Dad Gets 1 Year Probation for Making Son Walk a Mile

Readers — Many of you have sent this story about Hawaii dad Robert Demond who made his son walk home a mile and was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child. For this he was put on one year’s probation, and forced to taking a parenting class and pay a fine.

Demond told the judge that it was a common form of punishment when he was a kid and that he didn’t see it as morally wrong or criminal. He had picked his son up from school and questioned him about a matter that came to his attention. When his son didn’t respond, he stopped the vehicle and made him walk home to think about his actions.

“How far did you make him walk?” asked Judge Kathleen Watanabe.

“About a mile,” Demond said.

These are different times, Watanabe said. It is understandable that you became upset with your son, but it is dangerous for children to walk along the highway, and there are predators out there, she said. The age of the child was not revealed in the course of the hearing and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney would not divulge further information.

There are predators out there? So should kids never be outside without an adult? Is anyone who lets their kids out of their sight guilty of endangerment? While we’re at it: How are these “different times”? How does the fact that crime is at a FORTY YEAR LOW make walking home MORE dangerous than previous eras?

It’s true we don’t know the age of the child involved. But we do know the judge’s reasoning is that the world is particularly unsafe for children NOW. If that inaccurate perception becomes the standard of the courts, then nothing is safe enough and no parents can give their kids independence. — L

Will walking home alone become illegal?

Will walking home alone become illegal?

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52 Responses to Dad Gets 1 Year Probation for Making Son Walk a Mile

  1. anonymous mom May 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    I might agree that it’s dangerous for a small child (like 5-6) to walk along a busy highway, but I wouldn’t make it criminal, and I certainly think that predator panic should not play any role in court decisions. You would hope that judges would at least educate themselves on basic facts before making rulings like this one. A judge making a “the world is different [more dangerous] today” argument is extremely troubling.

  2. Chihiro May 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    To be fair, I also find this a bit concerning. Not because of the ‘predators’, but because it sounds like the dad had his kid get out and walk on the side of a busy highway. I’m not concerned about crime-I’m concerned about cars! Of course, for all we know it could have been a quiet road and/or had sidewalks and whatnot, which would have made the trip considerably safer.

  3. Zim-girl May 30, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    I’ve done this with my child a couple of times. The exact same situation: picked her up from school, she had a bad attitude, so I kicked her out and made her walk home. I made sure that she knew which way to go, and left her there. It was also about a mile walk, but along quiet side roads. By the time she got home she’d lost the attitude and was ready to talk respectfully. I would say this is a discipline strategy that really works! Besides, if she’d stayed in the car with me, she would have been a lot less safe (both from my wrath and from me driving while angry!). I would do the same thing again without a second thought.

  4. SKL May 30, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Was it “on” the highway? And if so, the age and experience of the child matters. Though considering he is a school kid, as long as he has some experience walking along a highway, it was probably OK.

    Shoot, my kid brother at 7 used to walk for hours every day after school rather than come home. Since we lived in a small town, some of that walk was on a highway without any sidewalks, because some of his friends lived down that way. It really never occurred to me that he was in danger of being hit by a car or kidnapped. He’d long since learned how to watch for cars, and schoolboy kidnappings just aren’t that common (though we’d had weirdos try some nonsense and then bribe kids to keep quiet). Of course he did look kinda like Etan Patz. Today, thanks to Nancy Grace et al, my parents probably would have been arrested. :/

  5. Andrea May 30, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    I have sent my 7 year old son out to walk around the block not as punishment, but because he was too rambunctious and needed to work off some energy. Part of the walk is on a busy street. He knows the route and the neighborhood very well. I also let him out of the car to walk home from the store by himself, because he asks!

    So maybe it was along a too-busy highway. But I have to wonder, do these safety nuts think no parent should ever get it not-quite-right in their parenting decisions? Haven’t we all been not perfect once in a while? Does it really make sense to criminalize the parental equivalent of a foul ball?

  6. Lex May 30, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    I found it interesting to take a look at what a “highway” looks like in Kilauea. The “highway” that goes near the Kilauea elementary school is hardly recognizable as such by mainland standards.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@22.209644,-159.413525,3a,75y,326.6h,61.95t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sGy5Nfq5LM1oj6dMTwmgvpA!2e0

    Around here we would call that a one-lane country road, not a highway.

  7. Backroads May 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    I have a mental image of predators and perverts milling about the shoulder of the road.

    It makes me smile, this mental image.

  8. Mike in Virginia May 30, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    We should find out who the judge is and send her a copy of Lenore’s book.

  9. Tsu Dho Nimh May 30, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    The boy was 8

    The Judge was an idiot, as was the prosecutor who decided this was a ‘crime”.

  10. John Galt May 30, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    I read this story somewhere else and immediately thought of Lenore. This is stunning in its stupidity.

    When I was young, I, too, sometimes displayed a bad attitude. Twice, I was also made to walk home. You really do calm down when you stew in your own juices while thinking about what caused the attitude in the first place.

    I looked at the map @Lex included. Looks like a country road, not any sort of busy or “dangerous” highway. If that is in fact the road from this incident, the shoulders are plenty wide enough to be safely away from the cars.

  11. mystic_eye May 30, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    I agree with Lex, there’s no other highway near that town. It’s not my idea of the most fun walk on earth but it’s not dangerous either.

  12. Dan May 30, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Walked a mile to and from school at age 7, with no sidewalks in the city.

    All kids were taught how to walk on streets (facing traffic)

    Never knew of anyone who ever had a problem.

  13. MichaelF May 30, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    Unless Hawaii has had a sudden increase in the velociraptor population I don’t know what the judge would even mean by “predator”.

  14. compassion May 31, 2014 at 2:43 am #

    NO. I object, your honour.

    This child is no more likely to encounter a “predator” on his walk home than he is at his church, family barbecue, or boy scout hall.

    Limiting a child’s mobility, and his parents’ autonomy to support his learning about life in ways that harm NO ONE, is the criminal act.

  15. Bob Davis May 31, 2014 at 4:57 am #

    I saw something about “housecalls” in another posting, maybe, when the weather is really wretched in New York, you could take a trip to Hawaii and present an autographed copy of “Free Range Kids” to Judge Watanabe. Sounds like Her Honor needs a refresher course in reality. (this suggestion is mostly tongue-in-cheek)

  16. SOA May 31, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    The age matters. A 8 and up kid, no. Under 8 on a busy road, yes that could be dangerous. Not from predators but from cars.

  17. J.T. Wenting May 31, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    “The Judge was an idiot, as was the prosecutor who decided this was a ‘crime”.”

    They were following established protocol among courts and justice which is to criminalize as large a part of the population as possible.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a felony conviction tossed in there as well, just to restrict the father’s constitutional rights.

  18. Mr Puppy May 31, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    We constantly hear complaints about how today’s kids are soft because parents refuse to discipline their kids. But when a parent does try to parent his/her kids, it seems there’s always someone nearby to criticize and punish the parent.

  19. SteveS May 31, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    Someone mentioned that this child was 8. If that is true, then I don’t think that is too young to be walking a mile on the side of a road. This guy had no criminal history. While probation, a fine, and an expungement may have been easier, it is too bad he didn’t fight the charge.

  20. Alan May 31, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    If the boy was old enough to go to school, he was old enough to walk a mile home – presuming he knew the route and isn’t a special needs student.

  21. Warren May 31, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Any judge worthy of being a judge should have only said “Hope he learned his lesson. “. Nothing more. Speaking of the kid of course.

  22. CrazyCatLady May 31, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I was considering doing this just yesterday. But it was more like 4 miles from home, and the boys, ages 9 and 12 were hitting each other. I ended up not stopping – instead I reached back (while trying to steer) swerved some and smacked the box and perhaps a knee it was sitting on. This was so unusual for me that they didn’t say a word the rest of the way home. Or, maybe the swerving scared them. Not my best driving and would have been better for them to get out.

    This get out and walk was a technique that worked well with several of my siblings as a kid. Before we even had registries that showed where all the “bad” people lived. My siblings all made it home fine, sometimes after a walk of 7 miles. (As a teen.)

    I have to wonder what this judge would say about me letting my youngest (9) son ride his bike where ever he wanted. He did take a phone because we have thorns that will do flats in no time. He rode about 3 miles away. I told him that he could ride his bike to the library this summer if he wanted, as that is only a mile more away. And, now that I think about it, his friend lives just down the road from the library. Sounds like a great summer!

  23. SteveS May 31, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Warren, the problem with an unfortunate number of judges is that they let their own personal biases have an undue influence on their decision making. It may be that this judge didn’t approve of that method of discipline.

  24. Silver Fang May 31, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Judge Watanabe let her own biases taint her judgment. She needs to step down and let someone impartial take over.

    And for goodness sake, who hasn’t walked to and from school when they were eight? Seven is the age of reason for a reason. Kids over seven can usually be trusted with some autonomy, provided they’ve been taught properly.

  25. jd May 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Unfortunately, dad pled guilty, so the judge had little choice but to impose some sort of sentence. However, the prosecutor should have never brought this case to court. Apparently, letting an 8 year old go for a walk is high crime on Kaua’i (Pop. 67,000).

  26. LRH May 31, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    It’s easy for me to say, not being on the hot-seat, but I am kind of disappointed in the father for not fighting this. To me, this is a fundamental issue–the government does not have the right to tell us how to parent our children. I am not saying they SHOULDN’T have the right, I am saying they DON’T have the right. Yet, if you plead guilty, you are pretty much letting them TAKE that which is not theirs.

    Someone has to stand up to these demons, because the more who just take the easy way out vs fighting, the more entrenched this sort of nonsense has become and the harder it becomes to ever reverse the erosion of parental authority. I mean, where would Lenore be if she had responded to the outrage over her child riding the subway by playing it safe? Instead, she’s become an advocate. Not everyone can be an advocate, but I think a lot more people need to grow a pair, too.

  27. SKL May 31, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    In the 1980s, we had a neighbor with kids around the ages of my younger siblings. That dad would warn that if he had to stop the car, he was going to give the offenders a spanking at the side of the road before driving on. And he meant it, as my younger sibling discovered.

    Wonder what Judge Watanabe would say about that.

    I have asked my kids a couple times if they’d like to get out and walk. Thankfully they usually aren’t too naughty when I’m driving. (Except the time a 6yo wouldn’t stop poking me with her Palm Sunday palm leaf. Until I hit a mailbox with my car. That was a teachable moment to put it mildly.)

  28. Reziac May 31, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    After looking at Lex’s google streetview, I’m thinking… walking along that road isn’t punishment, it’s reward! Look at the nice wide margins, flanked by trees suitable for playing in…

    Ooops, I was channeling 1960 there for a minute.

  29. Jenna K. May 31, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    I have made my 11-year-old get out and walk before about a mile from home. There was a sidewalk. I have been to that area in Hawaii and the highways really don’t have a safe place for someone to walk. But I didn’t read the article thoroughly enough to catch an exact place he let him off.

  30. Edward May 31, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Related thought:
    When filling out employment applications you are usually asked “Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If Yes, please explain.”
    Now I’m not a business owner so I’m wondering; what do they think when they see this kind of nonsense as a response on applications? Do they laugh? Do they ignore it?
    I’m serious, I’d really like to know.

  31. jess May 31, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    Wow so when my parents let me walk a mile to Hebrew school, they were actually endangering me? Who knew!? I was just excited that my friends and I got to walk by ourselves and my mom was happy to have one less errand to run. Win-win all around.

  32. Jenny Islander May 31, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Oh good grief! Maybe if the dad had taken him up one of the muddy back roads and dumped him in the woods, I might be worried about wild pigs or something. Or if he was allergic to spiders or what have you and the dad had taken his Epi-Pen. But look at that street view! The road even has a trimmed grass verge so you can get off the hot asphalt.

  33. SteveS May 31, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    It would have been nice if he fought it, but we don’t know what his financial situation is. Hiring an attorney to handle pre-trial and sentencing is going to cost a fraction of what it would of than if it went to trial. It is likely that the prosecutor offered a plea deal that included him only getting probation and a fine.

    Edward, it is my understanding that he was sentenced under a law that allows him to file a motion to expunge his record after probation. Once he does that, he can check no to any question that asks if he has been convicted.

  34. J.T. Wenting May 31, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    “Unfortunately, dad pled guilty, so the judge had little choice but to impose some sort of sentence. ”

    Given the way the US “justice” system works that’s hardly a surprise.
    People are bullied, bludgeoned, threatened with far more severe charges that might be leveled against them in case they don’t plead guilty. The target is not to dispense justice, but to prevent shaky cases like this from ever coming before a jury where they’d be shot down, leaving a black mark on the record of the prosecutor and the judge who agreed to allow the case to go forward in the first place.

    When you plead guilty, there’s no trial at all, just a sentencing hearing, no jury needed because there’s no more question of guilt…

    Last I heard this happens in maybe 90% of all cases, the rest often linger for years while the accused are left to rot in prison awaiting trial, but in reality being parbroiled and browbeaten by a system that wants them to plead guilty rather than have the prosecution and court have to go through the trial the accused legally has a right to.

  35. Ben June 1, 2014 at 4:32 am #

    I’m all for kids walking places, but they should be willing and prepared to do so safely.

    A kid who’s thrown out of a car and supposed to walk as punishment is going to be angry and might be preoccupied with that anger and not remember to think about crossing streets safely and things like that.

  36. SKL June 1, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Yesterday my kids begged me to let them walk to the park and back (I was working). I told them no, because I worry that this kind of craziness could happen. I am not willing to trust the busybodies or the cops to give me the benefit of the doubt. And I don’t want a record.

    My track record with negotiating with cops is not good at all. And once you have a ticket, it’s a massive pain in the butt. That mailbox I hit last year? I offered to pay the owners for a new one, but they insisted on calling the cops. The cop insisted on giving me a ticket. The only charge that possibly fit was “reckless driving.” That is not waiverable, so I had to go to court. I also had to call my insurance company and file a report, as advised by the cop in order to soften the judge. This involved going to the police station and paying for a copy of the police report etc. In the end, I was found “not guilty” of reckless driving, but it sure would have been better to avoid that mailbox in the first place. Had I been found guilty of reckless driving, I assume that would have disqualified me for certain jobs and volunteer work and possibly more important things such as adoption / foster care. All over a stupid $25 mailbox. Imagine what a child neglect would get me. Sorry, I’ll wait until my kids look a little more big & bad before I send them off “alone” for a couple of hours.

  37. CrazyCatLady June 1, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    If he HAD gone to trial, he probably faced jail time. Granted, jail time could be 2 or 3 days. It could be several months or more. In my family, that would mean the sole provider of my family would lose his job, and we would probably lose our house as well, as at this point I would not be able to find a job quickly that would pay anything near what my husband makes. We have some savings, but court costs would eat into a lot of it.

    I will not fault this father for pleading, even though I know his initial actions were fine, and that thousands of kids walk that mile or so home from school every day, often on roads just like that one.

  38. Ariel June 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    I spent a fast two days on Kauai back in the 70s. By fast, we covered the whole island in that time, but it’s only about 33 by 33 miles square. Our starting point was Lihue from Nawiliwili Bay.
    The roads between towns could only be called country roads at that time.

    Looking from a sat view, Kilauea has one public elementary school (Kolo Rd-Liliuokalani St.) and that’s it. So the child may have been an elementary student up to 12 years old if from that school. The closest middle school I could find is Kapa’a Middle School about 10 miles away, possible given he was picking him up by car. The town has a population of around 2800 (pop. density of ¼ of Phoenix, AZ). It has two registered sex offenders. From 2007-2011 ages 1-14 there were 9 deaths/year and 24 injured/year in all of Hawaii in pedestrian-car accidents. Kauai has roughly 15,000 minors out of 280,000 across all counties in Hawaii.

    After all that, it has nothing to do with it other than Kauai is small town America. These are the issues “The offense was basically a form of punishment that is no longer considered acceptable by the community.”; “the discipline was not an appropriate way for Demond to correct his son’s behavior.”; and “It is understandable that you became upset with your son, but it is dangerous for children to walk along the highway, and there are predators out there”. Defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge.

    The only way for perspective is to know the age of the child. Otherwise, we just have the usual fears that may have been applied to a ten to twelve year old in likely a real safe place to walk and think about why he’s walking. I walked along the same kinds of roads, and worse, in the 60s at 7 years old. They have yet to find my body.
    Sorry for the length.

  39. LegalMist June 1, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    Here is what troubles me: child is acting out. Dad imposed punishment. Child was not harmed, and was not placed in an unreasonably risky situation. Nevertheless, dad was punished by our criminal justice system for disciplining the child. What lesson has the child now learned?

  40. SteveS June 1, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    90% are probably plead out. In some of those cases, people feel pressured, but in many, the evidence against them probably has a strong influence on them taking a plea. I can’t speak for every state, but most have some kind of speedy trial requirement and they don’t spend years in jail. In Michigan, the state has 6 months (which is still a long time).

    Personally, these are the kinds of cases I like to get in front of a jury.

  41. Warren June 2, 2014 at 12:26 am #

    Just because he pled guilty does not mean the judge has to first of all accept the plea, and secondly does not have to impose a sentence.

  42. Dave B June 2, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    So everyone under 18 (or 21 or 50) has to be accompanied by an adult?
    Or else the guardian has committed a crime?
    Because of “danger danger!”.

    It is only a question of time until we follow this reasoning further down the pit of despair and penalize every “guardian” who is unable to protect its “guardee” from imaginative strangers and dangers.

    Mom isn’t fast/strong enough to fight an imaginative stranger? Smells like obvious child endangerment to me.

    Dad has a bum knee and couldn’t carry his child to safety if a sudden tsunami appears in Arizona? Child endangerment.

  43. Steve S June 2, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Warren, that is true, though unlikely if the person is knowingly admitting to the offense. That being said, there may have been other ways to get rid of it and she could have imposed a token sentence. I still place most of the blame on the prosecutor. Based on the information I have read, there never should have been a charge.

  44. Donna June 2, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Yes, more than 90% of criminal cases end in a guilty plea. The vast majority of them are actually guilty! There is only so much I can do for the vast majority of my clients as the evidence of their guilt is overwhelming. Many claim that they were “pressured” to plea because they are freaking delusional. They insist that there is no evidence despite the 5 eyewitnesses (my clients all insist that witness testimony is not evidence), fingerprints at the scene, DNA at the scene, video of the crime, etc.

    There is a very small handful who plea against whom evidence is scarce. Most are pressured to plea because they have something to lose if they go to jail/prison and there is a trial penalty in most jurisdictions in this country – meaning you get a worse sentence, generally including confinement time, if you lose at trial. If you have a job and family, it is often not worth the risk if you are being offered probation to plea. The cases that we do take to trial are often being offered prison time before trial anyway.

    Confinement time before trial is also an issue for people who can’t pay a bond. Yes, everyone is entitled to a speedy trial, but “speedy” is a relative term. I am currently trying cases from 2011. They are on bond, but even my jail cases can take 6-14 months to get to trial. And that is for more minor cases. There is a murder trial scheduled for next week in one of my counties that is at least 4 years old (guys have been in jail the whole time). It is/was a death penalty case which drastically slows things down, but still…

  45. Jen (P.) June 2, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    One of the comments on the linked story says that the dad returned to check on the boy’s progress a few minutes after he dropped him off and was alarmed when he couldn’t find him. Turned out a neighbor had picked him up and taken him back to school. I wonder who called the police – neighbor or school? Another commenter says that the school only provides busing for kids who live > 1 mile from the school. Presumably at least some of those kids must walk, so how did this dad endanger his child?

    Also, Donna, I don’t doubt that the vast majority of those who plead guilty are, indeed, guilty, including those who claim they were railroaded into making the plea. The difference here is that it doesn’t appear any crime was committed.

  46. Donna June 2, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    Jen, I wasn’t speaking about this case. My comment was in response to JT Wenting’s implications that plea bargains are happening at such high rates because a bunch of innocent people are bullied into pleading and not because a bunch of guilty people are admitting to crimes they’ve actually committed.

    I don’t think this guy should have been charged at all, but plea bargains and guilty pleas are vital to the running of the courts. We don’t need to waste time and resources trying obvious cases. This situation is the fault of whomever called the police, the police and the DA’s office, not our criminal justice system itself.

  47. Maegan June 2, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Lex, that road looks divine! Haha! Walking a mile there should be considered a reward.

    Like so many others, I walked a mile home every day from junior high. Not among palm trees, either. In 100 degrees, in 30 degrees, often alone, from the time I was 12.

    It’s too bad we don’t know the age of the child. We can’t really discuss the safety here without knowing. But I’m inclined to believe that we’re talking about a teen or preteen here, which is a perfectly fine age to walk a mile on a route you know.

  48. tdr June 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    I agree an 8 year old is old enough to walk a mile providing he or she knows where to go.

    Perhaps there is more to the story than was in that article:

    http://kauaieclectic.blogspot.com/2014/05/musings-gone-crazy.html

    quote: “Too bad the reporter didn’t provide the full story: A lady found the 8-year-old boy screaming and hysterical in the bushes, with no idea where he was or how to get home, so she called police”

    Assuming there was no evidence of other abuse, I still think this was not a matter for the courts. The father made a parenting mistake and that is not criminal. Jeez.

  49. Sandy June 3, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    I’ve done this with my kids too. When my son was about seven, he was giving me a horrible time on the way home, so I made him get out of the car and walk. I told him I’d meet him at the gas station, which was only two driveways away. He actually made it to the gas station a few seconds before I did, because traffic ahead of me was stopped for a red light. Within that time someone had actually called the police, and while we were inside the gas station, a cop came in and said he had a report of a “young child” abandoned at the side of the road and that the kid had gone to the 7-11. I told him that was my son and explained that he was being very rude and disrespectful, so I had dropped him off at the paint store two buildings over, and he had to walk the rest of the way to the gas station. The cop was REALLY not pleased with me and started reading me the riot act, but luckily he got a call on his radio for something even more urgent than my supposedly abandoned child and left. It was more than a tad unnerving.

  50. Amanda Matthews June 3, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    @tdr Or maybe the kid was screaming in the bushes because he was angry, and said he didn’t know where he was/where to go so that he could get a ride home.

  51. SKL June 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    If the kid really was screaming in the bushes, then it sounds like the dad made a mistake. BUT making a parenting mistake does not make one a criminal.

    One of my kids has some separation issues and when she’s in a certain mood, she can start crying or yelling for me when I’m practically right there. The question is, was the kid ever in danger, not did he feel irrationally scared for a little while. (Presumably the dad would have gone back for him if he didn’t show up at home within a reasonable time.)

  52. Puzzled June 4, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Plea bargains became a vital part of the system when we overburdened that system by filling it with non-crimes, such as drug offenses and prostitution.