one of the occasional letters I get from divorced parents who see their child’s safety differently:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I hope you can help me or provide me with some recommendations. I have a court date on October 6th in which it will be discussed whether I can let my 9-year-old daughter (4th grade) ride her bike to and from school alone..I am a divorced father. I share 50/50 custody with my ex wife. When my daughter is at my house, I allow her to ride her bike to school alone (distance= 0.9miles, time: 4-6 mins in a very safe area)..We were going to court to just discuss a change in our current schedule. We went to a mediation meeting (mandatory) and after an hour I left, as was planned. My ex stayed and continued to address issues with the court mediator in private (which, by the way, is totally illegal since in mediation both parents MUST be present to address any issue). During this time she brought up the bike ride issue, as she is not ok with me letting our kid ride her bike..A week later I was shocked when I received the court papers and saw that the mediator had include this issue among his recommendations to the judge. He states that my daughter “shall not ride her bike to and from school without adult supervision.“.If the Judge does not rule against this recommendation, it will most likely become mandatory for me. Court hearings are so fast that it’s very common that all recommendations become judicial orders..I would like to know how I can address this and defend my right to allow my kid to ride her bike. I respect the justice system, but I don’t think a judge or court mediator should rule on this issue..Is any documentation or law that I can use as reference during the court hearing? I do not have a lawyer because at this point the custody is already resolved, and we were only supposed to be addressing a change in the schedule..Any help will be greatly appreciated. I live in California. — Free-Range Dad
SEC. 9116. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION REGARDING TRAVEL TO AND FROM SCHOOL…
‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subsection (b), nothing in this Act shall authorize the Secretary to, or shall be construed to (1) prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the parents of the child have given permission; or (2) expose parents to civil or criminal charges for allowing their child to responsibly and safely travel to and from school by a means the parents believe is age appropriate….
I also alerted him to the law review article: “Criminal Child Neglect and the ‘Free Range Kid’: Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of Care?” in which Prof. David Pimentel argues that when a society is convinced that all children are at risk the second they are unsupervised, “overprotective parenting becomes the de facto legal standard of care…to the detriment of society, families, and the children themselves.
It is GOOD for kids to get exercise, fresh air and a taste of independence. Ruling that the dad cannot give these gifts to his child would mean ruling that the possibility of rare and random danger outweighs all other benefits. If that’s the case, then the judge would ALSO have to rule against the mom driving her daughter anywhere, because they could get into a fatal car crash — another rare and random danger.