Mom Fined for Letting 6-y.o. Walk 2 Blocks with a Friend

Readers — If this is the land of the free, why are cops treating happy-go-lucky kids like escaped convicts?  When did giving kids an old-fashioned summer become a crime? – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: This just happened to me. My six year old daughter and her friend went for a walk on their own and now we are getting a fine. The cop wasn’t at all interested in what we had to say just said we were getting a fine in the MAIL. In PA there are no laws regarding what age to leave your child alone, this cop was a douchebag! The kids were TWO blocks away and were gone no more than five minutes when the police came. Someone had seen them walking and called them.

When I was six in 1985 I would walk to the store to buy my dad CIGARETTES. I refuse to be a helicopter parent, they need to learn independence for good or bad. Moral is – shove your kids up your butt  or let them zombify in front of the TV.

Now I’ve got a summons to go to court. – Mama N.

All I can say is: This is not a crime. This is called “childhood.” In the summer, it often takes place outdoors, and, with the proper training of the child, does not require constant supervision. – L. 

 

What's wrong with this picture? NOTHING!!

Two kids outside without a parent? Call the cops! 

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75 Responses to Mom Fined for Letting 6-y.o. Walk 2 Blocks with a Friend

  1. Beth July 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Is the other mom getting fined too?

  2. Erika July 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    To court for what though? Please keep us updated. We’ve had all kinds of run-ins with cops here in PA.

  3. floyd July 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I’d love to know what part of PA this occurred in. The reason for my asking is that my ex-wife and daughter just recently moved there but I am in Florida. The main reason that I allowed her to relocate is because I thought that PA would be a better place to grow up in. I am originally from Lancaster and I remember my parents allowing me to roam all over because they always knew where I was going to be. If a police officer wants to give a ticket for being away from home, then maybe Florida is a better atmosphere for my child.

  4. Selby July 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    “Someone” saw them and called it in? Who? Get a name and get their ass into court as well. If you’re being fined for letting your kids be free citizens, then he/she should get a fine for being an alarmist busybody who doesn’t have the sense to call YOU but has the balls to call the police. It’s about time these useless whistleblowers are exposed and made to stand behind their actions.

  5. Janet C July 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I’m in California so cannot help but, this needs to be publicized so supporters can show up to the hearing and give “what for” to the powers that be.

    What a bunch of malarkey!

  6. Havva July 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I’d like to know what ‘crime’ was listed on the ticket.

  7. lollipoplover July 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    If the children were not endangered or committing a crime then the person who made the police call should receive a summons for filing false reports.

    I am a PA taxpayer. I DO NOT want my tax dollars spent on non-crimes. There are so many real crimes- why are they wasting our money harrassing parents and innocent children?

    I want the town name too. This is outrageous. When did childhood involve confinement and police involvement in very basic parenting? Should we call the police on every mom talking on her phone while driving carpool cause she might cause a car accident?

  8. Leslie July 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    I’m also curious as to what area of PA. I’m in Pittsburgh, and have let my boys walk 1/2 a block by themselves watching from the house (5 & 7). I was more scared of the police showing up then them getting hurt.

  9. Gina July 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    @lollipoplover: YES we should fine a mom who is on the phone while driving with kids in the car. That scenario is actually dangerous unlike the two kids walking.

  10. SKL July 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Sigh. The other day my two six-year-olds asked permission to walk to the library. They were absolutely certain that they would be OK doing so. As the library is probably 2.5 miles away and it was getting late and seemed about to rain, I wasn’t about to let them. I have no doubt that they know how to get there; they just don’t realize how long it would take on foot. (And they don’t have cell phones, LOL.)

    So now my kids have reached the age when they want to make their own plans and go places on their own. A perfectly natural thing for kids to do! I just wish they were big for their age or something, so they wouldn’t get a second look from “concerned citizens” or cops. There are days when I feel like, “bring it on,” and there are days when I don’t.

    One would think there was enough actual crime to keep the cops busy, if the neighborhoods were so patently upsafe.

  11. K July 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    This is unacceptable. How can individuals respond to shame the area from allowing the criminalization of childhood?

  12. librarian July 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Please keep us updated on the situation. I’m in NYC, but ready to call/email on your behalf.

  13. Katie July 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    For one thing, any of us who get “someone” calling needs to remember to point out to the police officer that we have a *constitutional* right to face the accuser. We should be able to know the identity of the busybody. Push your local municipal councils to pass a specific ordinance that when someone has a “concerned citizen” report, that person must identify him/herself.

  14. Donna July 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    If the police have time to cite parents for their kids walking down the street, clearly this town/city/whatever has no crime and way too many police officers.

  15. Warren July 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Lawyer up, and take it to court. There will be people in here that will tell you to pick your battles, and that to just pa the fine, because a lawyer will cost alot more and so on, and so forth. But you need to weigh the cost of going to court to the cost of sacrificing your daughters freedom, and your right to parent as you see fit.

    A worthy battle, considering what arbitrary age will they allow her to go out alone. And how many years will your daughter lose the freedom to roam.

  16. Donna July 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I do wonder what the heck this woman was ticketed for. Child endangerment is hopefully worth more than a simple fine in PA. Not that I think this is child endangerment, but it is the only thing that I can think of that could be charged here.

  17. Cee July 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Something similar happened to me in Fort Bragg, NC, where the official age for being alone outdoors is, I believe, 8. I actually got arrested and taken to the station for a mug shot and fingerprints and questioning! It was a bummer and I was pretty pissed off, since I was in the house cooking dinner, the kids weren’t abandoned or hurting anyone, just out playing on the sidewalk a couple houses down! But whatever. A social worker came out, asked a ton of kind of personal questions, decided we weren’t neglecting the kids, but the federal prosecutor ordered six hours of parenting classes or a court date. I opted for the classes and finally the whole thing was dropped. Still, it was discouraging– what kind of insane place am I raising my children in?! I am not sure which neighbors called the cops but it really eroded my sense of trust in the “community.”

    Some people, frankly, need a hobby.

  18. Cee July 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Oh, and I was ticketed for “child neglect.” The social worker found no evidence of neglect and said so, but the prosecutor ordered classes anyway. Why not– it’s no skin off her back! ha.

  19. Warren July 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Donna,
    I wonder if she is going to be getting a summons by mail and not a ticket?

  20. Gary July 23, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    ok, so you know like In South Park when Stan or Kyle squint and pinch their nose and say how stupid their parents are or they are dumbasses…

    yea, I can’t find that pic or YouTube clip so just picture it in your head k?

    because every time I read this story and the similar ones being posted I am just:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVYA-WS56J8

  21. Papilio July 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Why do I think this cop has got a lot of investments in this new invention called ‘kid leash’…? Could also be some electronic device that goes BEEP BEEP BEEP as soon as the child wanders off more than 10 feet from the house 😐

    Or would he actually be that stupid for free?

  22. pentamom July 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    I live in PA, too, but I don’t think knowing “what part of PA” is that useful, unless you’re talking about the exact town. Culturally, two towns right next to one another can be light years apart.

    While I think this whole situation is rubbish, I’m not sure how this sentence was relevant:

    “In PA there are no laws regarding what age to leave your child alone,”

    since this wasn’t about leaving a child “alone,” this was about letting a child go out on his own. Even if there were a law saying you couldn’t leave any child under seven alone, that doesn’t have much to do with whether it’s legal to let a six year old walk two blocks without an adult. It might give you some subjective sense of how the law regards kids, but that and four bucks will get you an overpriced cup of coffee.

    And actually, this points out the fact that those of us who live in places where there is no law stating how old a child has to be, to be left alone, aren’t really in the greatest position. Lacking a law, it becomes a matter of police/prosecutor judgment when you’ve been “neglectful.” You can’t as easily say “I have every right to do this” if there’s no law saying where the line is drawn.

  23. steve July 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    A cell phone might not be the problem in this case, but…

    I suspect most of the disgusting reports we read on this blog are because too many people have one hand glued permanently to a cellphone. AND…

    I suspect we will soon read about it as a genuine disorder newly listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) :

    CELL-TALK ANXIETY DISORDER – Anxiety felt by a person if not constantly calling someone from a cellphone. The afflicted individual rationalizes that reporting a “suspected” crime or “suspicious individual” allows them to assume their activity is in the realm of normal societal behavior. These individuals tend to induce others to engage in similar malicious reporting to maintain an unnatural sensation they mistake for “peace of mind.”

    I’m sure others here can add more characteristics of this pervasive disorder.

  24. Warren July 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    @pentamom

    No actual laws may make it easy for a cop to lay charges. That is why people have to stop cutting deals, to take the courses, or pay the fines, or do the therapy and take it to court.

    Make the state prove that you neglected your child. Make them prove she was in danger, being out for a walk with friends.

    Also demad the court explain to you why the state has the right to deny your child one of the basic rights guaranteed in the US. Liberty.

  25. pentamom July 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    “No actual laws may make it easy for a cop to lay charges. ”

    Yes, that’s what I mean. I know that some of my local friends think that it’s a good deal that there are no actual laws, but I see the downside.

  26. Ben July 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    I can say just one thing: fight the fine. If there is no law against letting your kid walk 2 blocks with a friend (not even alone), they can’t fine you for it.

    If by some miracle they produce a law or bylaw that prohibits it, you know what else to fight against.

  27. Mama N July 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    We are both getting charged with child endangerment: failure to monitor a child and have a hearing in two weeks. I saw the officer and he said he recieved a call of kids”crossing the street”. I told the police officer she was only outside for a few minutes and wondered off down the street, he literally told me children are not allowed outside unsupervised even in their own backyard at any age! He then went on to say they could’ve been abducted. I told him the abductor had his pick of ten-fifteen kids that are outside in my yard everyday. He really didn’t like my reply. As I was talking to the cop, my daughter’s friend’s mom was walking back with them, because she actually ran after the kids. He sent a summons instead and lied in his police report. In the report he said he he saw the kids, talked to them in the store, and drove them home. He never did any of that. She found the kids and walked them the two blocks home. When he saw me meet her that’s when he stopped us and told us we were getting a citation. Worst five minutes of my life.

  28. Natalie July 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    @mama n,
    Can you contact the local press about this? Lenore’s blog is great and she’s helped people out of similar situations, like the father in Pittsburgh (what is it with Pennsylvania?) that left his two kids in the park. There’s a precedent for unsupervised kids.

  29. Jim Collins July 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    I’d be interested in knowing where this happened as well. I live about 30 miles North of Pittsburgh. She’s going to have to appear before a Magistrate who is an elected official. I’d be more than willing to spend a little time and effort in making sure that this Magistrate isn’t re-elected if he does more than throw out the charges. A few years ago our DA was at a club I belong to and said that there was no such thing as self-defense, a few people didn’t like that and we dedicated a little time to ensure that she was defeated in the next election.

  30. Beth July 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    “CELL-TALK ANXIETY DISORDER – Anxiety felt by a person if not constantly calling someone from a cellphone.”
    and
    “too many people have one hand glued permanently to a cellphone”

    I am a 911 dispatcher/calltaker, and this is SO true. I will give a pass to the eleventy-seventh call about an accident, because if you’re just driving by you don’t really know if anyone else has called. BUT the number of calls we get from people standing next to each other around a victim (fall off bike, car vs pedestrian, fight downtown) *watching* each other call 911, is freaking nuts. It’s just like “I have a phone, I HAVE to use it, even though the people standing next to me are actually talking to 911 on their phones!”

    There are a finite number of 911 lines going into any 911 answering point, and it’s not necessary to call if you know for a fact that someone already has. All it does is mean that someone who has an un-reported emergency can’t get through.

    Sorry for the thread derailment, but “I gotta use my phone as much as possible” thing really gets me going!

  31. Shawn July 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    If it isn’t against the law, go to court, and get it tossed out in front of the cop who issued it. Then just give them a smug look. Children shouldn’t have to suffer for other people’s ignorance, including their own parents, busy body neighbors and cops.

    I’m was 6 back in the 70s when I started walking to school on my own with my sister (a year older). And by the time my brother was old enough to go to school, he started walking with us. In elementary school (starting at age 9), we had home ec. Where we cooked, used knives, work the oven. Used a sewing machine, needles, and scissors. We even had a shop, where we made wood work and pottery. Which meant we got to use power tools. Jigsaw, drill, hammers, nails, saw. We did get ASSISTANCE when using the table saw, and kiln. Yes, there were the few cuts, and burns. But no parent sued, no child cried home to mommy and daddy, we all learned very valuable life skills (that I still use today), and above all…no kid that I know of died from it. No doubt, smarter parenting back in the day. Now it’s kids, raising kids. Or a conditioned older generation succumbing to media bombardment, and following the masses.

  32. Captain America July 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    This story needs to find a sympathetic editor, who can toss out all the fearful nonsense and point to the dangers of this kind of jackboot policing.

  33. Shawn July 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    True say Warren. True say.

  34. Rick July 23, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Okay, I just finished an 8 hour drive and haven’t read all the comments, but just have to say that I was riding my bike to kindergarten down the street by myself without any problem with “authorities”. This is absurd. There is nothing illegal with kids at 6 being trusted to be by themselves out in the open. Jeez, I was wandering the neighborhood when I was 4.

  35. Havva July 23, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    @ Mama N,
    That he outright lied in the police report should be useful. Did the other mom get a summons? It sort of sounds like your primary offense was being ‘mouthy’ with a cop. I hope you can get a lawyer to help, but I think it should be promptly brought to the chief of police’s attention that this officer filed a false report, preferably by the other mom, if she hasn’t been charged. From what I’ve read, it is hard to prove a cop intentionally, and materially lied, but in CA at least, that could land a cop in jail for up to 3 years. I really hope you get a good lawyer, with a lying cop, you will need help.

  36. Donna July 23, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Many cops lie in their reports and court. It is almost impossible to prove as it is your (the criminal’s) word against the fine honorable cop. Once I had radio traffic (the cops talking to each other and dispatch) that proved 100% that the cop had just flat-out, unequivocably lied on the witness stand, and the judge still only hinted that there was a slight possibility that the cop was a little less than completely truthful when he testified. And nothing was ever done to the officer. To date, he is still a Major on the same police force. (I did win the motion and got all the charges dismissed against my client but for reasons other than the fact that the officer lied).

  37. Reziac July 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    This:

    “When did childhood involve confinement..?”

    If it were a child abductor, or even the parent, and never let the child out of the house, THAT would be a crime, yes?

    And very important if a police officer is called to your house:

    Don’t Talk To Cops, video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc
    A law school professor and former criminal defense attorney tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.

  38. Mama N July 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    I have quite a few witnesses. The person working at the store the cop supposedly talked to the kids in said they were never in there, the cop or the kids. He also flat out contradicted himself three times in the report. The other mom is being charged too and has to go to court with me. She had no idea police were involved until he stopped her and asked her for her name when we were taking the kids home.

  39. Natalie July 23, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    @Mama N-
    Did you refuse to go to the prom with this guy back in the day or something?

  40. Brandy July 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Sounds Like The Police When We Lived In Natrona Heights Pa.. We Were So Scared Of The Police Because They Would Always Stop My Friends And Me Just For Taking A Walk.. We Were Good Kids But They Always Would Take 5 Mins To Ask Us Where We Were Going And What Our Plans Were…

  41. Kaetlyn July 23, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    This is crazy!!!! We moved to Montana from the northeast a few years ago, and it has turned out to be a free-rangers paradise. Kids biking and walking to school, riding their bikes to the playground to play (without parents!), and running around the neighborhood in chatty, giggling little gangs seem to be the norm in Bozeman.

    My two year old has a blast at his playgroup, where we (the moms) let our two and three year olds loose in a fenced-in backyard. We check on them frequently through the window (they’re still pretty little), but we also give them a lot of space to play and sort things out for themselves. It’s really cool to see my two year old work out little disagreements on his own! Last week he and his best little buddy started fighting over a shovel, and they ended up turning the angry tug of war into a fun game where they took turns pulling each other around the yard by the shovel. If we’d been right there, hovering over them, we would have intervened too soon, and they wouldn’t have had such fun.

  42. John July 23, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    Every time I read a story like this on this site, which is fairly often, the first thing that pops into my mind is the Philippines. Over in the bustling city of Manila, 7-, 8-year-old boys are in the middle of the hot, busy streets, barefoot on the hot pavement, washing car windows all by themselves without adult supervision and making a few pesos in the process. Kids are also playing in the streets and learning conflict resolution. Even at night, kids are out in the streets mingling with other kids, but not causing any trouble. It is also not unusual to see Filipino kids as young as 10 caring for their younger siblings while out playing on the streets even without mom and dad around.

    It just so happens that Filipinos are the most adaptable culture in the world. You see Filipinos in every country, working to make a living. I’ve even seen them working on the ski slopes, despite of them growing up in a tropical country! They take all sorts of abuse by the Saudis but continue to perform their jobs well. Perhaps us Americans can learn something from the Filipinos about raising independent children! But I think we have a loooong way to go.

  43. Heath July 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    If he was mad because she was being “mouthy”, he would’ve really hated me. When he said said no child is allowed outdoors, unsupervised, I would’ve laughed in his face and said, “Think about what you just said.” And then I would’ve said, “Please cite the law/ordinance/regulation/whatever that says no child can be outside, while unsupervised.” I’m with most other commenters, in that I think you should fight the charges. If we allow this sort of thing to stand, the next step will be, “No child is allowed to be out of a parent’s sight. Ever. Indoors or outdoors. Ever!”

  44. Gina July 24, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    @Beth…I get what you’re saying and I am NOT a hyper-caller by any means…in fact, I rarely use my cell phone. But we have to remember that there have been several incidences (Kitty Genovese comes to mind) where people all thought “Somebody else will call” and did nothing, with disastrous results. Clearly, if you SEE that someone else is calling, don’t call. But if you aren’t sure….err on the side of caution.

  45. Alec from Child's Play Music July 24, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    @Mama N, if both you and the other parent, and all the other witnesses will testify that she fetched the children, not the police officer, and that he was never in the store then that throws doubt on his whole statement. Go for it! Don’t let this idiot get away with both lies and stupidity.

    @Brandy: Capitalising Every Word Is Bad Manners. It’s as bad as ALL CAPS. It’s shouting.

  46. Beth July 24, 2013 at 4:46 am #

    @Gina, my point wasn’t *thinking* that someone else has called. It was standing right next to someone who has called or is actually on the phone with 911. If that’s the case, you don’t need to call. Really.

  47. Mama N July 24, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    @Brandy, yep I’m from Natrona Heights, this certain police officer already has a bad rep.

  48. lollipoplover July 24, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    And in breaking news, Natrona Heights Police sweep neighborhoods of lemonade stands to save it’s future entrepreneurs and charitable youth because they could be abducted at any time. Next in Operation Boogeyman in the Bushes, they crack down on those tempting slip and slides, neighborhood manhunt games and pick up sports games that so endanger our youth.

    I thing this officer needs to write 1000 times on the blackboard:

    Kids playing outside is a GOOD thing.
    Kids playing outside is a GOOD thing.
    Kids playing outside is a GOOD thing.

  49. Brandy July 24, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    @Alec from Child’s Play Music, Sorry!

    @Mama, I’m so sorry this happened to you. It all makes sense now. They are so bored over there and most of the police officers around that area have no respect for any of the residence in that neighborhood. Good luck and please keep us updated!

  50. SKL July 24, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Well, now I’m a little confused. Were the kids allowed to go down the street because they are mature enough, or did they run off without permission and without having enough sense to take care of themselves? I am wondering why the other mom ran and got the kids when she realized they had walked off. (If I read that right.) And I am wondering how young the “friend” was.

    I still don’t like the idea of cops ticketing people when kids do normal kid things. It would have been OK if the cop checked in and made sure the kids were OK. Worse but still understandable if the cop brought the kids back home. But why the punishments? It’s stupid. What kind of world are we aiming for when we punish moms for having normal kids, all of whom sometimes do unexpected things?

  51. Jim Collins July 24, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Mama N
    Give Marty Griffin a call at KDKA. 412-575-2200

  52. Emily July 24, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    @Alec–Actually, I thought it was just CAPITALIZING EVERY LETTER LIKE THIS that was bad manners. Capitalizing just the first letter of every word is incorrect, but I don’t think it’s the Internet equivalent of shouting. I have friends who talk like that on Facebook, but not in an angry way–they’ll write things like, “Went To The Park With Husband And Sons,” and I’ll silently wonder why they do the capitalizing thing, but it’s not intended to be rude.

  53. gap.runner July 24, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    If being 6 years old and walking with a friend was a crime, every mother in Germany would be in jail. It is a normal thing to see kids that young walking to school or to a friend’s house either alone or with another kid. My German friends all think that US helicopter parenting is weird to say the least.

  54. Captain America July 24, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    OP. . . believe it or not, and I’m sorry to say this, but this is Part and Parcel of the Dumbing Down of America.

  55. pentamom July 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    It may not be intended to be rude, but when you capitalize a whole paragraph like that, it makes it harder to read, which is inconsiderate.

    I can see why people do short Facebook statuses like that — they have the impression that they’re writing a title to something. But it must be incredibly hard to type like that, so I don’t know why anyone would do more than a few words.

  56. Papilio July 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    @Alec, Emily: Whether capitalizing every word is rude or not, I just know it’s a very annoying read. It feels like following a bouncing rubber ball with your eyes.
    But that could be just me, since my native language doesn’t capitalize words as much as English or German.

  57. Erin July 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    To the woman who was harassed on Ft. Bragg. WHAT?? A military base is the SAFEST place!!!! WTHeck!

  58. Mama N July 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    @SKL I allow my daughter to play outside and have set certain boundaries where she is allowed to go, I have no problem with her playing outside with her friends and walking a block or two or up to the park. The mother of the other child was more concerned about it. I don’t know her or what her views are on the subject. Her son is also six.

  59. Scott July 25, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    @Lenore, Maybe something to add to your site is a reference to lawyers around the country that are free-rangers and willing to help out when this sort of stuff happens. @Donna, can you help out with such a thing? Start something in the ABA? I just looked on Lawyers.com and on their area of specialization list, the only things close are child custody, criminal law, family law and police misconduct, but no “free-range children law”. Just a thought.

  60. Emily July 25, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    The upshot of all of this seems to be “Imprison your child until X age, or the police will imprison YOU.” The only problem is, nobody seems to agree on what age X is, and honestly, even if they did, that’s irrelevant, because it SHOULD be a parenting decision. I’ve never seen the authorities intervening in the case of the opposite situation (i.e., an older child or teenager being restricted excessively for his or her age and maturity level), because that would be considered “meddling,” but for some reason, this is considered okay.

  61. Aimee July 25, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    “He literally told me children are not allowed outside unsupervised even in their own backyard at any age” – That officer is crazy, because isn’t a “child” (legally-speaking) anyone under 18? That would exclude EVERY SINGLE teen babysitter from ever babysitting. Let’s take the crazy a step further…. would a 17-yr-old teen mother and father (not optimal, but certainly realistic), outside with their infant, be in violation? I’m really heading into the weeds here, but the children in this community, where they are never allowed outside without adult supervision, are more at risk of rickets from Vitamin D deficiency than of abduction.

  62. Natalie July 25, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    @mama n
    Keep us updated if you can. We’re all rooting for you.

  63. Donna July 25, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    @Scott – As much as I would like to help, I am not licensed in Pennsylvania. I seem to recall from a post a few months back that someone was setting up an non-profit legal agency that would help with things like this. I don’t know the the details – who, what, where, when – since it hasn’t been mentioned since.

    I think the US needs a non-profit that addresses free range issues (among other parental autonomy issues) that involves policy, laws and press. Lenore does a great job at keeping free range parenting in the press, but I think there needs to be a policy group speaking in counterpoint to John Walsh and the other parents of dead-kids who use their tragedy to sculpt public perception and create all these really bad laws. But to have lawyers who can actually go into communities and represent people like Mama N. requires a HUGE network and would be best served if it could piggy-back on an already existing network (i.e. be a new branch of an already existing non-profit).

  64. Warren July 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Donna
    Any reason why the ACLU isn’t all over these things? Would it be they fear public backlash, for the backing of abusive/neglecting parents perception?

  65. Donna July 25, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Warren –

    I don’t think the ALCU does any criminal representation. While they work extensively in criminal justice reform, it is by way of civil lawsuits and amicus briefs filed in appeals and not direct representation of criminal defendants.

    As for why they do not weigh in on these type of cases, you would have to ask some head honcho from the ACLU the exact reason though I can think of many, none of which involve a fear of public backlash since the ACLU gets public backlash constantly and is actually considered a pretty evil organization by half the country.

    Further, you assume that people at the ACLU would support free range parenting. Not necessarily the case. I don’t know anyone who works for the ACLU, but public defenders and ACLU attorneys are cut from very similar cloth and I know many public defenders. Their parenting ranges from very free range to very helicopter. Most would agree that things like this should not be criminalized (we are pretty much against anything new being criminalized); but that doesn’t mean that there is any consensus whatsoever on whether it is actually okay for a 6 year old to walk down the street alone.

  66. Warren July 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Thanks Donna, for taking the time. I had some misconception of the ACLU, that you have cleared.

  67. Janet C July 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Re: the ACLU, they also work on cases which specifically are constitutional. Copied from their website: “The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”

    Unless you can hook this incident to a specific constitutional amendment, not sure how the ACLU could help.

  68. Warren July 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.

    2.
    freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.

    3.
    freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.

    4.
    freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint

    Definitions for the word “liberty”, number 3 seems to say it all. I would say these kids are being denied liberty, and possibly life depending on how you want to define that.

  69. Rebecca M. July 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Makes me think of my nieces and nephews that live on the farm where my husband grew up (not in US) — from age 6 or so (depending on maturity of the kid), they spend summer days leading cows up and down hills to pasture. All alone. Well, except for the cows.

    The older nephew (now about 10) is a very confident, competent kid and being given real responsibilities and independence from an early age clearly contributed.

  70. staceyjw July 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Ridiculous.
    We need a legal fund.

  71. Zoe Claire @ UnnecessaryWisdom August 1, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    I’m not a lawyer but this seemed absolutely ridiculous to me so I looked up PA law. The only statutes I could find that would remotely apply would be PA Cons. Stat. Tit. 23 which defines child abuse as a failure to protect any child under 18 from harm (this is ridiculous in and of itself because teens are allowed to drive and work). HOWEVER, there is a religious exemption clause. This mother was NOT being negligent, but was raising her child within her belief system. The statutes provide an exemption for “intentional failure to provide” for religious beliefs, stating it must be a “bona fide” religion. The Supreme Court has ruled several times that the definition for a bona fide religion is determined by the person practicing that religion and not the state. Of particular interest, is U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944), when the Court declared in applying the Free Exercise Clause, courts may not inquire into the truth, validity, or reasonableness of a claimant’s religious beliefs. I hope she fights this.

  72. Mama N August 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    We went to our hearing today. We both got a $200 disorderly conduct fine and were ordered to parenting classes. The thing that ticked me off was that we were not even allowed to talk at the hearing to tell our side of the story. We have to go back to court next month. After this is over I’m moving out of Natrona Heights and seriously considering Montana.

  73. Mama N August 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    I want to add that the other girl is the daughter of the constable that was recently fired and charged by the same district justice we went before. I really think they had it in for that whole family. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  74. Christine August 8, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    I am so sorry you went through this! I just had the police called in Delaware for allowing my 5 and 6 year olds to walk 2 blocks to the pizza shop. Fortunately in my case, no police ever showed up. Can you appeal the ruling? It’s insanity our kids are not allowed to explore their world! I live in a town of 300. I could see the pizza shop from my house. The owner of the shop said they were obeying rules re: crossing the street. How will our children learn to be productive and independent adults if we keep them in eye sight at all times? How will they learn to deal any “real” world situations if parents are constantly by their side?
    I am all for neighbors looking out for one another, but come talk to me not 911!

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  1. Free Range Kids » Day Care Teacher Puts Out Fire, Loses Job - July 24, 2013

    […] are somehow so UNsafe that they require all our attention all the time. That’s why the the post below this one concerns a mom fined for letting her 6-year-old walk two blocks. The cop’s […]