Autistic Man in Jail for Talking to Some Kids

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A Philadelphia area man with autism is being held on $100,000 bail for talking to some children.

The man, Daniel Lee, 26, of Wayne, PA,  spoke to a group of three siblings, 8, 9 and 10 on Wednesday, asking them about their school and telling them he was on his way to a cabin in the woods. It’s unclear if he told the kids he wanted them to join him or not. (News accounts differ: See this and this.)

He walked off then found and talked to the kids again 20 minutes later near Wayne Elementary School, whereupon the children’s mom saw him and called the police. The police found the man in just two minutes.

Why so fast? My guess is because he was not a crafty creep trying to elude the authorities. He is a man with a disability that makes it hard for him to interact like a “normal” man around kids, which is apparently to never interact with them at all, but run in the opposite screaming, “Get away! I hate kids! I am not a predator!”

Now, WPVI “Action News” reports,  Lee is in jail, “charged with Attempting to Lure Children into a structure, which is in reference to his statements about a cabin, corruption of the morals of a minor, and harassment.”

Corruption of morals? Really? How, exactly? He doesn’t seem to have said anything salacious. And police say that at no time did Lee make any physical contact or even attempt to make physical contact with the children. Yet here’s how the news anchor played up the story:

The big story on Action News tonight is word of an attempted luring at a Radnor Township school and police have a suspect in custody.

My God, they make it sound as if the kids just barely escaped a depraved menace. As the “suspect’s” mom explained to the reporter — and police — Daniel has autism, and sometimes likes to talk to kids.

But, WPVI reports, “The police say…they can’t take any chances.” After all, here’s a grown man, living at home, with a part time job at a movie theater. That’s the big time! Why cut him any slack?

A psychiatric evaluation will be performed and I guess if it’s determined that Daniel’s parents are not making up their son’s diagnosis, perhaps the charges will be dropped.

But shouldn’t the charges be dropped for anyone facing such an accusation? Is it really a crime to talk to kids about a cabin in the woods if you never touch or attempt to touch or grab them? Wouldn’t that make it a crime to read “Little Red Riding Hood” to a kid who isn’t your own?

Daniel’s mom said that she will teach Daniel that what he did was wrong. Who will teach the police that it’s wrong to throw a man in jail as if he’s a rapist when he clearly has special needs and hasn’t done anything more than talk to some neighborhood kids? – L

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Boo!

Boo! I must be nuts — I interact with kids who aren’t my own! 

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60 Responses to Autistic Man in Jail for Talking to Some Kids

  1. Jan October 25, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I guess “autism speaks”…just not to anyone under 18.

  2. ChicagoDad October 25, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    From one of the news articles linked in the story:
    “He admitted he knew right from wrong,” said Detective T.J. Schreiber at a Thursday afternoon news conference, referring to his conversation with Lee after his arrest. “And he knew it was wrong for a stranger, especially 26-year-old men, to speak with 10-years-and-under children…The good thing is, nothing worse happened here”

    Wow. There you have it. In black and white. If you’re a man, don’t talk to children because it’s wrong!

  3. Linda October 25, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    The Boo Radley image is perfect for this sad story.

  4. Diana October 25, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    WE BELIEVE THE CHILDREN are in mortal danger at all times from all our phantoms and fantasies and paranoid insanities.

    Every stranger is Freddie Krueger or Jason. Every ELEM school is on Elm Street. Every day is HALLOWEEN.

    Where did reality end and parental paranoia take over?
    This Mom cares about her kids. But her behavior toward Lee and his poor Mom is immoral, unethical and just plain Looney Tunes.

  5. LaMom October 25, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    This is just disgusting. How is that even legal, he did nothing wrong.

  6. The other Mandy October 25, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    In what bizarro universe is talking to kids “wrong “? Only in the minds of paranoid perverts.

  7. The other Mandy October 25, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    “The good thing is, nothing worse happened here,”
    because, y’know, they were “away from adult supervision”.

  8. Rook October 25, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    I have a lot of autistic friends. There are lots and lots of tales of how they’ve been wrongly arrested over many other things. And to top it off, autistic people are constantly badgered and harassed about how they should open up and socialize more so “normal” people aren’t so uncomfortable around them! Well apparently them talking to people also makes “normal” people uncomfortable, so how about “normal” people just get their panties out of their butt and take a chill pill?

  9. Curious October 25, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    1. What law did the police and DA say he broke that he should be kept in jail?

    2. Is it true that to speak to a child under ten in that community is an incarcerable offense?

    3. Is autism against the law?

    4. How do the police define “wrong”? Isn’t wrong a moral concept as opposed to a legal one? Shouldn’t moral be the concern of the pastoral sector? Shouldn’t the justice system have a valid legal rather tha a moral reason to put a man behind bars? Or, again, is there a law on the books against saying a friendly word to children in that state? What about freedom of speech, if a community in the USA makes a law that a man may not engage in exchanging pleasantries with the youth of a community in which they may both live? Wouldn’t such a law or ordinance be contrary to the Bill of Rights?

  10. Michael Fandal October 25, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Critical thinking has been eclipsed by sensationalism and lunacy. Maybe wearing a button reading”I treat persons of all ages with respect. Is that a crime?”

  11. James Pollock October 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    “1. What law did the police and DA say he broke that he should be kept in jail?”

    “Lee is in jail, ‘charged with Attempting to Lure Children into a structure, which is in reference to his statements about a cabin, corruption of the morals of a minor, and harassment.’”

    “if a community in the USA makes a law that a man may not engage in exchanging pleasantries with the youth of a community in which they may both live? Wouldn’t such a law or ordinance be contrary to the Bill of Rights?”

    Not if there’s a corresponding action associated with the speech. For example, it can be criminal to say “give me all your money.”.

  12. elizabeth October 25, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    See, daniel didnt do anything wrong. I get along better with children, and im not even autistic. I just have a natural maternal instinct. If im out in public and i get bored enough, i can strike up a conversation with almost anyone. And ive known people with special needs, ranging from mild autism to severe physical disabilities. They arent always good talkers, but never have i thought ill of them. In fact, if someone with autism were to converse with any kid i ever have, id be proud that they can even communicate properly. As long as they arent making threatening gestures or remarks- and what i consider threatening is a long way from the paranoia of today- id be fine with it.

  13. Bruce Elniski October 25, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    Great article. The media have a responsibility to do a proper investigation as do the parents and authorities.

    Your work is excellent.

  14. Curious October 25, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    Also, isn’t there a widely supported social justice movement afoot to make bail reasonable? What can possibly be reasonable about $100,000 for the non-existent crime of exercising a person’s Constitutional right to free speech in the vicinity of a minor?

  15. Mike in Virginia October 25, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    Last year we had a young man with severe autism who liked to go to high school basketball games. He would get so excited that he would hug the players after a win. Sometimes he would be cheering along with them into the locker room. So of course when he showed up at a local game, the police put out an APB for him. He was even given some horrible serial criminal type of moniker in the news (though I can’t recall what it was and don’t care to).

    Social media pages blew up with angry and scared parents. At some point he was detained for questioning and the mother of the boy and others who knew him went online trying to explain to the pitchforked mobs that he has autism and just gets over excited but never hurt anyone. The vitriolic spew from the pitchfork weilders was very upsetting, with one father saying “I don’t give a **** what his issue is, you keep him away from our kids or we’ll take matters into our own hands.”

    Now, bear in mind that none of the kids who were hugged or went into the locker room actually complained about his behavior, and the police were unable to actually charge him with anything. But now his mother is sure to keep him away from high school basketball games which, see says, was one of the ivy things that made him happy.

    When I make an issue of things like this, I am often told “if you had kids, you would understand,” to which I reply “I have three children, and I feel sorry for yours.”

  16. Betsy in Michigan October 25, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    I hate to be litigious, but it’s time to start suing with reference to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). There is NO law or commonsense rule that says a 26 year old man cannot talk to children under the age of 10! He should not take them anywhere, give them anything to eat or drink w/out their parents permission, or solicit private information. Other than that, nuthin’! I wonder if there was a racist component, too (since he’s Asian). I am quite confident that I would feel this way even if I didn’t have a child with Aspergers – that’s just how I’m wired. Time to lawyer up.

    I had fooled myself that Americans are more comfortable with differently-abled people now (my local Kroger does an excellent job at employing people with developmental disabilites as baggers and cart haulers). People need to grow up.

  17. lollipoplover October 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    This arrest makes me so sad for our society. At the same time in the news was this story about special needs students as the result of inclusive schools:

    http://6abc.com/society/hundreds-jump-to-their-feet-for-cb-south-homecoming-king-and%20queen/1040959/

    What bothers me most:

    “The police say Lee acknowledged he knows it’s inappropriate for him to strike up a conversation with young children.”

    Why is it inappropriate to have conversations? Free speech be damned, we need to stop scaring the crap out of our kids that a simple talk with a stranger is a *luring*. I honestly fear for my nephew who has special needs and may forever be into Frozen songs as he is now as a teenager. He LOVES little kids and IS harmless. Why are we criminalizing innocent behavior?

  18. Rick October 25, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    “I went to a park yesterday and a man came up to me and asked me to give him all my money.”
    “What did he say?”
    “Give me all your money”.
    “Did you give it to him.”
    “No.”
    “What did he do?”
    “Nothing. He walked away, but then he came up to me again 10 minutes later and asked me the same thing.”
    “Did you give it to him?”
    “No.”
    “Then what happened?”
    “Nothing. But a woman across the street witnessed the whole thing and called 911. They arrested the man for suspicion of eliciting money from a stranger without consent. “

  19. Diana October 25, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    Keep talking! Keep talking. We need to show over-the-too support, compassion and understanding for this family. And hope they get legal assistance. And lots of media coverage.

    It’s true. We all know people with autism or Aspergers or who knows what all other challenges. Our own kids, friends, neighbors. We need to tell this story, circulate it. Get people up in arms about over-reacting, over-policing, worst-first thinking and over-protecting children.

    Co-exist.

    Daniel Lee has rights, too.

  20. Lindsay October 25, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    My son has autism and this story terrifies me. He loves people, but doesn’t always act “socially appropriate”. That means he tries to hug babies and give kisses to older people. Since he is four, it’s considered “cute”. But how long will that last? Will he wind up in jail because he goes up to a mom and says their new baby is cute?!

    Also, we have many disabled people in our very large extended family (think over 200 first cousins between my husband and myself). I will never forget my son, then only a few weeks old, being mobbed by a few disabled cousins. They took him and disappeared for hours, bringing him to me only when he needed to be fed. He still runs to them and they go off having adventures. (In our family, it’s very normal for kids to watch kids, for adults to reprimand kids that aren’t their own, and for kids to ask different people to make plates of food for them- and we like it that way!) I can’t wait to introduce my two week old daughter to everyone!

  21. JKP October 25, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    I don’t think it matters that he has autism. It’s an outrage that *anyone* could be jailed simply for having a conversation with some kids.

    People are on such high alert for suspicious behavior that they’ve forgotten that the suspicious behavior itself isn’t criminal, only that it could alert you to possible criminal behavior. People are allowed to talk to you while being “creepy.”

  22. Resident Iconoclast October 25, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    Pennsylvania is a horse’s ass. From former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo to today’s police scandals, it is a place no resident should be proud of.

    Of course they are following the national trend of locking up autistic adults and children for stalking, luring, and many other “crimes.” Our solution to being challenged is to send the “defectives” to jail.

    I’d tell Harrisburg that this is what the Soviet Union used to do. I’d tell Obama too. Unfortunately, neither regime would give a flying crap.

    God Damn America. That’s all I have to say.

  23. G4Change October 25, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

    My God! We are at war with ourselves!

  24. fred schueler October 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    isn’t this persecution of the autistic?

  25. Svetlana Voreskova October 25, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    I live in Ireland. A discussion I heard on the radio recently.

    An old man was sitting on a bench in the park near where I live. He was reading a newspaper while watching the kids playing on the swings. The police approached him and questioned him. They told him some of the mothers had been worried about his presence. He explained to them that he was watching over his two grandchildren who were playing on the swings with other kids. Everything was cleared up. But as the cops were leaving he called them back, pointed out a woman sitting on her own watching the kids. “why don’t you ask her to explain herself?” Maybe I am “worried about her presence.” The cops refused to question her, but the man had made his point.

    Why do we now see all men as deviants by default? Just because they are men?

  26. Backroads October 25, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    Disgusting story!

  27. Puzzled October 25, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    When I make an issue of things like this, I am often told “if you had kids, you would understand,” to which I reply “I have three children, and I feel sorry for yours.”

    What a bizarre response on their part. Would they be convinced if someone shot back “if you had kids with autism, you’d understand”?

  28. Puzzled October 25, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    The big story on Action News tonight is word of a successful kidnapping of an autistic man at a Radnor Township school and police are the only suspects.

  29. Diana October 25, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    I’m still appalled by the $100,000 bail. Surely that’s a misprint?
    How could that be justified?

  30. Caiti October 25, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    How are we supposed to raise our sons to prepare them to go from being precious crystal ornaments into vicious, child-obsessed monsters overnight?

    Ps. My 1st grade son and I are walking the dog and discussing this and we just heard a distant siren. With a mischievous smile he said , “i know where their going! Its the police coming for you because you’re talking to me!” I love his sense of humor, although it might not have been so funny if Id been his father instead of his mother.

  31. Donald October 26, 2015 at 12:21 am #

    Emotions can be addictive. People can be amazingly gullible. The headline will sell. People will tune in or buy newspapers. Whether they believe it or not is irrelevant. The ratings increased or the newspaper was purchased. After this headline has run its course it will change to:

    INNOCENT MAN JAILED FOR TALKING. This headline will stir up outrage again. They can get twice as much use for the one story.

    Injustice like this will continue to happen for as long as we dance to the tyne of hype. As long as it keeps getting results, (selling) then it won’t stop. Although many people already understand this, they’re still powerless to resist clickbait or tuning into the news channels.

    Emotion can work both for and against you. Instead of being outraged against this story, be outraged at the way the media exploits you. Think, “I hate it the way they play with my emotions like a puppet on a string so that they can make more sales! They’re making me part of the problem! They’re stirring up a tsunami of emotions and as a result, this poor guy has to face a trial by media!”

  32. baby-paramedic October 26, 2015 at 1:47 am #

    I’m totally screwed, I strike up conversations with children all the time (not actually because I like them, because I find they tend to screech less on aircraft when someone who isn’t their parent is providing a distraction, and at other times because I am often in uniform, and want them to know I am not a cop and I am nice, in case I ever have to be their paramedic).

    I have had the odd parent give me the evil eye, but luckily am female so have only rarely been accused of terrible motives.

  33. sexhysteria October 26, 2015 at 4:08 am #

    The mother reacted hysterically, and the police validated her hysterical reaction! No wonder many people in other countries think Americans are crazy.

  34. Warren October 26, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Donna,

    Would this not be a great opportunity for some attorney in private practice to grab some attention? This case seems to have it all. Already in the media, constitutional issues, public paranoia and a client with disabilities. Some lawyer just starting out could milk this for a lot of exposure and making a name for themselves.

  35. EtobicokeMom October 26, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    Wait. Three children under the age of 10 were left unattended? For more than 20 minutes? Why didn’t the police arrest the mother for neglecting her children? I mean you can’t be too careful these days. Someone might want to talk to your children! She should never have left them alone for so long! sigh…..

  36. Warren October 26, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Lenore,

    We need to start a day like your Take you kid to the park and leave them day.

    Men go to the park and call the police about women just hanging in the park, eyeballing the kids. Tell them you don’t feel comfortable with the pack of women just sitting there watching kids play. We can call it “Taking our Parks Back Day”.

  37. Donna October 26, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    “Donna,

    Would this not be a great opportunity for some attorney in private practice to grab some attention?”

    I don’t know. We have gone so crazy over kids that there are still many who would see him as a danger and want him locked up. Mentally ill people fill the court system and are rarely met with any sympathy. Society lacks understanding of mental illness and is generally happy with locking mentally ill people up and throwing away the key. Autism may be treated slightly better – mentally ill criminal defendants are a dime a dozen, but autistics are rarer – but as a general rule, the American public hates anyone “different.”

  38. John October 26, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    My goodness, if it wasn’t bad enough that this man was afflicted with autism, now this poor man’s life is over. Of course, they’ve got to plaster the man’s picture all over the internet making darn sure that the picture they use of him is not the greatest picture of this gentleman. Because it’s a big news story when a creepy pedophile child abductor is nabbed and now we’ve got to show the creep to the whole world.

    It’s just amazing that our American society looks at terrorists, who MURDER children as well as adults, in better light than adults who were caught talking to children they didn’t know. Pedophilia paranoia at its finest so the hell with the Constitution.

  39. EricS October 26, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    The saddest part in all this for me, is the mother saying she’s going to teach Daniel that talking to people, including kids is wrong. This is exactly what we talk about here. An innocent story blown out of proportion, based on fears and ignorance. Now someone, who has a disability is being taught something completely wrong, based again on fears and ignorance. It’s also no different when parents teach their children these wrong things as well. Ignorant people perpetuating a non-issue into an issue. Sheeples.

  40. Dhewco October 26, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    A story like this is the reason I rarely do things I used to enjoy. I no longer know any kids of Little League age (my ex’s kids are all grown), so I don’t go watch the games. It used to give me such nostalgia-laced pleasure, remembering the times I used to play. Also, I rarely go to arcades any more because I don’t know any kids who play and my few friends aren’t into arcades anymore. I don’t go to the HS games, either. I don’t live in my hometown anymore and they don’t play in this town, so I don’t have a ‘reason’ to go.

    I enjoy talking to kids because their agendas aren’t as complicated as adults can be. All people lie, of all ages, but kids are usually bad at it…so I can still believe most of what they say. A child’s smile can cheer me up on the most depressed day. The crazy, overprotective, overpossessive nature of most parents make experiences like watching a child you don’t know win a goal, or enjoying a video game, or anything similar…harder and harder to accomplish.

    I’m introverted as heck and I don’t make friends easily. Talking to children at an arcade, bookstore, or a game eased the loneliness and I felt nothing creepy or sexual in nature. However, the more I see these stories the less I even go out. Talking to adults is hard. I’ve been burned so many times. I’ve never had a kid try to befriend me just to spend my money, a kid has never tried to get me to do something illegal as a condition of friendship, and a kid has never tried to get me to join a cult. Trying to make friends with adults is like navigating a minefield and I keep stepping on the buttons. Yes, all the above may make me odd, but I’m not a danger to anyone…much less your kids.

    Sorry for the overshare, this subject really gets me.

    David

  41. Beth October 26, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    Three quick takes:

    1) “Corrupting the youth” is the capital crime that Socrates was charged with. You remember Socrates, the quirky guy who wandered around the agora, annoying people by asking uncomfortable questions about the nature of truth, beauty and virtue? I guess the more times change, the more they stay the same.

    2) My main takeaway from this article, and other articles I read every day, is: “When in doubt about whether there’s danger or crime present, always err on the side of **NOT** calling the police.” Which is an awful rule for a civilized society.

    3) “Daniel’s mom said that she will teach Daniel that what he did was wrong.” To me this was the most depressing sentence of the whole post. I am trying to picture how that conversation would go, and any image I summon is just painfully sad. What words would I choose to tell my 26-year-old, autistic child, who has been struggling his whole life to be verbal, to understand social cues, and to make interpersonal connections, that he cannot make friendly conversation with children in public? What reason would I give him? “Because other people are going to think very bad things about you, even though those things are not true”? An autistic man is not likely to understand a complicated and nuanced rule about when it’s “okay” to talk to kids, especially when the rule is based on how others are going to perceive his behavior – even average adults without autism can’t figure it out what the new “rules” are. So the lesson that will have to be taught to him is, “Never, ever talk to children.” Even though those are probably some of the people he’s most comfortable talking to.

    Wouldn’t it be easier to “teach” the typically-developing school-age children that if someone’s conversation makes them uncomfortable they can stop talking to the person and walk away? Or to “teach” the mother that the police exist to prevent crime and not to prevent awkward social exchanges? Or to “teach” the police that they cannot arrest someone without *probable cause* that a crime has been committed?

  42. Aliza Burton October 26, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    One of my favorite stories to read to my 6th graders wouldn’t be a a story – “Jeremy Goldblatt is SO Not Moses!” by James Howe. One of the characters is an autistic man who befriends the kids in the story.

  43. Andrea October 26, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    Wow. We now live in a world where it is WRONG for adults to speak to children.

    But I agree with a previous poster. We are at war with ourselves. And we will lose because we won’t stop until we win.

  44. Maggie October 26, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Disgusting.

    A person is not a criminal unless they commit a crime.

    A person is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

    Yet in today’s society, a person can be considered guilty simply because someone else is paranoid.

    No crime was committed, and the man is in jail? That is WRONG. That is a crime.

  45. John October 26, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    @David (Dhewco):

    David, I certainly would not stop attending little league baseball games if that’s what you enjoy. Nor would I stop going to HS football games or speaking to kids if I were you. By severing your attendance to all activities involving kids (minors) and by ceasing all your enjoyable communication with kids, you only enable the pedophilia paranoia crowd that has swept across the United States during the past 20 years. There comes a time when we must say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and ignore all the “the appearance of evil” warnings when it comes to kids especially when the desire to commit evil IS NOT THERE!

    I realize that I don’t know you from a hole in the ground BUT I would still go out on a limb and say that I don’t believe for one stinking minute that you mean any harm to a child. I say this because like you, I find children to be very therapeutic to my psych whether it be watching kids in a youth sporting activity or simply mentoring a child and providing them with some much needed advice on life.

    So with that said, keep on doing what you’re doing or perhaps resume doing what you used to do with kids!

  46. lollipoplover October 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    My daughter just showed me this video because she really liked the message about getting involved:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75gsCJaXTnQ&feature=youtu.be

    Sadly, we send our kids mixed messages about our society’s responsibilities when we arrest adults like Daniel Lee for merely talking to children. It’s such doublespeak and serves no purpose when we demonize every adult who talks to children as a pervert. Most (like those men and women in this video) are caring and kind people.

  47. Papilio October 26, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    That would have been an ambitious kidnapper then, taking three kids at once. Doesn’t sound very practical for a pedophile…

  48. Dhewco October 26, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    Thanks, John…you’re probably right. It’s the looks I sometimes think I’m getting. I’ll freely admit it could be my own insecurities, but after reading articles here and other places…it’s hard to feel comfortable. Especially when people often sidle (sp?) up to you and ask “Which kid’s yours?” What should I answer? When I tell the truth, that I enjoy the games for therapeutic/nostalgia reasons, the skeptical looks deepen or intensify. A lot of parents seem to not enjoy the company of kids and can’t believe any heterosexual males could actually have fun hanging around kids without being pervs.

    Before my ex ever became my gf, I would take her oldest to the movies and bowling because I enjoyed his sense of humor and he was fun to be around. I would get those looks and questions. I was told by several people at arcades, bowling alleys, and even at the skating rink that they couldn’t believe that a single man without kids of his own would actually want to be around them. Sometimes, it was so strong that I wished I could claim I was doing it to get into his mother’s pants. (She was engaged at the time, so I wasn’t comfortable doing that.) These, for the most part, were strangers being intrusive.

  49. Bernadette October 26, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    That’s why I call it Pennsyltucky!

  50. SKL October 26, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    Uh oh, I was talking to two little girls for about an hour today. I even went into a closed room with them a couple times. Arrest me – I need the vacation!

  51. Barry Lederman October 27, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    This story, the way the young man was treated, makes me want to throw up. Thanks for ruining my day Lenore.

    Seriously, thanks for shining a light on the outrageous ridiculousness.

  52. Kevin October 27, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    I seem to be the guy that kids love to hang out with. It seems where ever I go, kids just pick up on the fact that I love being with kids. When they talk to me, I truly listen to every word and respond appropriately. Even 1 and 2 year olds who cannot be understood, I respond to let them know I am listening (even though I have no clue what they are saying). Because I listen, they feel important around me, because to me, they are. I am 55 and I think I look very “grandfatherly”, which probably helps. But I have always attracted kids. There are times when I worry that when someone’s kid walks up to me at the mall (or ANY public place), that the parents will call the cops, even though I never tried to “lure” them over. I never touch a child unless they invite me to hug them. I never ask for a hug, but if they ask, they will get one.

    To relay a story, I was in Ohio at a church convention. An autistic man, probably mid 20s, wandered into our area. He announced to those around him that he was giving hugs because it made people feel good. Many of the adults hugged him and his face would beam with happiness. Many of the kids/youth present, went to him and hugged him also. Sure, there were adults around, so no danger was present, but we teach our kids to love people, and also “sensible” rules on how to stay safe. If a child was alone with this guy, I’m sure they know they need to keep their distance because he was a stranger and there is no safety net (autistic or not). But offering a hug to someone who needs one, is an OK thing to do. Just don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation to do it. Am I wrong to teach kids to NOT be afraid of strangers? But instead, be safe (as opposed to afraid) around strangers?

  53. Shannon October 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Soon men will be barred from handing out candy on Halloween because they are using promises of treats to lure young children to their house.

  54. Shannon October 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    One other thought on the adults talking to kids issue… I was looking at the website for the Boston Children’s Museum earlier. Unlike some area museums geared towards children, adults can go there without bringing a child. BUT any adult who doesn’t have a child with them will only be admitted after leaving a copy of their ID at the front desk. So adults going there alone are under suspicion before they even enter the building!

  55. Emily October 27, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Similar story here–Last week, on October 19th, it was election day here in Canada. I signed up to work the election, and got placed at a polling station in the new gymnasium of the elementary school that I attended from grades K-4. When I went there, the gymnasium was in the centre of the school (round gym, stupid architecture, but I digress). Since then, that gym has become the library, and a new gym and hallway has been added onto the front of the school. The addition has two doors; one leading to the parking lot, and one leading to the fully fenced schoolyard. At one point, two men accidentally took the wrong door out after voting, which led to the schoolyard rather than the parking lot. The woman I was working with was worried, because she thought they were intending to harm two “unsupervised” young girls she saw outside. First off, they weren’t unsupervised; they were participating in an after-school program, having free play outside, so an adult was there; just not right on top of them. Second, anyone can take a wrong turn, and if the people who had taken said wrong turn didn’t happen to be male (or if it was a man and a woman walking together), my partner probably wouldn’t have cared, but she seemed to believe that all owners of penises were automatically pedophiles, when unaccompanied by adult women. Third, the kids in question were school-aged, and had probably had the whole song and dance about “stranger danger” drilled into their heads, so if the men had tried anything, outdoors, in broad daylight, on a playground full of witnesses, the girls would have known enough to scream for help, from either the adults running the after school program, or any of the adults running, or voting in, the election taking place in the gym. But apparently, it’s now necessary to be paranoid 24/7, because “times have changed.”

  56. David October 28, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    I think Dhewco put his finger on the core of the problem; we live in a society where people in general do not really like children, and cannot understand adults who might seek their company when not obligated to do so for family or professional reasons.
    I’ve worked in the UK education system for more than fifteen years and I’ve never met a teacher who really liked children. Many say they do of course, but if you listen to them carefully what they really like are children who always do what they’re told, never answer back, never ask awkward question and who are always quiet and listen respectfully to their teachers no matter how boring they are. In other words children who do not act like children but like well programmed robots. It’s amusing to watch such teachers in conferences and insets, where they can be observed whispering to each other at the back or daydreaming, exactly the behaviour they condemn in their pupils.
    The toxic pedagogy of the Victorian age, where children were regarded as sub humans who should be seen and not heard is sadly still very much alive in our culture.

  57. Diana Green October 28, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    Here’s something that may help Daniel Lee and others like him. It may help all of us who simply like and respect kids and get a kick out of smiling at them and encouraging them by exchanging a few words, a joke, maybe.
    In West Chester, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, on Halloween, Saturday, October 31, 2015, a conference is being held called BARS, BARRIERS, or JUSTICE.

    The purpose is to address mass incarceration, including that of disabled citizens, including the deaf, who, along with those with mental and neurological challenges make up a disproportionate number of the incarcerated.

    There will be testimony from representatives of Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union. The Executive Director of Reform Sex Offender Laws is speaking about the impact on families and communities, and may well be addressing the issue of over-policing individuals whose only offense is being nice to kids and those like Zachary Anderson who were slapped with penalties and punishments far beyond what was reasonable given the circumstances of the offense.

    For those of you in the area, it will be at the C.A. Mellon Educational Center, 501 East Miner Street, West Chester, PA, 9 AM to 4:30 PM. $10. Food available. Halloween. October 31.

  58. Dani October 29, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    *When I was nine, there was what turned out to be a minor incident in my town. A strange man was approaching children and offering to tie their shoes if they were untied. It only happened when the shoe was legitimately untied and only happened if there were no adults with the child. Unfortunately, what made the situation unusually volatile were the sheer amounts of children with untied shoes! I lived across the street from 2-6th grade Catholic school.

    This man approached me, twice actually, as I ran around with my shoes untied all the time! He looked fairly normal, but when he spoke, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I remember, clear as day, the conversation.

    “Kid, miss. Your shoe. You’re gonna hurt yourself. Can I tie your shoe?”
    “What? No!”
    “But your shoe is untied. You’re gonna get hurt.”
    “I can tie my own shoe!”
    “Oh. Sorry. Tie your shoe, kid. Don’t get hurt.”

    I tied my shoe in front of him, he got visibly less anxious and just said bye and waved while walking off. I was primarily a free-range kid before we had the name, so I did what any free-ranger would do when they were uncertain about a situation: I went home and talked to my dad. I told him exactly what happened and he told me that if I could remember the house, we would go over there and see what was up.

    I think he made up his mind to not call the cops when I told him that my catholic friends were all talking about this guy, and he seemed weird but not creepy. Anyhow, to the end of the story, we did just that and walked over to his house. His very elderly mother answered the door and invited us in after my father explained why we were there. She and my father talked a bit, and it ended up with her and her son going to the Parish and police to introduce themselves.

    I remember feeling distinctly sorry for them, having to explain to everyone just why he was so focused on little kid’s shoes. It turns out he was just big on ‘safety.’ I seriously doubt if this incident would have ended half so well these days, but after all the hullabaloo (talking to parents, kids and the local police), the priest at this tiny Catholic school gave him a job as a crossing guard! Us neighborhood kids, and the catholic kids, we called him the Shoe Police because he -still- insisted on us tying our shoes. He worked there still, when I graduated high school and left town.

  59. AnnMarie October 30, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    This is why my brother, who is the guardian of his 20-year-old sister with special needs (who lives with us) is so scared about her playing with the neighbor kids. She’s more like a 5 year old, and has few physical boundaries (such as being willing to hug anyone, everyone who introduces themselves to her is her friend, loves to tickle, etc.). Luckily, she’s able to stick to the rule of not leaving the front of the house (has to be able to see the front door). I wish we could trust others to not take advantage of her and to not accuse her unfairly as happened to this man.

  60. Wren November 5, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    I agree with most of the posts I’ve read on this site but this one seems pretty pitchforky to me, particularly reading the comments. The two provided news articles contain enough inaccuracies that we really have no idea what went on here. We read inaccurate news articles and then, because it’s a site dedicated to the idea that kids are safer than we think and that overreactions are bad, mmkay, that the mob jumps in to say how this mother and those police were maliciously targeting the disabled.

    But isn’t the purpose of loosening the apron strings on our kids to teach them how to deal with real world situations on their own? If a children who have been given the freedom to walk to the park on their own do encounter an adult who makes them feel uncomfortable, should they not tell their trusted adult and then decide how to handle it and how to handle episodes like that in the future? (Though this was one of the inaccuracies between the articles, one claimed the children immediately told their mother when they met up with her, the other said the mother witness the man speaking to her kids for a second time.)

    Should I let my kids go play in the woods with alone with an adult I don’t know? He may be harmless, they may just romp through the trees and explore for this cabin and have an adventure. That would be fun. But it might not be. His autism doesn’t prove that one way or the other at all. But it does mean that he has an adult reproductive system with adult urges but without the social skills, experience and guidance in that area that as most neurotypical adults.

    Without having been there, heard the conversation between the children and this man, or talked with anyone actually involved, we don’t have any way of knowing if he said anything actually inappropriate to the children. Many sexual predators do have some form of mental disabilities or neurodivergence. I’m not saying that his autism means he *was* acting inappropriately, it just means we don’t know anything.

    One of the most important skills kids can learn as they adventure on their own is when to trust their instincts when they get a bad vibe. If the children did report the incident to their mother, prompting her call to the police, it was almost certainly because they caught a bad vibe, something weird. It may have just been that the guy seemed “off” but they made a good decision. Maybe they just said “this guy talked to us and he was really weird.” But I don’t think calling the police about that is overreacting. Remember that mother didn’t know as much as we do about this case now. She didn’t know he was autistic, she didn’t know he just liked talking to kids, she just knew her children who she trusted to walk to the park by themselves were approached by a strange man who (possibly) asked them to follow him into the woods. Without knowing the resolution, having read it on this particular site, and without leading language of this post, would that sound like an innocent encounter? Take a step out of your bias for a second and think about it.

    Should the police have arrested Daniel? Probably not. Should they have detained them until they could talk to him and his parents? Almost definitely yes. The reaction might have been overblown, but not as enormously as this article makes it out, in my opinion. It was an incident that the children probably should have shared with their mother (especially if he did ask the children to join him multiple times) and if the children reported anything more specifically inappropriate that was not included in these articles, there could very well be grounds for the claims of corruption of minors and harassment *whether he had cognitive intention of sexual misconduct or not.* If the evidence *had* proved that he had lured, corrupted and harassed them, his disability would be taken in consideration during court proceedings, but shouldn’t be an automatic assumption that there was no danger involved.

    Again I’ll state, he probably should not have been jailed over it and certainly not for that length of time. I have no issues with children speaking to autistic individuals. But I, and hopefully parents reading this article, would be wary of an *unfamiliar* adult attempting to play with my kids unsupervised.