster, behind the restaurant.
    So why do parents, let them tell them what to do?

  34. Yan Seiner November 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Depending on the laws, isn’t the school accepting a lot of liability by controlling how kids go to school? I mean, if they dictate the appropriate “safe” route, and the kid still gets hurt, isn’t the to blame since they should have known about this threat too and done something to mitigate it?

    My kids walk to school. Which, in Oregon, means they walk in the rain a lot since it rains most of the school year. We’ve had people ask us if we need financial assistance to buy a car….. My kids walk because they enjoy it, not because they have to.

  35. Cherub Mamma November 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I’m a foster parent and I have to second the statements about CPS having “real” work to do. There ARE real cases of abuse and neglect. CPS does need to exist. But this case is clearly not – or at least should not be – a concern at all for them.

    It is absurd what is being considered neglectful these days.

    And then, after kids are “in The System”, what that very same system overlooks in order to close out cases they are dealing with!!!

  36. Secular Absolutist November 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    If the principal (who is clearly avoiding the issue) actually does make a report to CPS he/she has made a grievous professional error and would be exposed to complaint and/or lawsuit.

    The school’s threat to report you to CPS in and of itself has a very chilling effect on your’s and your child’s constitutional right to freedom of expression. They are trying to tell you how to parent your own child. This is a challenge on you by a body that has no right to do so.

    They have no authority outside of school premises. Tell them to kiss off.

    Good on the kid for developing allies in the game of life. IMHO she is far better off on the bus than at that school.

  37. Katie November 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I wish all of these upper class busybodies who insist CPS get involved over every little thing could see what a social worker’s caseload looks like and the sort of cases that come across their desks. When you consider the sort of conditions that many children are living under–and that often CPS can’t do much about–it really puts a 10-year-old taking a city bus to school into perspective.

  38. Helen November 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    My kids walk to school in town (about a km). I don’t see many others walking. The students that live too close to the school don’t get picked up by the school bus. Most of those kids get a ride with their parents every morning and every afternoon. I have two main problems with this; My kids don’t get to form friendships with these kids that might otherwise walk to and from school with them; and the senseless impact of all those fossil fuels on the environment. What a stupid thing it is to suggest that everyone should be chauffeured everywhere.
    That principal is out of line.
    I agree with Jen Holland that children have a better chance at a civilized experience (while walking to school, or) on the city bus where there are people friends.

  39. Amy O November 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    I don’t even have a response to this. I… just don’t understand. Busybody is the only word that comes to mind.

  40. DarkMarcsun November 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    One other point:

    As a child the only bullying I ever experienced on a bus was on the school bus itself. Children are more apt to behave themselves on a public city bus because there is (usually) modeled behavior which demonstrates that the type of behavior typically found on a school bus is unacceptable in the civilized world.

  41. Tsu Dho Nimh November 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    if we were “unable to provide transportation,” the central office would not approve this transfer

    You ARE providing transportation. You buy her a bus pass and hand it to her.

  42. Kimberly November 15, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    It is calls like this that clog up the system and mean it takes 60+ phone calls to rescue 4 kids from their mentally ill parents, who have decided all food is evil. I taught 3 of the 4 siblings years after they had finally been rescued. Their growth was stunted and they had serious issues with food and hording.

    I have taught school since 2001 and have called CPS 3 times.
    1 – Whip marks across the arms, back and front that required medical attention. (Parent admitted

    2 – Out cry Child had serious bruises face and body said Dad beat him up – actually from a tackle football game in a league. kid got help for other issues but no abuse.

    3 – An untreated broken hand. That needed surgery (Turned out the child hid the injury. School and Social worker got them medical help)

    The weird part – all these happened on the same day.

  43. Michelle November 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    I find it absolutely infuriating that anyone thinks CPS has the authority to decide whether or not this is “acceptable.” (Especially since, IME, CPS workers do not always have a good grasp of what parents are legally allowed to do. A friend of mine was told by CPS that the law forbids children under 12 playing outside alone. Unfortunately, she believes them.)

    I wish I lived in an area with public transportation. I tell my husband all the time that I wish we could move back into the city so that our kids could ride the bus and expand the number of places that they could go independently.

  44. Heather November 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    I live in the DC area as well and would LOVE to see this in the news. Maybe start at The Washington Post On Parenting blog? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting
    Or WTOP or any of the local news channels?
    It’s ridiculous. I know kids in DC ride Metro to get to school.
    Great job remaining calm. The best thing any of us can do in these situations is to keep our cool so we don’t come off as being extreme, because extreme = crazy = dangerous. If they have no authority over what you do with your child off school premises, then kindly say that you appreciate their concern, and keep doing what you’re doing.

  45. AW13 November 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Agreed with CPS being used as an idle threat (although I sincerely hope that the principal DID call and was told not to waste their time with something that is clearly not abuse). I also find it alarming that CPS is now being used as the arbiter of parental action. I’ve never dealt with them myself, but it would seem to me that anything that a parent would do that would warrant CPS involvement and the children being removed from the home would be illegal, so if it isn’t illegal, then CPS needn’t be involved. Am I wrong about this?

    And @Warren, the high school where I used to work had trouble with their athletes drinking and used to make them sign a code of conduct, and the penalty was that they would be benched for x amount of games. A couple of kids were on a cruise with their parents and were drinking. They were in international waters, so they were legal to drink, but more to the point, they had their parents’ permission to do so. A teacher was on the cruise and reported their behavior. The kids were summarily benched, the parents got angry, and the district got sued. (I think there was something about a college scout that was coming to see one of the kids, but I can’t remember.) Next thing we know, all the students and their parents were being asked to sign an agreement that they (the student) wouldn’t drink anywhere in the world, under any circumstances. It was flipping ridiculous, and a large number of parents simply refused to sign it. Later, this same school wanted all staff members to sign an agreement that we wouldn’t come to any school events outside of the school day under the influence of alcohol. Again, a number of us – self included – refused to sign. First of all, the school cannot determine my behavior when I’m off the clock, and second of all, as a professional educator, I’d no more come to a school function drunk than I would teach my class drunk. It is ridiculous that it even came up, but it did due to a teacher disciplinary issue in a neighboring district. However, I have no idea how much weight these contracts had legally. There were no repercussions for not signing them.

  46. N November 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    I live in Rockville, and this makes me really sad to hear. I’m glad that it seems like everything will be fine, but sheesh. Sadly, though, I’m not surprised.

  47. Warren November 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    If a kid shows to school drunk, or a game drunk, then it is a school issue. If they are drinking in the woods on a Sat. night, it isn’t any of their business.

    The problem is that parents have just let the schools dictate things, that is really not their area. And now, we are paying the price. Time to stand up, and tell em to shove it, where the sun don’t shine.

  48. Dee Dee November 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    My NYC 5th grader is ‘self dismissed’ from school and free to get home however they are told by a parent. We have classmates that take city busses and subways by themselves at this age. We have kids who walk home at this age. And we have kids who have sitters take them home. Nobody judges – we all just ask ourselves for our own children, ‘is she ready?’ and deal with it individually when the time comes.

  49. Mike C November 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    I’d like to add my voice to those above that if it’s not a case of neglect or abuse, then it’s not a case for the CPS (CWS).

    Also, the mother is in fact providing adequate transportation, and if the principal is concerned about the young girl not being under the direct supervision of an adult (oh, the horror!), it can be pointed out that she’s under the supervision of the bus driver and all the regular commuters, several of which are now her friends.

  50. ShortWoman November 16, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    As long as there is a single child who is legitimately abused or neglected, this sort of NONSENSE is a complete waste of CPS’s time and resources. What an abuse of the system. No wonder there was no reply from them. If only CPS had the authority to collect fines for such obvious “false alarms.”

  51. Crystal November 16, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Can I just say I HATE the CPS??? I rarely hear anything good about them, or even halfway positive. Thank God homeschooling is still legal….for now.

  52. Donald November 16, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    When fear takes control, rational thinking takes a back seat. However, in this instance, I think there’s more to it than that. Anxiety can often be self perpetuating. Think of an OCD sufferer. They wash their hands continually because in their mind, the germs are still there even though they’ve washed their hands 10 times! They see germs no matter what. No amount of washing will remove what they see.

    It’s also true with a helicopter parent. They see kidnappers and pedophiles NO MATTER WHAT! No amount of security will remove what they see.

  53. ShadowL November 16, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    Had I been in that moms shoes I would have asked the principal to hold and conference called in CPS. and explained what I was doing with MY children before the principal could get a word in. The simple fact that it took her 3 days to even call CPS says the principal really does not give a S*** and is just abusing her authority.

    Here, my son had to ride a city bus from 6th grade on because the middle schools do not provide buses for any child that lives within 2 miles of the school. We live 1.92 miles away (other side of the street and we would have a school bus).

    I got him a bus pass and every morning my kids both left the house at the same time. Oldest walked west 5 blocks to his bus stop,youngest walked north 3 blocks to his. They even added 3 extra runs of the bus route tat goes to the middle school so kids can do this 1 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon).

    Anyone who thinks kids are in danger, riding public transportation in most mid sized towns and cities, needs to get their head examined. they are in no more danger than adults are.

  54. Mary November 16, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    This (by the end) had me in tears of joy. I cannot wait til my children can make their own “People friends”. At the moment I drive them both to infants (K to 2) and preschool at 5 and 3, but i am hoping that they are able to walk together safely by the time they move on to the bigger, closer primary school.

  55. MRoutt November 16, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    Heck, when I was 14 and starting high school the school district around where I live did away with school buses for us “big bad high-schoolers” and gave us all passes for the local (county run) bus system. I have been riding the bus since.

  56. Michael November 16, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    Ironic that threatening a parent with a requirement that they use a MUCH more risky form of transportation per passenger mile traveled (automobile versus bus) is somehow seen as the “right” thing to do. And all of this to avoid the essentially non-existent risk of kidnapping. Perhaps our schools have fallen short on educating us to better understand risk and statistics? With principals like this one at the helm, it’s not surprising…

  57. Fred November 16, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    It all stems from the fear of being sued. Schools are constantly threatened with lawsuits over ridiculous things.
    Schools are legally responsible for students from the time they leave school until they walk through their front door. It’s always lawyers to blame. Seriously.

  58. AztecQueen2000 November 16, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    I live in Brooklyn.The city distributes free bus passes to kids as young as kindergarten. Plenty of kids around here use city transportation,as the streets cannot afford the clog of parents driving into pick up their kids.

  59. Trey November 16, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    I’d have to ask the principal to please cite the statistics. Repeatedly and their sources. Just to see what would happen.

  60. Michelle November 16, 2012 at 4:43 am #

    When my (previously suburb living) daughter was 10, she started taking the (CITY!) bus to her new elementary school herself. I took it with her (both ways !) for a few months, and then she said “I’ve got this.”

    The first day everything was fine. Same with the second day. The third day she *was* approached by a “stranger” — one of the grannies taking their grandkids to the nearby parochial school — demanding “where’s your mother!” And for the rest of the year, commute went off without incident.


    Silly principal.

  61. Edward November 16, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    What does the Rockville MD public transportation department have to say about the way the board of education paints the bus service in town?

  62. Janet Lafleur November 16, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    My friend’s younger sister has Down’s Syndrome. She graduated high school at 21 and took a job about 10 miles from her home, which she shares with her parents. She can’t read or do most things adults do, but she has gotten herself to work on the bus without incident for over 10 years. She even manages a bus transfer. I bet she has “people friends” too.

  63. Earth.W November 16, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Isn’t it time people butted out of other peoples lives?

  64. Earth.W November 16, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Were I raising children in America, they would either attend a private school or homeschool. I can truly understand why there is such a huge growth of homeschooling there.

  65. Dave November 16, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    This is an outrage. From As early As early as I can remember, first grade, I walked to school alone. Back in the 60s everyone did. My grandsohas just n who just turned 9 has been taking a cab to school alone for two years already with out incident. One time we called a cab to go downtown (Brooklyn) and when we got in the car he introduced mevto the drive who had driven him to school a few times. Teaches and principals teach. Parents raise children and make the decisions on how their children get to and from school. Children do what they feelbonld enough to do by themselves. My 10 year old granddaughter walks to school alone . I offer to walk with her just cause I want to spectre time with her but she refuses to let me. my 13 year old granddaughter takes the subway with a transfer to school alone. People need to worry about there own children and leave others to raise their children as they see fit.

  66. Kenny Felder November 16, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    I am so grateful that there are people like Anna–and of course Lenore–who are willing to stand up for common sense. There may be hope.

  67. Beth November 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    “Schools are legally responsible for students from the time they leave school until they walk through their front door.”

    I’d like to see a citation for this “law”. Think of the scenarios: a mom picks up her kid from school in the car, and on the way home they crash. A teen has a job right after school, and doesn’t walk through his front door til 8pm. A middle schooler stops at the public library on the way home from school, trips on the stairs and sprains her ankle.

    I find it hard to believe that anyone, including lawmakers, would hold the school responsible, or even THINK that the school was responsible, in any of these situations.

  68. Carol Everett Adams November 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    @Rich Wilson I agree with your statement about privilege. That is one of the core issues being overlooked here. The woman who wrote the letter said she could drive her child to school, but not everyone is that fortunate.

    We live in such isolated American bubbles…

    I’m loving all the stories from overseas!

  69. Edy Chamness November 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Principals are supposed to be “instructional leaders”. Ha. This principal sounds exactly like the principal of our school who wouldn’t know quality instruction and curriculum if it smacked her upside the head. Power and control is at the top of their lists, NOT the emotional, social and academic needs of our children. Threatening parents with calls to CPS is just another form of bullying. And we wonder why bullying has become such a big problem in our schools.

  70. Emily November 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Yeah, I agree with Beth. I was also thinking of some “grey area” kinks with the “schools are responsible for students until they get home” nonsense, because if a young person was going from school to an after-school activity, or an older student was going from school to a part-time job, then obviously, the responsibility would shift, at least in part, to the people running the karate school/Scout troop/hamburger restaurant/whatever. But, what about something like, a child deciding to play at a nearby park after school, only to fall off the monkey bars and break an arm? If that had happened in my youth, there would have been other people at the park, who would have stepped in and helped (not because they were obligated to, but because it was the right thing to do), but nowadays, everyone’s locked up inside out of paranoia. I think that, paradoxically, the world might be safer if people interacted with each other more, beginning from the assumption that everyone is a fundamentally good person, unless someone gives you a reason to stop believing that. Now, since it’s “guilty until proven innocent,” and helping a random child who’s injured can open you up to a lawsuit, people keep to themselves, and that’s put a real damper on the whole concept of “community.”

  71. Warren November 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    I still find it so difficult to believe, that so many parents are unwilling to stand there and say,”Sucks to be you. This is my kid, my rules, and in the future keep your opinions to yourself. Thanks and have a wonderful day.”

  72. Sarah in WA November 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    One of my neighbors was angry because she felt her son was being bullied by a classmate while they walked home from school. (Yes, they walk, since we live within a mile of the school and the district won’t provide bus service if you’re that close.) Apparently the principal told her that, because it was happening off school grounds and outside of school time, it wasn’t the school’s responsibility to handle it. She was ranting and raving to me about it, all while I was thinking about how this principal was right. The school has to cut the cord at some point.

    I agree that the school really shouldn’t be concerning themselves with this. It’s not their responsibility. I think they’re trying to cow-tow to the complaining parents, though. If parents would actually talk to each other and not involve the school on everything, it would certainly help.

  73. Sally November 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Carol Everett Adams and Rich Wilson, I think I appreciate the sentiment you’re getting at when you talk about “privilege”, but it seems to me if you live in a country where you believe you need to personally chauffeur your child to ensure his/her safety, that’s not very “fortunate” or privileged at all. It’s the opposite, really.

    Puts me in mind of the tales told about South American countries back in the day — supposedly wealthy people couldn’t just move around normally because of the constant threat of kidnapping. So they had to drive themselves (or be driven) and their children everywhere.

    The impression it left on me wasn’t that some of the residents of those countries had a lot of fortune or privilege, I just felt terribly sad for all of the residents having to live in such a place. In hindsight, I do not know if those stories were actually true. But it doesn’t make any difference to point being made here, which is, the impression it made on me.

  74. Amanda Matthews November 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    I am amazed at the gall of these people! Why do they think it is up to anyone other than the parents to decide if it is okay? “I’d say “Okay, don’t approve the transfer – my daughter will ride the bus ELSEWHERE.”

    And don’t expect the “people friends” thing to sway anyone – many people feel it is unnecessary and even dangerous for kids to make friends with anyone of differing ages. Never mind the fact that it is a necessary life skill, because once they are out of school they will never again be surrounded only by people of the same age.

  75. Virginia November 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Did anyone else here see that this happened in Rockville and start humming the REM tune?

    “Don’t go back to Rockviiiiiiillllle…..
    and waste another year!”

  76. Beth November 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    @Emily, the grey area thing was my whole point. That’s why I’d like to see proof that “legally” a school is responsible for a child from dismissal to getting home – because there are so many grey areas in which a reasonable person would not expect the school to be responsible.

  77. Katie November 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    @Amanda, EXACTLY!!! So why this philosophy, I don’t know!

  78. mollie November 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Yesterday, the school sent out an email in the morning letting parents know there had been a “possible cougar sighting” in the area. Based on this unconfirmed sighting, the kids were kept inside all day, and not permitted to go out for recess.

    Two more emails were sent out during the course of the day to the parents. The last one, sent five minutes before dismissal time, said, “As of this afternoon, there have been no further reports of cougar sightings. We have had an ‘all clear’ from the conservation officers but have erred on the side of caution and advised all students who regularly walk home that they were not to walk home alone today.”

    And do what instead? Not everyone checks their email throughout the day. We happened to get a phone call from my stepson (we have three kids at this school who walk every day) who said they had to be picked up, so we ended up at school. My daughter was so terrified, she was still in her classroom ten minutes after the bell rang, saying that if no one came to get her, she couldn’t leave.


    First of all, there has never been even one INJURY from a cougar in this town in the last 50 years. There have been sightings, and takedowns with tranq guns, but no attacks, and certainly not out in the open air. Imagine a cougar charging into a group of kids playing on the monkey bars. Impossible. And how is walking my kid home going to prevent this imaginary danger of a cougar attack, exactly? And when is this haze of warning lifted, then? When they capture the cougar that may or may not even have BEEN a cougar?

    Here’s my thoughts on the matter: “Dear School Administration, you have done nothing to ensure the safety of my children but instead have put the irrational fear of cougars into their consciousness. My child is streetwise, and is perfectly safe to walk home, like any other person in this town. She will be looking out for cars, not cougars. She is no more likely to come to harm from a cougar today as she was yesterday, two years ago, or two weeks from now. The reasoning you employ here is a kind of “worst first” thinking that assumes danger where there is none. What would a school have done 40 years ago under the same circumstances? You can bet your life that the kids would have gone out for recess and walked home as per usual. It is our acceptance, not our environment, that has changed. Please do not prevent my children from walking home again.”

  79. AW13 November 16, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    @Warren: I agree.

    I agree that the core issue here may be a socio-economic issue, couched under the guise of “child safety”. The principal is saying (in effect) that a child cannot attend this school if the child is not being driven to school in a “what we deem appropriate mode of transportation”. So by requiring the parent to gain school approval for transportation, they could weed out any lower socio-economic level kids. It’s horrible, stereotypical, and disgusting, but it would not surprise me if this is the core of the matter, even if it is being done unconsciously.

    This morning, as I was riding the bus to work, I noticed several kids waiting at the stop with the rest of us. It turns out that the city where I work does not provide school buses for the junior highs or high schools, and those for the elementary schools can only be used under certain circumstances. All other children are expected to find their own way – and the city buses stop at all the junior highs, high schools, and several elementary schools. Students are given a discount for their rides, or they can get a pass through the school.

  80. Warren November 16, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Do some of these people not understand that one simple ride on a city bus, while perfectly safe, is also an amazing chance to use numerous life skills. We take it for granted without thinking, but a 10 yr old, imagine the thought process and choices made.

  81. Spiny Norman November 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    And to think that my friends and I usually walked or rode our bikes the 1.2 miles to school and back, alone, starting in first grade. And most of the kids in our school did the same. This was in a medium-sized town in California in the late 1970s.

    Parents today are such pathetic cowards.

  82. Parent for parents' and children's rights November 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    I support and validate Anna. A 10-year-old is well within the reasonable age for taking public transportation. My brother and I started at age 8. Back in the day before parents were expected to act as constant chauffeurs, we did this all the time. And in fact, statistically, North American urban streets were on average less safe a generation ago than they are now.

    This principal went completely out of bounds in reporting this to CPS. She should be formally investigated for putting this family through this harassment. It is unacceptable and inappropriate for school administrators to intervene in decisions of this nature.

  83. Erin November 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    I think it depends on the kid, too. Some are ready for that responsibility before others. It sounds to me like this girl is more than capable of handling it. This is not a case for CPS!

  84. pseudonymous in nc November 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    The age segregation of the bus system in the US is such a problem. Kids in many countries take the city bus, and end up in the company of adults, and particularly older people. I think it has a good effect on their behaviour, and also works to prevent the taboo in the US against riding the bus after school age. (I started taking the bus to school when I was 11; before that, I walked a mile, alone, there and back.)

    If I had the power, I’d integrate large parts of municipal and school bus networks, and only retain dedicated school buses for children who live well away from transit corridors. Doing so would, in turn, provide additional transit alternatives for adults, instead of relying on paratransit.

  85. Amy November 17, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    None of CPS’ business! Kids in big cities ride the city buses all the time. DUH!!!!

  86. rea November 17, 2012 at 1:19 am #

    a “possible cougar sighting” in the area. Based on this unconfirmed sighting, the kids were kept inside all day, and not permitted to go out for recess.

    I had a close encounter with a cougar (6 feet or so apart) while backpacking when I was 15. No problem–we looked at each other, and both walked away.

    Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare–there have been 20 reported fatal attacks in North Amerca in the last 120 years. Kids are in far more danger from pet dogs.

  87. Kimberly November 17, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    My husband is a city bus driver. And they really do look out for the kids, a lot. Not to mention that most drivers are in constant contact with Base, and Base is usually in constant contact with the police if they need be.

    We are comfortable letting our kids ride the bus alone, (Ages 8 and 10), however it is against bus policy here to let anyone under 12 ride without an adult.

    Regardless.. it sounds a lot like when we were living in South Carolina and the school actually had issues with me walking my son to school. I had to get a background check and everything simply to walk him a block to school, and he was the only child walking to school.

  88. Spiny Norman November 17, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Kimberly, that seriously sounds like a case for the ACLU.

  89. Sarah November 17, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    I lived in Washington, D.C., inside the city boundaries, as a child. When I was 8, my parents were separated. My mother did not have the luxury of working in a job in which she could drive me to school: she left first thing in the morning, and came home late at night. I regularly walked the 1/2 mile-3/4 miles to school, either with my friends, or alone, from 1976 to 1982; then I took the city bus when I went into high school at age 13. However, from the age of 8 I also had to take the city bus to get to after-school programs, which I needed to attend because otherwise I would be home alone. I also used to take the train to Baltimore by myself, starting at age 11.

    This whole thing makes me really uneasy. Good parents make appropriate decisions with their children based on what is appropriate for the child’s level of maturity and their own financial circumstances. I don’t see how it’s right for school administration to dictate method of arrival to school, and in fact this kind of over-protective administration is only contributing to the general level of anxiety about children’s safety rampant among parents today, which also contributes to a general level of anxiety among kids.

  90. Parent for parents' and children's rights November 17, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    Amen, Sarah. These are decisions for parents, and parents alone, to make.

    L.: I hope Anna can see these responses from your online community and will have the opportunity to show them to the principal and the school board in her community to show them the kind of support she is receiving from parents around North America on this issue. I hope this support will help her demonstrate to the school administration what poor judgment and insensitive behavior it showed in this case and deter it from ever doing such a thing again to any other family.

  91. zardeenah November 17, 2012 at 4:39 am #

    We live in San Francisco, and our 10 year old walks to school himself. The administration has been pretty supportive, except they won’t let him leave if he’s sick or has an appointment, onlyat the end of the day. Last year, he rode the cable cars by hhimself to school. Boy, did the drivers take good care of him! Of course here, like NY, lots of kids walk and take the bus, since even affluent types don’t have cars. Suburbanites get scared of transportation because it’s unfamiliar, I think.

  92. JT November 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    “Schools are legally responsible for students from the time they leave school until they walk through their front door. It’s always lawyers to blame. Seriously.”

    Fred, please don’t spread stuff like this.

  93. Warren November 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    If schools were legally responsible for students, until they walked thru the front door, could you imagine.
    1. Parents would have to call in, the moment their child got home.
    2. The hoops you would have to jump thru, if your child was going somewhere other than home.
    3. The reprecussions if you didn’t follow all their terms and conditions.

    My parents would have had a hard time with the school, when I was in high school.
    Straight from school to work, from work to hockey, from hockey to home around 1am.

  94. Beth November 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    My point exactly, made above.

  95. Parent for parents' and children's rights November 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    JT is correct.

    Schools are NOT legally responsible for kids until kids enter school premises.

  96. Bill November 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    The peer pressure to conform never stops.

  97. Donna November 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Schools are not legally responsible, but that doesn’t mean the school is not blamed. Lawsuits are not the only fear. Society expects zero mistakes with children and if something awful happens SOMEONE is to blame in the media. Look at all the people blaming the mother in Colorado for letting her child walk to school, for being asleep after working all night, heck, for “making” her daughter fix her own lunch.

    So, yes, I don’t see a school successfully being sued for something that happens on a city bus home. I think the fear of the school being crucified in the media for allowing the child to get on the bus IF something goes wrong is a realistic fear. So schools try to control it.

  98. MosesZD November 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    The principal is a moron who watches too much network news and gets a very skewed view of real-life. I took the public transportation bus to school from 1st through 4th grade in San Francisco..

    So did all of the kids in my neighborhood. Nothing bad happened. Ever. And still hasn’t happened. Kids who’d be my grandkids take those public buses to school to this day.

  99. JP Merzetti November 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    The best part of this story is the “people friends” part.
    A 10 year-old kid capable of making friends on a public bus (and the right sort of friends.)
    Connecting to a community, particpating within a public realm – all on her own.

    Child savers never seem to be capable anymore of weighing out the cost of protection: that a kid cannot have postive independent inter-active experience that doesn’t come quality-stamped with approval – by some else’s standards.

    I wish the hell CPS would just come out and say it: you’re neglectful because you’re not purchasing the great automobility plan driving your kid every single place they have to go. (Why not “drive in” school?”)

  100. sylvia_rachel November 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    My 10-year-old has been riding the city bus to and from school on her own for more than a year now. She has “people friends”, too 😀

    Good for you, Anna and L.!

  101. tinfoil hattie November 18, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    This is appalling, but not surprising. We live in Fairfax County, VA, also DC Metro area. Kids are not encouraged to be independent around here, and it drives me nuts. We live across a busy highway + one block to my son’s high school. He walks.

    I found out this year that there is allegrdly a school bus stop for him – five blocks away in the opposite direction. So that he doesn’t have to walk to school.

    For what it’s worth, I rode the city bus to school almost every day from 1st grade on. So did my sibs. So did every Catholic school child who didn’t live “downtown.”

  102. jc November 18, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    Having worked for CPS I can assure you that this wouldn’t even make it past the phone screening. It would be screened out. I think if anything the school is just trying to cover their butts. Someone is worried about it being “unsafe” and so if they have it documented that they called CPS and she disappears on her way home from school it’s not their problem.

  103. Celeste November 18, 2012 at 4:43 am #

    Outrageous. Sounds like it was very well-handled by Anna. I was a single parent in the 1990s in New York City. My son walked to school by himself starting at age 8. It was about 5 city blocks. Then afterschool he walked to the Boys Club, usually with a group of kids from school, and I would pick him up there after work and we’d walk home together from there. It was totally normal. No one at the school thought it was weird. Lots of the shopkeepers along his route knew him. If he had a dollar he’d stop and buy a snack. He was perfectly safe. Then when he was in 5th grade, we moved to Los Angeles. Very different city – they’re not big on the walking here. Luckily we moved to an apartment just a couple blocks from his school, so I sent him on his way. And yes, I got a call from the school office! They said they weren’t allowed to release him in the afternoon all by himself. Unlike Anna, I completely lost my cool at them. I eventually won the fight, but they school administrators hated us from that moment on. Thank goodness he only had to stay in that school for one year. The following year in middle school I got him a bus pass and it was all good.

  104. AD November 18, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    My suspicion is that this has less to do with “kidnapping” or other issues, but more to do with insurance, and reducing the risk of getting sued by the parent if something were to happen.

  105. Warren November 18, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I still say that the parents in the United States have got to band together, and get the rules changed for CPS involvement.

    From everything I have read by posters and commentors, that agency has far to much power and authority. They need to be neutered.

    CPS seems to be above the law, by acting without probable cause, and without warrants. Hell, most law enforcement cannot even arrest you in your own home, without a warrant, or search without a warrant, yet it seems like CPS can just do as they please.

  106. Jp Hennessey November 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    I live in Des Moines Iowa where our public schools are increasingly more dependent on city buses. My 12 year old was given a pass for city transportation.

    I think it’s depends on the child. I’ve known of elementary kids that get to school in NYC via subway and train w/out incident.

    I think the CPS call was overreaching. I find it a bit sweet of the concern of the principal, if it was indeed sincere, but the call above was not necessary.

    My question? If these parents who are so “concerned” about the safety and well-being of this child, why have none of them offered to give her a ride?

  107. Emily November 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    @AD–I agree. People hunker down in their houses, drive their kids everywhere, forbid their kids from talking to “strangers” (quotation marks because EVERYONE is a stranger to you until you get to know them),and they don’t get to know their neighbours, or their kids’ teachers or principal. So, it’s easy for people to automatically conclude “bad parent” when they see “atypical” actions in a vaccuum.

    For example, let’s say that Mrs. Walmartson allows her daughter, Britney, age eleven or so, to take the city bus to and from school. The principal of the Hypothetical Scenario Middle School, sees this as being negligent. However, what she doesn’t know is that Mr. and Mrs. Walmartson work long hours that preclude driving Britney, and also, Britney has her black belt in karate, at a studio which she independently gets herself to via city bus every Tuesday and Thursday. The principal doesn’t know this, because she doesn’t know the Walmartson family, so it’s easier for her to resort to the knee-jerk action of calling CPS/CAS.

    Conversely, let’s say that Mr. and Mrs. Bubblewrapperson get a phone call from the principal of the Hypothetical Scenario Elementary School, who tells them that their son, Travis (let’s say he’s eight), was hit in the head by a soccer ball during recess. He’s fine, but he has a black eye. Immediately, the Bubblewrappersons go ballistic, about “How dare anyone let their baby boy get hurt?!?!?!” They immediately threaten to sue the school, unless the principal eliminates all balls, running, and anything that might possibly carry even the slightest chance of risk. However, what they don’t know is, the principal is a big believer in physical activity and letting kids play, and he thinks that kids focus better in school if they’re allowed to run around and “be kids” at recess, because after all, he was a kid once too. The principal makes sure that the playground is very well supervised, and sometimes comes outside to play with them, but that doesn’t prevent every black eye or scraped knee. In this scenario, since the parents don’t know the principal, it’s easier for them to sue “the school,” as a faceless entity, than it would be for them to sue “that nice man who shoots hoops with the kids.”

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on like that, but I think the solution here is to do more to foster a sense of community, and with that, common sense will naturally follow.

  108. Alex Hatcher November 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I live 1 miles from our school. you need to cross one 35 mph road with plenty of straightaway to see oncoming traffic and then its all internal trails and attached developments. AKA, if i lived on the OTHER side of that road, they could walk.

    my children are not allowed to ride their bikes or walk to school because there isn’t a crossing guard.

    they HAVE to take the bus, for their SAFETY.

    Alex Hatcher
    Logan Township, NJ.

  109. Warren November 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    You make a good point, about how the helicopter parents scream and yell at the schools.
    Funny thing is…….they are getting their way.
    Yet so many in here want to take the diplomatic route.

    I say if method A works for the overprotective parent. Then method A is good enough for me.

    To hell with taking the high road sometimes. The schools pull all their crap because they are afraid of the overprotective parent. IT IS ABOUT TIME THEY WERE AFRAID OF US!!!!!!!!!!!!

  110. Donna November 18, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Warren – Because screaming and yelling to get schools to we it our way has absolutely no real threat involved. Threatening to sue because your kid gets hurt at school unless the school gets rid of all balls has some punch to it. Under the law, the school IS responsible for medical bills for any injuries that occur on its premises. This is not even a frivolous lawsuit. The ultimate responsibility lies with the school.

    We can’t sue for a failure to have balls on campus. Well we could, but it WOULD be a frivolous lawsuit as there is no legal duty for a school to have balls. Nobody is injured by a lack of balls. (If a child is obese or out of shape, this is clearly a problem that extends beyond a lack of balls at school).

    So what exactly is our threat? Have balls or we’ll what? Go to the media? 50/50 chance that the media and citizens will be on the school’s side today. Greater percentage in favor of the school if we are talking letting kids walk or ride city buses home alone. The media frenzy that would happen if it was allowed and something, even something minor, happened to the child would be much greater than any media frenzy you could stir up for failing to allow something that many (most in some areas) think is too dangerous anyway.

  111. Warren November 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm #


    There is also a very good chance that during a media hype, that transit officials, city bus drivers and transit users will be insulted by all the allegations of taking the bus is high risk.
    In this case, I would hazzard a guess that this young ladies “people friends” would speak up. I know I would.

    Also in this case, the principal and school could be held legally accountable for the stress, and complications their actions have caused.

    People have got to stop being afraid of the schools, CPS and everyone else.

    Anytime I have encountered the so called well meaning holierthanthou’s, they have gotten a polite piss off. This is my kid, my responsibility, my rules. You don’t like it, well sucks to be you. And not once has it come back to bite me in the ass. As a matter of fact, it has given me space to be who I am.

    I know alot of people do not like my outlook of , I don’t give a damn what other people think, what do you think about that? But it works for me, because I remind them, Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you, cause we all get judged in the end.

  112. Donna November 18, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Warren –

    I think you are dreaming. Transit officials, etc. are not going to speak out. They may make some cagey remark about bus safety but are not going to insist that it is safe for kids to ride the bus. They might if there was a 0% chance of anything happening on the bus, but we know that isn’t true. Eventually something will happen on the bus. A kid will skip Boys and Girls Club to run around town and get in trouble. A kid will get off at the wrong stop and get lost. A kid will get flashed. A mentally ill person will scare a kid. And some parent, who relied on the insistence by the bus that it was safe, will freak. Transit authorities are not going to go there.

    I’m not afraid of schools or CPS. I just don’t think starting off as an asshole gets you anywhere. People just get defensive and dig in their heels. I’m a whole lot more likely to listen to you if you are nice and treat me with respect. If you’re an asshole, I’ll blow you off as an asshole, tune you out and continue to do what I am doing. Fine if this is a busy body you don’t have to deal with. Not fine if it is the principal of your kid’s school unless you plan to move. I’ve rarely gotten anything by being an ass. I’ve been pretty successful at getting people to bend over backwards to helo me by simply being nice. I’m not sure why you think starting off nicely and diplomatically is being afraid of anything.

  113. Warren November 18, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    There is a difference between being an asshole, and asserting your rights, and not taking anyone’s crap.

    I do not back down from anyone, and I will not lie to them, by thanking them for their concern, or opinions, when it honestly is not wanted or asked for.

    When it comes to CPS or our CAS, I would never just give in and jump through hoops, just because it would be easier. As alot of people do.

    My kids have learned that there is nothing wrong with being the loudest voice in the room, when you are following your convictions. They know that if you are standing up for what is right, what you believe in, it is good to be assertive, and it is okay to not worry so much about other’s feelings. Get your point across, and make sure they know you are passionate and that you won’t back down.

    Nine times out of ten they will back down, because they do not want to have to deal with you, time and time again. Because they also know that if you do not get satisfaction from one, then leave footprints on their foreheads as you go over their head.

  114. Don O November 19, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    This story reminds me of all those parents who complain that their kids are are still living at home. … and how old is the little darling? … usually late 20s or even older … and I’m thinking, forgot to teach them to grow up, did ya?

    Parent these days seem to have forgotten that their job is to teach their progeny to live in the real world, not to insulate them from it.

  115. J Paul Sank November 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Ah, “people friends”, a community who would surely step in. How wonderfully American! It warms my heart. I pray to God, let more of this great stuff happen! I wish I myself could be a people friend like that, because I would *surely* step in along with everybody else. Nobody messes with my buddies. :)

  116. EricS November 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Sadly, those “caring” parents who ratted this woman out, didn’t have “caring” in mind. It was their fears, holier than thou, and know it all attitude that got the ball rolling for her…in the wrong direction. Wish people would just mind their own business, when kids are perfectly fine and happy doing what they are doing. IF something happens, then help out. The worse case thinking is what makes paranoia spread like wild flower, especially in this day and age of no common sense thinking.

    What’s worse, is this principal who is making a big deal about the whole thing, and not actually doing anything to come to a solution best for everyone. ie. contacting CPS about approving the application. Guess if you sit on something for 6 days, it’s really not that important. Telling you, it’s not about the kids, it’s all about the adults, and their feelings, and concerns. It’s always about the adults. These people need to grow up. Maybe they should get their kids to teach them a thing or two about common sense.

  117. EricS November 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    @Don O. Right on.

  118. EricS November 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    @jc: I completely agree with you. When it comes to schools and school admins, it’s 10% about the kids, and 90% covering their assess from law suits. So they will sacrifice the well being and safety of the kids (not getting involved with bullies), the mental and physical development of kids (removing any curriculum that would possibly hurt the child physically such as dodge ball), or even the emotional stability of kids (where the school prevents hugging or holding hands, for fear that other kids might feel left out). They just don’t want to deal with insecure, fearful and angry parents. So they throw the very kids, that they are suppose to be molding, under the bus (school bus no doubt lol).

  119. Donna November 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    @ Warren – Hate to tell you but it sounds assholeish to me. And counterproductive. Loudly demanding your “rights” at me is just going to get me to walk out of the room with a “call me when you are ready to talk” or me kicking you out of my office. I’m not going to deal with you at all until you are willing to address me calmly and politely.

    And I never back down. And there is no higher than my head. And I will never work somewhere where the someone that is over my head doesn’t have my back in issues like this.

  120. Emily November 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Donna and Warren–I think we can agree that there’s probably a middle ground here, which might be something along the lines of arranging a meeting with the principal to openly discuss both sides of the issue.

  121. Warren November 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    @ Donna

    I am not saying that approach is for every situation.

    It is the approach when a principal of my kids school has the misguided notion that they can dictate to me how my kid travels to and from school. If I want them to walk, crawl, kayak, snowmobile or whatever, it is my call not theirs.

    When someone over steps their bounds, sucks to be them.

  122. S. Martinez November 20, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    I attended elementary school in Sweden for part of my childhood. I did 4th grade and 6th grade there. I would take the bus to school every single day without exception. Take the bus back home as well. I’d meet classmates along the route. One friend even took the train from a neighboring city before transferring to the bus that I’d meet him on. When I was in 4th grade the year was 2000 and 6th grade 2002.

    For perspective, when I moved to Los Angeles for the start of 7th grade, I lived 5 blocks from school and I’d walk by myself. I had a classmate who lived right next to me and his mother would drive him to school every single day. And this didn’t stop– he, and many other students that lived literally less than a mile from school would be driven by parents until their senior year of high school!

  123. Parent for parents' and children's rights November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Well, as long as we’re on the subject of lawsuits, if a principal reported me to CPS for exercising my parental authority and letting my kid walk to school, I’d sue the principal and the school board for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

    (After transferring my child out of the school, of course.)

  124. Warren November 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Just like with the 911 calls, reporting someone to CPS is far too easy, and with no accountablility.

    These reporters can just report and forget. With absolutely know consideration of the fact they may be wrong. I find it amazing that people feel they can report someone to the authorities for doing things in a manner that differs from the way they would do it. What is appalling is that the authorities go along with it.

  125. Jynet November 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    My daughter started taking the city bus to school – alone -in grade 2. And started attending a school in another city that required 3 buses to get there in grade 4.

    In grade 8 she started taking a PLANE to get to school (boarding school – her choice) and in grade 9 was stranded a continent away from me during “Snowmageddon” in Toronto in 2008. At 14 years of age Air Canada decided that she was old enough to care for herself overnight in the airport before they could get her on a flight the next morning.

    Turns out they were right.

    She called friends of mine and they picked her up and kept her overnight and brought her back for the morning flight. Problem solved. No CPS involved. Thankfully.

  126. Jynet November 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Oh, and for the conversation above about Transit authorities making statements about the safety of the Transit system:

    In my city the fare system does that for them. In my city the fare system says that a child 5-12 accompanied by an adult must pay a lesser fare than children who are unaccompanied (who must pay the adult fare.)

    So children must be ‘allowed’ to travel alone, if they weren’t there would be no need for the separate fares for unaccompanied children.

    When my daughter traveled alone to school as a 7 year old she paid the full adult fare to do so.

  127. Warren November 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    So let me get this straight, Donna. A principal threatens to go to CPS because I have my daughter riding a city bus. And I would be the asshole for telling the principal to mind his or her own damn business. That it is my kid, my rules, and if they don’t like it, too bad.

    In all honesty Donna, I will live with my reactions. Because I was the type that 25 yrs ago, would have reached across the desk, and grab the little twit by the throat.

  128. Jenne November 26, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Any update from Anna? Very curious to see how the school district reacted once this story hit the mainstream media…

  129. Krolik November 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Everyone, thank you so much for all the comments! It meant a lot to see so many people confirm, in a public forum, that there is nothing dangerous, or even unusual, in what my daughter is doing.

    Jenne, I have not heard from CPS but neither did I get a confirmation from the principal or anyone else that they would NOT be involved. This article (http://alturl.com/tsm2y) quotes what sounds like the same response all the other reporters received from Montgomery County Public Schools: “In general, if a principal has concerns about the well-being of a child, they are required to do what they feel is necessary to protect the child.”

    I did call the principal before I talked to reporters to let her know what was coming. She read the blogs and was reasonably upset to see herself vilified in the comments. I do sympathize with the pressure she must have been under and do believe that the central office had the ultimate responsibility to tell her that this is nothing to be concerned about and remind her that many 5th-graders in surrounding districts take public transportation every day.

    She also corrected my facts: the person who had originally told her that my daughter was riding the bus was not a parent, but rather “a passenger on the bus”. I am ashamed to say I lost my cool a little at that. It really makes me angry that someone my daughter considers to be one of her “people friends” wants her parents reported to CPS. But the principal refused to provide any more information about the “bus rider’s” motivations or his/her affiliation with the school so I had to drop it.

  130. Krolik November 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    I worded things wrong in the last comment. The principal was, naturally, upset at some of the negative comments directed at her personally, but while I do think she was being more reasonable than whoever was urging her to call CPS, the criticism expressed by the majority of the commenters here and elsewhere was not unfair or malicious.

  131. David B. November 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I am just so glad that I was raised before the present era of paranoia, as I am glad there are parents who are challenging that paranoia. I walked a mile or more to school, by myself, from kindergarten to grade seven. Nothing terribly bad ever happened to me, and for the most part I enjoyed the experience (always something new to see on the way there or back).

  132. John December 4, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    This principal is a great advertisement for home schooling and private schools. This principal’s behavior tends to lend credence to the criticism that government school apparatchiks instill docile compliance to authority, in not just the students, but also the parents. Simultaneously, government school apparatchiks discourage laudable characteristics, like self reliance, or independent thought and action. I urge this parent to consider the behavior of this state educational representative as a wake up call. When is now the right time to free your child from a one size-fits-all system that seems to be stifling the progress of the child. To be clear: it appears that your child can handle more independence than the “administrators” can. This should be a source of pride for you. As someone who has spent the last 20 years correcting the inadequacies in my government education, I, now, never miss an opportunity to encourage parents to find educational structures, for their children, that foster their freedom of thought and independence. You have a challenge before you, to be sure. Let’s hope you rise to it.

  133. Geoff December 9, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I moved several miles away from my school in the middle of my third grade year. For the rest of that year my parents dropped me off at a friend’s house in the morning, and I walked to school from there. In the afternoon, I walked a half mile to the public bus stop, sometimes stopping at the local bakery along the way to buy a loaf of bread with a quarter my parents gave me in the morning. I then rode the public bus about 4 miles and walked another half mile to get home, all alone. I was a solitary child, and I don’t recall making any friends on the bus, but the only possible negative consequence of doing this for several months was to reinforce my solitary nature. So my eight-year-old self is telling this principal to mind her own business.

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  136. Sean July 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I came across this page while researching an age to leave our daughter alone. We don’t – not yet. That’s easy since neither my wife or I have a paying job so someone is usually home. The girl is 12 years old, no siblings (by choice). We don’t generally get along with our neighbours so we looked elsewhere for a social outlet. We found a group across town for teens and tweens. We don’t have a car so taking the bus is second nature to us. Shortly after she joined the youth group we set up a timetable when the bus arrives here, and at the youth centre – what bus to transfer to at the terminal, what side of the street to catch the bus etc. It really works well. Some are amazed that she can take the bus alone clear across our moderate sized city (110? 120, 000? Somewhere that size) and most of the drivers know us, if not by name, then at least by description, so if something were to happen we can ask around to which driver saw her last. We haven’t had to go to such an extreme. One hard point I have – if she gets home by 9 PM I’m fine, but if she arrives after 9, I go to the nearest bus stop to walk her home. I feel our neighbourhood is safe enough, but I don’t need people making up “neglect” stories by having her walk in the dark. She’s learned how to ride the bus. We have no problem with it.

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