My Neighbor Called CPS When Our Daughter was in Our Backyard. I Want to Fight Back.

Folks, I am hoping this story will soon go national. Local news in Decatur, GA, is following up on it. It comes to us from Kim, a mom to 3 kids, aged 7, 4 1/2, and 3.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: This week I had 3 police officers knock on my door.  A neighbor saw my 4 1/2 year old playing in the park behind our house that’s an extension of our yard, and reported us to DFCS for neglect, then called the police.
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We bought our home for the backyard and access to the park.  Our property line extends across a creek and into the school playground that is also the community park.  From my kitchen I can see the children playing on the playground at recess, and can call my children’s names and they come running home.  We were home and Lucy goes there every day, which we fully encourage, to play with her friends — usually staying within 50 feet of our property line.  The woman asked our daughter where she lived, which she responded to with our address, and pointed to our house/yard (where I was actually outside in the yard dealing with some tree workers, about 50 feet from where the woman was standing).  She easily could have come over and talked with me.
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The cops thought it was a ridiculous waste of their time, and ensured us there were no laws in our state that were being broken.  They actually encouraged us to contact the woman (and gave us her name), perhaps given that we live in an upper middle class, very community-oriented neighborhood where he assumed the person would just come to us before jumping to such conclusions.
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So I emailed her to confirm it was her and ask her to talk to us about what she thinking. The response we got was a letter from her attorney asking us to stop contacting her, as part of her “mandated reporter status” she was just reporting concerns of an “unsupervised child.”
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After some research and discussion with local attorneys we are coming to find that “mandated reporter” in Georgia means that they are only to report on their own territory (she’s a teacher, so only in her school).
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Now we’re hoping to file a lawsuit against her for knowingly filing a baseless claim and wasting public resources (hours of police time, DFCS, etc).   We’re willing to spend some money to make a point, even if we have little chance of winning because of the immunity provisions.  We feel her only reason for calling DFCS was that she doesn’t agree with our parenting style. We’d like to stand up for our kids’ right to play outside, and also to make a point that you shouldn’t call DFCS so quickly.
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We do not want our child to have to stop playing in her own backyard because of people like this. Any advice you have is most welcome! — Free-Range Kim
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Most likely, the busybody is protected by the Georgia statutes that give immunity to anyone making a report, if they believe they are witness to child abuse, which is apparently defined downward to include “neglect,” which I guess is defined even further downward to include, “50 feet away from mom, who is momentarily distracted.” That’s what David DeLugas, executive director of the National Association of Parents, explained in a letter to Kim and me.
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But his association was formed specifically to defend parents against government intrusion into everyday parenting decisions. So he pointed out that Kim MAY be able to open a “defamation of character” against the teacher, “if her good faith can be cast in doubt” and if the case can be framed as “a violation of your Constitutional rights as a parent to decide for your own child, so long as not causing actual harm.”
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I hope that that’s exactly what happens because, as DeLguas points out, cases like Kim’s have a “chilling” impact on other parents. DeLugas adds:
The National Association of Parents is a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to preserve the parent-child relationship by protecting the Constitutional rights of parents in the USA.  We would be pleased to meet and discuss the lawsuit you have in mind. Why would we represent you? Because we want to discourage the seeming trend of calls to 911 and/or to DFCS/CPS when children are NOT hurt, NOT in distress and NOT in imminent danger of harm from an identifiable risk (not the “something COULD happen”).
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For everyone else who is outraged and offended by this and other cases, please help us provide legal services by becoming a dues paying member (only $19) and/or make a tax-deductible donation!”

I’m a member and I’m sure Kim is joining.  It’s a great cause (and a great price)! Here’s to the legal fight for our right to raise our kids as we see fit! – L.

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It is our RIGHT to let our kids play in the backyard!

It is our RIGHT to let our kids play in the backyard!

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114 Responses to My Neighbor Called CPS When Our Daughter was in Our Backyard. I Want to Fight Back.

  1. Allison October 14, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    Is there anyway to contact the mother? I can relate to this.

  2. Dad of a 4 year old October 14, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    This entire situation is frustrating and seems to have been unnecessarily escalated by everyone involved.

    If the officers felt it was a waste of their time, why did they send 3 officers to your house?

    Why not just walk over and talk with this woman face-to-face? If things didn’t go well by email then resolve it like two adults and demonstrate to your kids that adults can work things out through discussion.

    Disappointed in this story all around. America is very weird.

  3. Dienne October 14, 2016 at 10:02 am #

    No, please don’t file a lawsuit. The neighbor’s sin was in contacting the authorities to deal with what was essentially a personal matter. Please don’t commit the same sin – it will only compound the problem.

  4. ChicagoDad October 14, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    Well, here’s my terrible advice: the kids could dress up in spooky ‘mandated reporter’ costumes (that looks just like your neighbor!), and then make a point of trick or treating there.

  5. Ann October 14, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    I really don’t see how filing a lawsuit would help to “make a statement”. While the woman who reported this overreacted, a lawsuit is a similar overreaction. How about instead contacting the local news? That would certainly be more effective as far as spreading your message and wouldn’t clog our legal system with, what is essentially, your wounded pride?

  6. Beth2 October 14, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    I completely sympathize with this letter-writer, but I want to strongly discourage her from suing.

    Instead, I suggest very politely and calmly following up with the police, and neutrally updating them on what happened when she took their advice to contact the woman. Mom can tell the police that she just wanted them to be on notice that this “mandatory reporter” seems to be taking a very broad view of her responsibility, and might start harassing other parents and kids in the area. But also make clear that the mom intends to do as the woman lawyer suggests, and cease any further contact with this woman in the future, as the relationship appears to be irreparable. This way she maintains her reputation as the more level-headed one in the conflict, and the cops have the relevant info they need, if mom’s goal is to discredit the busybody so that her abuse of power is neutralized. (Which would be my goal.)

    By contrast, I feel a lawsuit would undermine this goal. The mom feels unfairly judged and unfairly scolded. I would too. She wants to prevent this from happening to others. She wants to expose the “mandatory reporter” as exercising bad judgment and abusing her power. But bringing a doomed lawsuit wouldn’t make the mom seem like the more mature, calmer one with better judgment — it would make the mandatory reporter look she’s being targeted and victimized for making a single isolated mistake, and would make the mom look like she’s overreacting and perhaps does not have the best judgment. Right now the cops see her as a perfectly normal mom who lets her kids play in the backyard. Does she really want them to see her as the mom who overacts to minor provocation and sues people she disagrees with?

    Second, please be mindful that the court system uses public resources and taxpayer dollars, too. Frivolous lawsuits waste taxpayer money and take court personnel’s time away from more serious cases.

    Third, the legal weaknesses in her case seem to be more than just an immunity defense for the “mandatory reporter”. To sue and prevail in a court of law, you have to show a concrete direct injury to yourself. A ten-minute friendly conversation with the police in which they took your side, and a curt letter from a lawyer telling you not to speak with someone, do not count. I completely understand why she feels insulted and disrespected and inconvenienced, but that’s just not enough to sue someone.

    Fourth, she may not be considering all of the potential “costs” in pursuing such a suit. it’s not just the cost of her lawyer and filing fees. The defendant could seek sanctions against her and payment of her own counsel fees, or bring a countersuit for harassment or malicious prosecution. The press or social media could get ahold of it, and while she’s hoping they’ll paint her side in the more sympathetic light, she can’t control that, and her family’s wellbeing and livelihood may be affected by the fallout. She’s very fortunate that so far this wrongful accusation ended swiftly and did not escalate. Many wrongfully accused would love to be in her shoes. I’d discourage her from doing anything to encourage escalation. I would do exactly as this woman asked: Cease any interaction with her. if you like, report *her* actions to the police, and then move on.

  7. DR October 14, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    I think a lawsuit is another unnecessary escalation. I know I don’t know the details in their entirety, but I can understand both sides. If I saw a 4 year old playing in a creek without a visible adult watching them I would be concerned as well. I feel water, rocks, etc. Always ads an additional layer of danger that might worry someone.

    I also agree with the people who said it seems like a lot of the escalation also came from the cops. 3 send excessive.

    Just be confident in your mothering and hopefully she’ll drop it as well.

  8. Dienne October 14, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    “Our property line extends across a creek and into the school playground that is also the community park.”

    I guess I’m a bit confused by this. So the creek is actually part of your property? And so is part of the school playground? I’ve never heard of anything like that before.

    Also, your kids have to cross the creek to get to the playground? How wide/deep is this creek? Is there a bridge? Is that too on your property?

  9. Pete October 14, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    It’s a bit “going nuclear” – but has anyone ever sought a protective order against these busybodies?

    Sometimes called a restraining order or a no-contact order – I imagine it would be a nice forceful assertion that the busybody was out of line if a judge formally ordered her not to do that again.

  10. Dienne October 14, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    I don’t think you can get a restraining order against someone who has never even spoken to you or physically approached you. Calling the authorities isn’t grounds for a restraining order. If anything, the neighbor has already laid the groundwork for a restraining order against her with the attorney’s do not contact letter.

  11. DrTorch October 14, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

    Good for this woman. We don’t need busybodies like this in the public schools.

  12. Pete October 14, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    Would it make sense, instead of suing, to simply have your lawyer send a formal response to the effect of: (INAL, so please don’t nitpick the wording)

    “My clients have no interest in interacting with Ms X, now or in the future. It should require only the most minimal reflection for either you or your client to realize that this interaction can be avoided entirely by not antagonizing law abiding citizens or their children.

    Please inform your client of the following facts of law:
    – Her status as a “mandated reporter” applies to her work as a teacher, and does not extend to her neighbors backyard or the adjoining public park.
    – The role of “mandated reporter” applies to cases of child abuse, not child amusement; and it is inexcusable for a teacher to claim not to know the difference.
    – Mandated reporters are not granted privileges to make nuisance complaints or file reports when no laws are being broken, nor are they granted immunity from defamation prosecution for making knowingly-false claims of child abuse.

    Thank you,
    Donald Q Duck, esq.”


    Sort of a “not quite a lawsuit, but a legal GFY”. A solution that is more proactive and satisfying than doing nothing, but less a can of worms than a lawsuit.

    Thoughts from the FRK hive-mind?

  13. Richard October 14, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    Generally, you do not have a constitutional right to not have someone tell a government agency what you are doing. If what she told them was accurate to the extent it contained facts, and otherwise her own opinion, it would not be actionable even without any state specific immunities for mandated reporters. Many states also have specific immunities for reports to officials. Unless the person was not truthful, the issue here was with the screening of the call to determine whether a law enforcement response was appropriate. Whether it is a situation specific problem (a particular screener used poor judgment) or a policy one (such as all calls concerning the well-being of children require an in-person response regardless of the actual facts reported) is not clear. In many states that decision by an agency as to whether an in person response is required is also immunized from liability.

    In any event, the poster above referencing the issue of damages also has a good point. Apparently, the result of the incident is that she had a short conversation with three apparently friendly law enforcement officers. There are many jurors who would conclude that there was simply no harm for which damages could be awarded.

  14. EricS October 14, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    Personally, if I could afford the legal fees, and the time, I would proceed with the lawsuit. Make a point. People need to learn and understand that they can’t just do whatever they want because they don’t agree with it. There is a whole other side of the circumstance that goes beyond their own life. Like the life of the family they are ignorantly reporting on. If that sanctimonious woman wants to rat out parents because she doesn’t agree with their parenting style, then she should learn there is consequence for that ignorance. Even if that woman wins, she still has to go through court, and pay her attorney. Make her think twice before doing something so stupid again. And the fact that her “report” is baseless, and waste of resources paid by tax payers, I’m sure the courts will remind her to think before acting. Just because SHE feels it’s “unsafe” for the kids, doesn’t mean it is. Anyone with an iota of common sense would understand this.

  15. EricS October 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Or as Pete suggests. lol Just don’t let it go. People need to start being accountable for their actions again.

  16. Robin October 14, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    “If I saw a 4 year old playing in a creek without a visible adult watching them I would be concerned as well. I feel water, rocks, etc. Always ads an additional layer of danger that might worry someone.”

    Yes, but if that child told me her address and pointed to her house I would maybe walk over there and make sure that Mom knew where her kid was.

    Only cowards and bullies call the cops and CPS first. And then hide behind a spurious excuse for their actions.

  17. Richard October 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    EricS, assuming the woman’s report did not contain false facts or legally privileged information, she could tell anyone she wanted–including law enforcement. There are also some very practical reasons that your approach could be harmful. It would likely elicit a letter from the defendant’s attorney pointing out the frivolousness of the action and identifying whatever law applies in Georgia to compensate for such things. If you refused to withdraw the action, there would be a quick Motion to dismiss. Ultimately, you could very well end up with a judgment against you for the defendant’s attorneys fees and costs. Again, that assumes that the report contained accurate facts and/or opinion.

  18. Jana October 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Oh my oh my… So this teacher probably believes that she has more right than a parent to know that their children are brought-up “in a proper manner”.

  19. Reziac October 14, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Being protected by the statutes probably does not protect this woman from a civil lawsuit. Go make an example of her, she’s earned it.

  20. Bill Jackson October 14, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I like Pete’s approach, but lots of healing time and paint remover is good too.

  21. Brian October 14, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    I’m not a Georgia lawyer and this shouldn’t be taken as legal advice, but in Illinois, I’ve had this situation with a client and researched it a little. In general, the reporting statutes make it extremely hard to sue someone for reporting to DCFS once unless you can prove they were intentionally lying.

    Talk to a Georgia lawyer before doing anything, but I’d think the right response would be to send the other mom a nice letter explaining that the police confirmed that it’s OK for your kids to play in their own backyard, and she should not call the police again if your children are playing there without an adult present. Then, if it happens again or more times, you might be able to show a pattern of frivolous calls and take action.

  22. Andrea October 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    I very much understand the desire to file suit in order to take a stand. But filing a complaint with a court doesn’t do that, especially if that complaint gets dismissed. When that happens (and it likely will), she will probably feel even worse. And, if they don’t win and their case is dismissed or they lose at trial, it will only provide more ammunition for people like their neighbor to do what she did.

    Instead of filing suit I would find allies in their “close” community and get them on board against what this woman did — filing a lawsuit doesn’t change anything — another neighbor could do the same thing next week, but proactively lobbying your community and creating a culture that supports what she did actually might keep this from happening again. The courts are not there for this woman to get her message out, and taking that route could end up backfiring not just on her, but on the rest of us by creating another precedent that makes things harder for parents like her.

    (Also, I have to note that I do find it a little ironic that she’s complaining that the woman went to the authorities rather than handle it herself, and here she is proposing to do the exact same thing.)

  23. Andrea October 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    “I’d think the right response would be to send the other mom a nice letter explaining that the police confirmed that it’s OK for your kids to play in their own backyard, and she should not call the police again if your children are playing there without an adult present. Then, if it happens again or more times, you might be able to show a pattern of frivolous calls and take action.”

    I agree with this!

  24. Cedric October 14, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    She filed a false report, given that she was not within her territory of influence. Book her, Danno.

  25. Cedric October 14, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Ann- once the other woman brought in an attorney to the mix the only way for the poster to communicate with her is through counsel. Go for it.

  26. Richard October 14, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

    There seems to be some misunderstanding as to the typical mandatory reporting statute. These laws are designed to impose penalties on certain people for failing to report abuse and often contain related provisions establishing immunity from liability for such reports. However, they do not somehow create an area of jurisdiction beyond which a mandated reporter may not report suspected child abuse. In looking at the Georgia statute, it appears it extends immunity to anyone reporting suspected child abuse or neglect–not just to mandated reporters submitting mandated reports,–as long as they are acting in good faith.

  27. JKP October 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    I agree with Beth2 that suing is an overreaction and could cause negative ramifications that aren’t worth it.

    Maybe instead of suing, sending a letter from either herself or a lawyer to the school stating that she is abusing/misusing her mandatory reporter status with the school to harass parents 1) who do not fall under the purview of her responsibility as mandatory reporter since that only applies to her school AND 2) whose behavior does not warrant such a call. The letter could ask for additional training for their mandatory reporters and threaten further legal action against the school if their employees continue to harass neighborhood parents for these type of issues.

    Since she is basically hiding behind the school and claiming that as an employee she is obligated to report, then it is the school that should bear the responsibility for reigning the teachers in when they overstep their bounds.

  28. Maggie in VA October 14, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    As much as I would like to see the neighbor spanked, I don’t think suing is a good idea. Now, if it happens again and becomes a pattern, yes, but not on one incident. It makes me angry when people use purported concern over child safety to harass a neighbor, but we also don’t want to add to the anxieties of people who may be legitimately reporting. I’ve been in that position, and it’s terrible (in fact, I didn’t report to authorities; a priest who taught at the Catholic high school I had attended was friends of the family, and my friend who lived in the other half of the duplex where the suspected abuse was occurring gave me an ultimatum to call the priest or she would call CPS). It might be good if local CPS and/or police would put pages on their Web sites of activities that *do not* constitute neglect, like letting kids play in the back yard when there is no reason to suspect the children are in danger.

  29. Decatur Resident October 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    One point of clarification from a bona fide resident of Decatur, Georgia (who does not know the players involved): we are lucky enough to be a small (just 4 square miles), relatively safe community within the greater Atlanta Metro area. As a small incorporated city, we have our own excellent city police force that is unusual in being adequately-staffed and able to respond rapidly to calls. Responding with 3 Officers was probably not an overreaction but because the Officers were available and wanted to err on the side of caution when a child was possibly endangered. When my teen daughter was home alone once and scared by repeated doorbell ringing (overzealous neighbor, it turns out), she called 911 and two police officers responded immediately and stayed with her until we, her parents, could return home in a few minutes. We are very lucky to be able to have that level of service and caring from our police.

    Regarding the caller and parents, Decatur police encourage us to call when worried about safety or criminal activity and let them sort out it out. Better safe than sorry. So a call to police may have been premature but well-intentioned. Without seeing the content of the family’s email to the caller, I can’t judge its appropriateness. Even if appropriate, emails can be misconstrued so that might not have been the best way to go vs. a phone call or in- person visit. Involving lawyers and lawsuits by either side seem unwise and provocative. Both parties may be living in the same neighborhood for a long time and be running into one another at the YMCA, school playground, church, yoga place, community events, friends’ houses, at local restaurants, or on a walk, etc. I think both sides should apologize to the other for any unintended damage (even if they have to grit their teeth to do it) and then move on.

  30. Janine October 14, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    You’re right; the initial reporter was a jerk. So don’t be a jerk in return. Let it drop instead of giving her a good story to tell about how she’s being sued by a bad parent/jerk. She went low; go high.

  31. Qute October 14, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    I have to agree that a lawsuit seems to be a case of hammering in a nail with a nuclear bomb. Too much for too little. And I say that as a mom that has had similar experiences with local law enforcement and DCFS.

    I agree with Andrea that Brian’s idea seems an excellent way to go:

    “I’d think the right response would be to send the other mom a nice letter explaining that the police confirmed that it’s OK for your kids to play in their own backyard, and she should not call the police again if your children are playing there without an adult present. Then, if it happens again or more times, you might be able to show a pattern of frivolous calls and take action.”

    Although I do admit she has made this difficult as she hired a lawyer to tell you to stop contacting her. I’d touch base with your local attorney to determine best route at this time.

  32. Dean October 14, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

    But-but-but. SOMETHING MIGHT HAPPEN. Right! They do have lightning in Georgia, Seems that teacher has too much time on her hands, Or don´t any other children play in the park?

  33. BL October 14, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    “she should not call the police again if your children are playing there without an adult present.”

    That’s the problem with the “do nothing” approach. She can keep doing this over and over unless she’s stopped.

  34. Miriam October 14, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    As much as this woman’s behaviour is annoying and harmful, to society, to the well being of the mother, to the well being of the child, I wish they hadn’t sued her “just to make a point”.

    I think many of the problems of non-free kids are related to law suits and the culture that everything is dealt with through lawyers, money, insurance, and the belief that conflicts have to be resolved in the legal system, providing a definite ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ and feeling that if one side is punished, then the issue is solved.

    Being an involved community member, helping kids that one feels may be in need, this is a positive intention and emotion. But our society doesn’t know how to deal with direct contact, so we are encouraged to use extreme means to deal with minor issue. For example contacting CPS. It’s good that people care enough to contact CPS, but it was way better if we lived in a place where a person could go and talk directly with a parent and discuss, even argue and disagree, but in a safe way, without threatening, and maybe even come up with a decision and a plan for the future. Just like we often disagree with our parents, the grandparents, on how to parent, and often it bothers us a great deal (probably more than it should), but most of us do come to some kind of a compromise (grandparents can give treats, but only one. Parents will give grandparents their own space and move out of the house to avoid conflict. Grandparents can watch over kids in the park, but not drive them, when the parents do not believe that the old grandparents are safe enough drivers anymore).

    If we lived in a healthy society, that neighbour would be a bit concerned, talk with the child and possibly with the mom, and if she was still worried, she would offer that she would watch over the kids when she has time, even if the kids do not know that they are being watched. The mom might feel that it is a waste of this woman’s effort, and may also feel a bit annoyed that her judgement is not respected, but it doesn’t cause real damage, definitely not to the kids. And if this neighbour, who clearly felt strong emotions that drove her to action, was busy watching, passively over the kids, or even get to befriend the family and the kids and play with them – she would create a better experience for herself, for the kids, and use the worried emotion that she felt – for good.

    We are being brainwashed that if people (parents) will be punished or be scared – then justice has been served, and it’s good that the bad guys suffer. It’s not good. We are afraid to contact other people because we are afraid of being sued (or attacked), we are afraid to be sued – so we are suing others in return. It makes us feel safe.

    Talking and connecting with people and creating a community will make us feel safe. Safe from judgement, safe from violence, safe from breaking an arm. Suing just to prove a point? Well, the neighbour was wrong, but the mom who is suing is playing the exact same game. It’s true that she tried the direct contact and that didn’t go well, so just let it be. Put it in the news to raise awareness, but suing? WHY? So the neighbour will suffer too? Who are helping? More lawyers who make us believe that we cannot talk with one another?

    Yes, this movement is fighting to make a change in society, and sometimes in a fight you have to use ‘force’ and sometimes it’s the legal system. But scaring back the people who wanted to scare the parent – seriously? What do you get out of it? Educate them. Explain that it IS safe. That it is important for the children’s emotional development. That we are all victims of the media making a buck by scaring the shit out of us. Get that neighbour on your side, or get others on your side by caring, teaching, reaching. Creating this mini-society which is pro-free-range and is happy to sue anyone who gets in our way – is the flip side of the same coin. Change the laws – yes. Lobby to change the way CPS are working, their guidelines, turn this service into a family and child friendly institute – make it into an establishment worthy of its name – definitely YES! But sue someone just to make a point? No. You won already, the cops are not after you. You’re making enemies who will fight you back.

  35. Kirsten October 14, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    All I can say is if it were me that woman better *never* run a red light, paint her shutters a wrong color (if there’s an HOA), let her lawn grow too long, let a dog bark too long outside, ever disturb the peace in any way, commit any minor fraction whatsoever or even *breathe* the wrong way because I would be reporting each and every instance.

  36. Dienne October 14, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    “That’s the problem with the “do nothing” approach. She can keep doing this over and over unless she’s stopped.”

    Um, no, that’s not true. You don’t think the police and CPS have mechanisms in place for dealing with crank/repeat callers? The police have already shown that they’re on the writer’s side. If the neighbor keeps calling, unless the police find a substantially different situation, it’s the neighbor who’s going to get in trouble.

  37. Vicki Bradley October 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    Decatur Resident: Kim has nothing to apologize for – only the overzealous, nosy, busybody neighbour does.

  38. SteveS October 14, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    I am. It licensed to practice in Georgia, but in my state, any lawsuit like this would be difficult. That being said, you have to start somewhere. I would speak to a Georgia attorney. Unlike some of the others, I don’t see a problem with a lawsuit. If this busybody had been willing to talk to them, I’d be willing to bet this person wouldn’t be considering legal action. Instead, she hires an attorney to draft a no contact letter, which seems like a fairly harsh response, given what we know.

  39. MichelleB October 14, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    Miriam — I can’t even begin to tell you how much I disagree with your solution. Sometimes — a lot of time time — people get upset about things that are NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. An older woman in a parking lot feels that my teenager should be wearing a coat. (And there was a 911 call listed in the local paper a couple of years ago about teenagers walking down a public street without coats.) Random strangers don’t get to dictate whether my kid feels cold. If a mom at playgroup doesn’t think my children should be allowed to drink Gatorade, does she get a vote in my parenting? Just because someone, even a grandparent, has an opinion, doesn’t mean that they should have any control over the decisions being made.

  40. pentamom October 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    “However, they do not somehow create an area of jurisdiction beyond which a mandated reporter may not report suspected child abuse. ”

    No, but neither do they give people “I was just doing what the law required” cover from being busybodies, when they are not within their area of responsibility. She can’t hide behind “mandated reporter” status as an excuse for the obnoxious interference with other people’s business that she committed, because she’s not a “mandated reporter” of everything and all the nothings that happen in her line of sight, wherever she might be.

  41. hineata October 14, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    I would suggest you all stop suing each other. Whoever came up with that solution to problems needs a good hiding with a wet fish. Next, the twit who rang the police should have walked to the edge of the school property (assuming she was the teacher on duty) and hollered out to see if anyone was at home and knew the kid was out and about (am not suggesting going right up to the house because that would be off school property and probably a violation of some sort for duty teachers ☺).

    Personally I don’t like to think about preschoolers unsupervised around creeks, drowning being an actual threat to kids. But this mum was watching, which could have been established if the teacher had hollered out. And what kind of teacher has a lawyer on tap? You must pay your teachers well.

  42. theresa October 14, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    Even though I dislike suing sometimes the only way to get their attention is to hit them in the wallet. Mom tried play nice and talk like an adult but this stranger doesn’t wish to. And if the cops are called 100 times they will forced to responed to it. If cps want to take the kids over this they can.

  43. Ila Wade October 14, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    If you file a law suit against her you are no better than she. Was is dumb for her to call cops, yes. File a law suit, ridiculous

  44. Richard October 14, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    Pentagon, the reporter does not need cover. If there is no cause of action, there is no basis to sue no matter how much we disagree with her decision to report her observations to law enforcement.

  45. Richard October 14, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    Pentamom, darn auto correct.

  46. Buffy October 14, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

    “Yes, but if that child told me her address and pointed to her house I would maybe walk over there and make sure that Mom knew where her kid was.”

    Why? Was the kid in trouble? Was she in danger? Was she drowning squirrels? If a kid is able to recite her address and point to her nearby house, and not doing anything unacceptable, why would you even need to confront the mother? She. is. playing. Leave her alone.

  47. Donald Christensen October 14, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    I agree with Deinne.

    Don’t file a lawsuit. Although I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing the ‘egg on the face’ of the teacher, I urge you not to commit the same sin.

    Egg on the face, and humiliation is becoming a very possible outcome and all busybodies will start to think twice. THIS IS POWERFUL! Please don’t start a lawsuit tug of war. The pendulum is the problem. It was too far to the extreme. Now it’s swinging back. However we need to be careful of it swinging too far to the other extreme.

    Patients is needed. (OMG did I just say that?) The pendulum IS swinging back. We don’t need to start committing the same sin. The desire for retaliation and ‘to get even’ is similar to the busybodies desire to feel holier than though.

  48. pentamom October 14, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

    Richard, I agree. But a lawsuit isn’t the only thing people try to protect themselves from — being proven objectively wrong and humiliated is also something people will try to cover for, too. I’m just saying that it sounds like she’s trying to hide behind her inappropriate action with the “mandated reporter” thing, either because she doesn’t understand what that means herself, or she’s trying to pull the wool over the mom’s eyes to make what she did sound acceptable because she “had” to.

  49. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    Filing a defamation suit is definitely a waste of time that is almost certain to backfire and cause more aggravation to Kim.

    First off, Kim is going to lose the lawsuit, probably immediately after it is filed, because one of the elements which must be alleged and proven in a defamation case is actual economic damages, and another one is that the statement must be false. “I see kids playing alone” can’t be defamatory if the kids are, in fact, playing alone.

    OK, so maybe the lawsuit works by some of the collateral effects of lawsuits… tying up time and costing money. Again, probably not. According to the story above, this other lady ALREADY went to a lawyer to have a “cease and desist” letter written (which suggests that Kim may have been… forceful… in making her opinion known). Both live in a well-to-do neighborhood, so the expense of hiring a lawyer isn’t an obstacle for her, and pushing the issue to lawyers has the very probable effect of pushing it into “but it’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing!” category for both sides. When that happens, both sides lose (except for their lawyers, of course.. they do just fine.)

    I am not a lawyer. But whoever IS her lawyer should be actively counseling against pursuing this as a legal matter..

  50. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    “Sometimes called a restraining order or a no-contact order – I imagine it would be a nice forceful assertion that the busybody was out of line if a judge formally ordered her not to do that again.”

    In order to get a protective order, you have to go in front of a judge and explain why you feel that there is a threat of violence that is likely to occur any time the two parties interact.

    Saying “but she keeps saying mean things about me” is not going to get you a protective order, unless you know the judge.

  51. Richard October 14, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    There’s a good chance the letter was written by a friend who is an attorney, or by the school district’s attorneys. It is also quite possible that the school district would provide the legal defense, as it appears there may well be a reasonable argument that she was acting in the course and scope of her employment. That would also bring what appears to be a strong immunity for school employees in Georgia into play.

  52. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    “Personally, if I could afford the legal fees, and the time, I would proceed with the lawsuit.”

    You probably can. From the facts described above, the result of filing a lawsuit would be seeing it dismissed immediately for whatever the state equivalent of the federal 12(b)(6) motion is. Basically, even assuming all the facts in the plaintiff’s favor doesn’t result in a proper cause of action. Sometimes a court takes pity on the plaintiff, and allows them to amend their complaint to provide allegations that form a complete cause of action. Sometimes they don’t (and sometimes it isn’t up to the court, there may be statutory requirements to allow amended complaints.)

    Ultimately, however, there just isn’t a legal case here. More correctly, there *is* one, but Kim doesn’t have standing to pursue it, as she is not the wronged party.. That would be a matter for criminal court, and there’s approximately 0 chances in a million that a prosecutor will go after them, unless this is like a 12th offense.

  53. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

    “once the other woman brought in an attorney to the mix the only way for the poster to communicate with her is through counsel.”

    No, this is not true. It IS true that a lawyer hired to represent Kim (or otherwise acting in a professional role related to this matter) may ethically only communicate to the other lady by contacting her lawyer, if she is represented. But that’s an ethical rule for lawyers, not a law for everyone.

  54. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    ” Mom tried play nice and talk like an adult”
    This may not be true.

    “And if the cops are called 100 times they will forced to responed to it.”
    Yes, and if the cops are called 100 times the caller will regret the police response they get.

    “If cps want to take the kids over this they can.”
    If so, this is a VERY strong argument to leave Georgia and move to a civilized country.

  55. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    “All I can say is if it were me that woman better *never* run a red light, paint her shutters a wrong color (if there’s an HOA), let her lawn grow too long, let a dog bark too long outside, ever disturb the peace in any way, commit any minor fraction whatsoever or even *breathe* the wrong way because I would be reporting each and every instance.”

    The way things appear to be going, this is likely true for BOTH women. There’s a feud brewin’.

  56. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    “Unlike some of the others, I don’t see a problem with a lawsuit.”
    You said it would be “difficult”; I think “impossible”. What cause of action are you seeing here?

    “If this busybody had been willing to talk to them, I’d be willing to bet this person wouldn’t be considering legal action. Instead, she hires an attorney to draft a no contact letter, which seems like a fairly harsh response, given what we know.”

    Your interpretation (I’m guessing here) is that Kim is hot under the collar BECAUSE this other lady didn’t just apologize, or offer any justification for her actions, but rather referred the matter to an attorney (whether she has one handy, got an attorney friend to dash off a letter, or has access to an attorney in some other mechanism.)
    My interpretation is that she was likely hot under the collar BEFORE contacting Ms. Busybody, and Ms. Busybody escalated to a lawyer, in part at least, because of that.
    Kim knows the answer, I’m sure, but probably isn’t going to tell ME, because I don’t immediately jump to her side. Yes, I think reporting kids playing “alone” to DCFS and/or police was probably excessive. My advice is “get over it”… not because it was right, but because fighting over it serves no purpose and no one, and is likely to make things get worse.

  57. James Pollock October 14, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    and… that’s enough all in a row from me. Anyone else?

  58. Amy October 14, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

    So. .. Let me get this straight. You want us to donate money so you can sue and win?? What would you do with the money?? She probly has no money…really!!?? Go back outside and play! I! This is a waste of time and taxpayers money!!

    Yes this is redicioulous, but really. Let the cops do their job, and they want to go after her let them!!! Not you. This is a waste of time. You’ll take the money and buy a trip and do some stuff in the house. This is opsourde and a complete waste of time.

  59. Amy October 14, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

    PLEASE. PLEASE!!! DO NOT DONATE ANY MONEY TO THIS FAIMLY!!! IF YOU RELLY!!! REALLY!! NEED TO BURN MONEY IN YOUR POCKET. DONATE THE MONEY TO THE LOCAL POLICE DEPARARTMENT OF DONATE YOUR TIME TO A FAIMLY IN NEED IN YOUR COMMUNITY.!!!

  60. Dee October 14, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

    On my college alumni parents discussion board, we had an extensive back and forth about a grandparent leaving a baby in a car for 10 minutes. The alum in question saw the grandmother do it and sat in her car watching. At 9 minutes the baby started crying and at 10 minutes the grandma returned. The alum was stressed and almost called the police (was going to do so at 10 minutes).

    Many fellow alumni responded that as “mandatory reporters” they would have to have reported the incidence. I was fairly shocked by this. I get mandatory reporters – teachers, daycare workers. social workers, etc. who come in regular contact w/ kids. But I don’t see how as an average person on the street they would or should be “on duty” with regards to that as the woman in the story is.

    Sigh. We’ve just gone crazy. Someone in my n’hood reported on our n’hood message board a dog left in a car. Seems the owner returned in 5 minutes from our local small grocery. The respondents went ballistic about how she should be strung up and quartered (well, practically). I get safety, but our no limits safety is out. of. control.

  61. Dee October 14, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Reading the comments, I’m quite confused. No where does it say this woman is filing a lawsuit. It does say that the National Association of Parents would help with one. But it does not say she’s doing so. It says she supported that association.

  62. Richard October 14, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    Dee, she does say “we’re hoping to file a lawsuit against her.” I think many of us were responding to that in light of that ongoing issue–what to do when people report legitimate parenting choices to authorities.

  63. Richard Merlini October 14, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

    I’ll be making a donation. This is ridiculous. And may I ask…is this person new to our community?
    I am getting increasingly worried about the way things are changing and the lack of understanding about how we operate around here in terms of trust and consideration of our neighbors and fellow community nembers. In other words, “What the Heck?”

  64. Richard October 14, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

    One of the odd things about this to me is that the officers disclosed who the reporter was. There are statutes in most states protecting the identity if those making such a report. In my state such disclosure would be a crime in the absence of a valid court order.

  65. HW October 14, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    I love that the consensus here is “Be an adult. Go talk to her or don’t, but don’t bog down our legal system because she annoyed you.” Right on, commenters, and I agree. Gossip about her. Don’t sue her.

  66. Julie507 October 14, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

    Were there students outside at recess whom the teacher was supervising? Maybe doing playground duty or gym class ? If so the teacher may have felt that a preschool neighbor was being fobbed off on her to supervise

    If this was her thought her reporting isn’t a surprise. If she noticed the child’s mom engaging with the tree crew, and not watching her child, the teacher’s frustration may have spiked.

    In this case suing the teacher is a bad idea.

  67. Troutwaxer October 15, 2016 at 12:24 am #

    Don’t sue. There will come a time when you can make your point in a much less risky fashion. If nothing else, tell the story around the neighborhood, but only when appropriate. Find a way to make it funny. Practice in front of a mirror so you control your presentation and you don’t look angry or crazy, just a little amused and condescending.

    “Oh, her? Meh. She’s my wacky neighbor who snoops on the kids. Did I ever tell you what she did?”

    And don’t EVER be a bore or a boor about it.

  68. sexhysteria October 15, 2016 at 2:34 am #

    The teacher’s report was hysterical, so her teaching license should be taken away from her.

  69. Katie G October 15, 2016 at 6:32 am #

    @Pete-
    You made me laugh at using “Donald Q Duck” as your imaginary signature. I always use “Karl LaFong” (from an old WC Fields movie) and “Eleanor Rigby” as my imaginary example names, because, as you apparently agree, “John Doe” and “Jane Smith” are boring names!

  70. Njteacher October 15, 2016 at 8:04 am #

    I’m a teacher. I have taught almost 1000 students, and I have reported to child protective services 2 times, after heavy contemplation, and asking advice from my peers. I believe that this teacher’s actions were wrong, but I do understand her actions, somewhat. You need to put into context, what it is like to be a teacher in today’s society. We are trained on school shooting procedures. We are forced to watch videos of students being mowed down by a gun, knife, machete etc. if we don’t follow procedures. New procedures have been put in place where we report cars that have passed by the field, at recess, more than once. It’s ridiculous. And it’s creating a climate of fear and hyper-vigilance. This climate affects different teachers in different ways. I, personally, know that a child being dropped off at school, has an exponentially higher risk of being killed in a car accident, than in a school shooting. It is my opinion, that if a school shooting were to occur, our procedures have a 50-50 chance of being effective. But big security companies are making a mint through fear-mongering… and it does affect teachers.
    We are shown pictures of new sex offenders (and what cars they drive) that move into the neighborhoods of our schools…
    Right now, it is a reporting culture. It is a helicopter parenting culture, it is a micromanaging culture, and it sucks.
    What this teacher did was wrong. But I understand what led to it. Don’t sue her. A note to her principal would affect her more than a lawsuit.
    A lawsuit has the potential of NEGATIVELY affecting the free-range kids community.

    Also, someone said that the pendulum is swinging back. I see a lot of parents and I disagree. I think it is getting much, much worse by the day. I also think it will have a drastic effect on our country, as these helicoptered children grow up and take over the running of this country. I’ve researched the educational systems in Finland, which,11 years ago, was ranked lower than the USA (we were in the 45-50th percentile last I checked) and now Finland is the highest ranked country in the world. The autonomy they give their teachers AND students is astounding.

  71. Avid Lurker October 15, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Amy, as I read it, the NPA was asking for donations, NOT the Mom in Decatur

  72. Eryn October 15, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    I think suing this woman for hurting your feelings is a bad idea. If you have money you don’t want anymore, there are better ways to spend it than a frivolous lawsuit.

  73. lollipoplover October 15, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Haven’t read the through the comments yet, but my best advise is to stop.Take a breath. Don’t react with emails and lawyers, be an example to your kids of what being neighborly and civil to our neighbors looks like (not this), even the assholes.

    Walk over or make a phone call. Bring the kids. Maybe have them bring some offering (muffins or cookies?). Why can’t we resolve these small conflicts personally before they escalate?
    Finding out the other person’s point of view first gives so much more insight as to why they made the phone call. Yes, children have a right to play in backyards and at parks. Yes, she was wrong to call the police and perhaps it was spiteful. But working it out one on one (and with your daughter) to resolve locally is so much more effective than lawsuits and email chains and will show your daughter that her rights are important and you will fight for them but also understand that the way to win over the busybodies is with understanding and a bit of kindness instead of litigation..

  74. HW October 15, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    Richard
    Totally. The cornerstone of the CPS reporting system is that it is anonymous. I can’t imagine why the police officer told her the name.

  75. BL October 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    “I think suing this woman for hurting your feelings is a bad idea.”

    Calling the cops and CPS = hurting your feelings?

    No. Just no.

    Calling CPS is an attempt to have children forcibly removed from their parents.

  76. Brenda October 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    I feel she may have overreacted, but then I think you are overreacting. If in her mind she felt it was abuse then she did what she felt was necessary. I’m not saying it’s right, everyone is different. It’s not our job to decide if something was abuse, she reported it to the investigative authorities, they felt it was unfounded. Case over.

  77. James Pollock October 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    “Calling CPS is an attempt to have children forcibly removed from their parents.”
    Factually incorrect.

  78. Dave October 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    I agree that suing would be counter-productive and unlikely to succeed. Update the police on her (lawyer’s) response to your attempt to establish communication, and go back to life as usual. Assuming the police department informed her that no laws were broken, she may decide to leave you alone. If she does it again, however, you might have grounds for a harassment suit.

  79. Free Range Kim October 15, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    Thank you all for all the replies. I’ve withheld commenting for a while, but our whole purpose in reaching out to freerangekids.com was in search of feedback during a very difficult time for our family. We had no idea what to do, what our rights were, if we were terrible parents etc. We felt very comforted by the feedback received after this post was written by Lenore. We found this site to be a wealth of knowledge and support. We are not going to be filing any lawsuits against the woman-our goal is to “go high when she went low”. We simply would like to raise awareness that parenting is such a hard job, and we all do it very differently, there are no right and wrong ways, and the kind of community we want is one that supports us no matter what our philosophy.

  80. Kirsten October 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    @lollipoplover She can’t call or walk over (even with muffins) because she got a letter from the woman’s lawyer requesting she not contact her.

  81. Muriel Hykes October 15, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    The neighbor already escalated by cutting off communication. They winning strategy is to let your opponent know that you are willing to escalate in response. Sue her for harassment.

  82. lrh October 16, 2016 at 12:08 am #

    I am very disappointed at most of the comments I’ve read. Why should the lady have to just take this and “be an adult? ” The busybodies of the world don’t need our love and neighborly response, they need to be sent to hell on a shutter. They’re meddling around in our business interfering in our parental authority, calling people who can set in motion processes by which one’s children can be basically legally kidnapped, all because they think they have the right to tell us how to parent OUR kids.

    They need to be sent the message–back off, or we’ll totally destroy you thoroughly. We didn’t ask for your advice, we don’t want it, and we are absolutely ENTITLED to raise our children our way totally 100% free from any form of interfere or harassment. Period.

  83. James Pollock October 16, 2016 at 2:03 am #

    “She can’t call or walk over (even with muffins) because she got a letter from the woman’s lawyer requesting she not contact her.”

    That’s all it is, a request. It’s not at all like a court order.

  84. James Pollock October 16, 2016 at 2:24 am #

    “Why should the lady have to just take this and “be an adult?”
    Acting like an adult is what adults do. At least one of the adults in this conflict should do it. Throwing a big public tantrum is not what adults do.

    “They need to be sent the message–back off”
    That message has been sent. How does throwing a tantrum help anyone get what they want? When you see a child throwing a tantrum in public, do you side with the child, or the parent? Well, guess what happens when an adult throws a tantrum in public…

    “or we’ll totally destroy you thoroughly”
    That’s not on the menu. “or we’ll totally inconvenience you slightly” is all you get by filing a B. S. lawsuit against someone who can afford the lawyer to file the “the lawsuit is B.S.” papers at the courthouse.

    “we are absolutely ENTITLED to raise our children our way totally 100% free from any form of interfere or harassment.”
    Actually, you are not. Try suggesting to the nice policemen that your way of raising children involves sexual activity or ritual cannibalism with a straight face, and see how quickly your way of raising children is interfered with and how much harassment you endure. Also, adults may decide not to seek medical care for illnesses or conditions that are readily treatable, but they may not make this decision for their children. Use of physical conditioning may be limited, as well, in ways that in the past would not have been; switching of children to correct their behavior is now frowned upon in the law-enforcement community. And, yes, leaving your children unsupervised in a place and time that is dangerous for them is grounds for interference.

  85. James Pollock October 16, 2016 at 2:28 am #

    “The neighbor already escalated by cutting off communication. They winning strategy is to let your opponent know that you are willing to escalate in response.”

    … leave her favorite horse’s head in her bed.

    … set her house on fire.

    … send her an explosive device in the mail.

    … cut the brake lines on her car.

  86. Richard October 16, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    lrh, I don’t think you understand what would happen if she filed a lawsuit. First, the school would send it to their attorneys to provide the employee with a defense. If it came to my firm, we would first have a laugh (within the office) at the idiot attorney who doesn’t understand immunity and filed it. Then, I would hand it over to a first year associate to contact the teacher and assure her it is nonsense and draft a strong letter educating the attorney on the applicable law. If that didn’t result in a dismissal, that first year associate would then draft a demurrer or motion to dismiss and request sanctions. Given the clarity of the immunity, we would end up with a judgment against the plaintiff for our fees and any costs. The defendant reporter may well conclude that this legal victory affirmed her original action (rather than it simply being a matter of legal immunity from liability.)

    I am not minimizing the potential harm caused when people respond to different parenting decisions by calling CPS or the distress that this may well have caused here. But lawsuits which lack legal merit won’t change things. In this situation the only result would probably be debt and substantial discipline for the officer who identified the reporting party.

  87. Workshop October 16, 2016 at 2:45 am #

    Don’t sue. But . . . .
    A conversation with her boss about what the responsibility of a man dated reporter seems particularly appropriate. It may not be possible, but it would tweek her just enough.
    Also, send the wacky neighbor a Chirstmas card of your child doing something “dangerous.”
    Heck, I’d bake a batch of cookies and deliver them. Sure they’re not going to be eaten, but that’s not the point. Sometimes you’ve got to ‘kill ’em with kindness.’ Make it a point to wave and say “hi” every time you see her.

    You have a crazy, small-minded neighbor who doesn’t have anything better to do. That’s not worthy of being sued, that’s just sad.

  88. BL October 16, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    @Free Range Kim
    ” We are not going to be filing any lawsuits against the woman-our goal is to “go high when she went low”. We simply would like to raise awareness that parenting is such a hard job, and we all do it very differently, there are no right and wrong ways, and the kind of community we want is one that supports us no matter what our philosophy.”

    Are you comfortable sending your kids out to play as before? I wouldn’t be surprised if this woman called again, and might get a worse result (for you) if she reports using different words, or get different cops to show up.

    From what the legal beagles on this site are saying, a lawsuit is unlikely to be successful. But if I were you I’d still discuss legal options with the National Association of Parents, or somebody. It’s just too likely that ignoring this woman isn’t going to make her go away.

    @James Pollock
    “… leave her favorite horse’s head in her bed.

    … set her house on fire.

    … send her an explosive device in the mail.

    … cut the brake lines on her car.”

    I would think a flaming bag of dog-poop would be sufficient for starters.

    (Just kidding, Free Range Kim! Kidding about the dog-poop, not about contacting NAP.)

  89. lollipoplover October 16, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    @kiersten- “She can’t call or walk over (even with muffins) because she got a letter from the woman’s lawyer requesting she not contact her.”

    Just a suggestion. Maybe the teacher and the principal can meet with the mom to discuss and resolve the incident. Bringing goodies as a peace offering certainly can’t hurt…and getting to know the administration of your neighborhood school on a personal level, especially if one of their employees called the police on you and your children, is important. Schools, in general, want to maintain good relationships with neighboring homes and businesses.

    Not trying to take a pollyana approach to this, but when we first moved to our neighborhood 15 years ago, we got a NASTY anonymous note in our mailbox from a neighbor threatening to call the police on us for violating a noise ordinance. We were outraged…we had not done what they accused us of doing and the way they made it sound was so offensive. After asking around, we realized it was our next -door neighbors, an older, curmudgeon no-kids (think Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace). Great. Welcome to the neighborhood (not!).

    But we obeyed their request and tried to make peace. We got to know them and they got to know our kids. They throw balls back over our fence and don’t mind that all of the kids run through their yard playing manhunt and other games. He’s given my son old tools he no longer uses, shared his love of classic cars, and surprisingly, given our very horrible start, we consider them friends.

    This summer, his wife underwent treatment for cancer and he had medical problems and back surgery. My son volunteered to mow his lawn, knowing he was too ill, without us asking. He did it for most of the summer and this neighbor graciously paid him with gift cards. What started as a busybody who had no right to make false accusations bloomed into something completely different.

    We do need to educate busybodies who are too trigger happy calling the police on our children playing! But it’s so much easier to start the discussion with the positive impact of raising GOOD kids and how they can help us parents (not by calling police) and making parents approachable, not hostile, for open communication on minor issues that can and should be resolved on a personal level. Teach your children well. Teach them conflict resolution (and how to bake a mean cookie).

    Everything is better and easier when you bring warm cookies.
    Trust me.

  90. Chicago Mom October 16, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

    Perhaps this “teacher/mandated reporter” should be publically named. I am certain the parents who send their children to be taught by this mentally ill woman would think twice about it. I also suggest a letter writting campaign to the school that employs this nut job.

    It is very likely she is protected from legal actions by well meaning yet misguided laws.

    However, nothing works quite as well as reinforcing community standards than social pressure. She will think twice if she is known around town as “that crazy lady who called the cops on a kid at the park”. It will also discourage other desperate attention seekers from attacking normal families.

  91. Richard October 16, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    Chicago Mom, characterizing the reporter as “mentally ill” and mounting some kind of public vendetta is more likely to be seen as evidence that the parent is someone who can’t be trusted with children rather than the other way round. The thrust of the reporting laws and immunities is that the determination as to whether official action is required is best made by those to whom the reports are being made. It is those people who need to be educated and convinced, not the random caller to a child abuse hotline.

  92. Matthew Gliktch October 16, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    “One of the odd things about this to me is that the officers disclosed who the reporter was. There are statutes in most states protecting the identity if those making such a report. In my state such disclosure would be a crime in the absence of a valid court order.”
    – Richard, October 14, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    This was my thought also. The only person in this situation who’s done something ‘wrong’ is the officer by disclosing the identity of the reporter. Kim should simply have been able to respond to the complaint, via the authorities, by pointing out that there was no danger involved, and that would be that. None of this angst about her neighbour or suing etc etc, no need for any attorney letters, none of it.

    I can put myself in the shoes of the teacher, and understand that if I reported some yelling next door to the authorities, for fear of domestic violence or such, I would be quite perturbed and even irate if the attending copper told them it was me who reported. There is an understood (in some cases legally protected) anonymity for such situations, which is necessary to prevent a chilling effect against legitimate reporting.

    Even if my report was completely unfruitful, even if my neighbours turned out to be enacting a play or something, I would still want my complaint to remain anonymous. I can somewhat understand a knee-jerk reaction of putting in place a no-contact letter for fear of harassment – some neighbours are just crazy! She may also have had a terrible experience in the past.

    “On my college alumni parents discussion board, we had an extensive back and forth about a grandparent leaving a baby in a car for 10 minutes.”
    – Dee, October 14, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Well, there’s a reason this site is ‘Free Range Kids’ and not ‘Free Range Babies’. And do you realise how many cars get stolen every day? Leaving your baby unattended and unsupervised in a public space, in a theft-magnet, is not on the same level as letting your kid play supervised in an ‘extended backyard’ (even if that backyard contains some hazards).

    “Be an adult … Gossip about her.”
    – HW, October 14, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Well those two suggestions sure don’t belong together.

    “Walk over or make a phone call. Bring the kids. Maybe have them bring some offering (muffins or cookies?). Why can’t we resolve these small conflicts personally before they escalate?”
    – lollipoplover, October 15, 2016 at 9:18 am

    I would generally agree, though really, this should happen *before* there’s any kind of conflict brewing. My partner and I have been in our current place for over a year now, and only met two of our neighbours in that time (there are more than 100 in this building complex, though thankfully it’s very quiet, well-maintained and we love being here). I’m committing to meeting at least another dozen by the end of next month – likely with brownies in hand! 😉

    “Yes, children have a right to play in backyards and at parks.”

    Absolutely!! I would still report a toddler playing apparently unsupervised around a creek, however.

    Kim, did you see when the teacher talked to your child? If not, I would suggest that your idea of ‘supervised’ may differ from other people’s. If yes, I imagine a brief wave when you saw your child point you out would have made all the difference.

    I can’t help feeling that there would be so, SO much less anxiety, stress and lawyering-up involved here (in this situation and the ensuing comments), if CPS did not legitimately scare people so.

    That is the real problem here – that loving, caring, responsible parents have to fear their government. The government should only be intervening when parents demonstrably put their children in real danger (like by eschewing medical care in favour of ‘wishing real hard’), or cause them harm directly.

  93. James Pollock October 16, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    “Are you comfortable sending your kids out to play as before? I wouldn’t be surprised if this woman called again, and might get a worse result (for you) if she reports using different words, or get different cops to show up.”

    Much more likely is that police and child-welfare officers recognize a neighborhood feud and treat the complaints accordingly.

  94. James Pollock October 16, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    “I can’t help feeling that there would be so, SO much less anxiety, stress and lawyering-up involved here (in this situation and the ensuing comments), if CPS did not legitimately scare people so.”

    Fear of having CPS take your kids away, in the U.S. at least, is not rational, if you are not factually negligent and/or abusive.

  95. Jennifer October 16, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    I believe that the call to CPS and the call to the police were two separate events? (based on the OP) In that case I’m not aware that one has the right to anonymity on a 911 call…. in fact I think you very specifically *don’t* have that right in the vast majority of circumstances. If the neighbor had confined her call just to CPS then the police may have made in error in disclosing her identity.

  96. Donna October 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    “One of the odd things about this to me is that the officers disclosed who the reporter was. There are statutes in most states protecting the identity if those making such a report. In my state such disclosure would be a crime in the absence of a valid court order.”

    Wrong.

    Reports to DFCS (Georgia CPS) are confidential. Their identity is occasionally revealed in situations when their testimony is needed to prove a case for removal or termination of parental rights in court, but otherwise their identity is protected.

    Reports to the police are a completely different animal. There is no requirement of confidentiality. In fact, the right to confront your accusers calls for the opposite. People can make a report anonymously, and there are ways for your identity to be kept confidential, but if you give your name, it is likely going to be in the police report. And police reports are a matter of public record. Anyone can get them through a Freedom of Information Act request.

  97. Richard October 16, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    Donna, that is interesting. In my state the protection for reporting parties is broader and applies to reports to CPS or law enforcement. The public records provisions don’t generally apply to investigative reports, and the name of a child abuse reporter is not contained in the report anyway. Instead, it is contained in a confidential addendum that has a greater protection against disclosure. While the investigative report may contain information regarding an interview with a reporting party, and that person’s identity, it won’t identify him as the reporting party. The same is true for the CPS investigative information turned over to parents in dependency proceedings. Only if the court determines that a criminal defendant’s (or parent in a dependency proceeding) due process rights would be prejudiced in the absence of that information will it order disclosure.

  98. lollipoplover October 16, 2016 at 7:15 pm #

    “I would still report a toddler playing apparently unsupervised around a creek, however.”

    A 4 1/2 year-old is not a toddler. They would be considered pre-kindergarten. Many kids this age are quite good at following direction (“Don’t go near the creek”) and some can even read. A wide variety of maturity levels at this age, but definitely not toddlers.

    “I would suggest that your idea of ‘supervised’ may differ from other people’s.”

    My kids played in our fenced-in yard, indirectly supervised while mom was looking out a window, for most of their early childhood (even as toddlers). Our dogs alerted us if anyone even came near the yard. My oldest is still extremely outdoorsy and very active- he wants to go to college and study environmental science. Having him stay inside and ‘supervised’ would truly be more abusive than allowing him the freedom of outdoor time with indirect supervision. What other people consider supervised does not concern me. They don’t know my child.

  99. mer October 17, 2016 at 6:14 am #

    4-5 years old playing in a creek is a problem; heck my parents would still be in jail if that was the attitude when I was that age.
    Nothing better for a boy to be in the woods, with a creek.

    Unless I missed it in the OP, the first contact from the mom (Kim) to the mandated reporter (as suggested by Law Enforcement) resulted in a letter from an attorney saying “stop contacting me”? In “upper middle class”-land that sounds like a pretty big FU to the mom.

  100. SteveS October 17, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    I am not a lawyer. But whoever IS her lawyer should be actively counseling against pursuing this as a legal matter..

    For someone who is not a lawyer, you sure dispense a lot of legal advice and claim to know a lot about law in this state. I take it from some of your other comments, you don’t live in this state, so why are you saying that a lawsuit would be dismissed. As is typical, you don’t know what you are talking about, but want to appear that you do.

    Clearly, the neighbor was the one that took aggressive action by contacting the authorities in a situation where it does not appear it was necessary. This could have likely been resolved at this point by a face to face meeting with an apology or some kind of resolution, but the neighbor decided against this. Her attorney should have suggested some kind of meeting, possibly at their office, instead of sending a no contact letter.

    Any decent lawyer should be working with her to achieve some kind of resolution and not jus simply telling her that a lawsuit won’t work. It may not be that she really wants to sue, but wants some kind of apology or some kind of assurance that she will mind her own business and not attempt to involve police or CPS in situations where it is not warranted.

  101. SteveS October 17, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    Fear of having CPS take your kids away, in the U.S. at least, is not rational, if you are not factually negligent and/or abusive.

    Are you really suggesting that innocent people never get punished or have something bad happen to them. I have had a number of clients that have actually had to undergo fairly lengthy periods without their children because of allegations that were subsequently found to be not true. This was not only traumatic for the children, but traumatic for the parent, and also very expensive and time consuming.

    I don’t think people should go through life afraid that CPS will take their kids, but if they are contacted in regards to your children, you better take it very seriously.

  102. SteveS October 17, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    Donna beat me to it. In most states, police reports contain the names and addresses of witnesses (though in DV cases, the address may be redacted) and these can be FOIAed.

  103. Donna October 17, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    “I take it from some of your other comments, you don’t live in this state, so why are you saying that a lawsuit would be dismissed.”

    I DO live and practice law in this state and I agree that a lawsuit would be dismissed or, at least should be under the law. Even if you could get passed the previously discussed immunity issue (which you likely can’t), the actions of reporter do not meet Georgia’s definition of slander in several ways.

    “Any decent lawyer should be working with her to achieve some kind of resolution”

    The situation is resolved. The reporter called the police. The authorities completely dismissed her. The incident is totally resolved in the mother’s favor from a legal standpoint. I am not sure how you further resolve something that you’ve already won.

    Any ethical lawyer should tell the mother exactly what was told to her — there is no viable lawsuit here. If she has plenty of money to burn, she can certainly pay the lawyer to try to get her an apology, but the reporter has already indicated that she is not even slightly inclined to give one and the mother has absolutely no ammunition whatsoever to try to force her into it (not that I see any purpose whatsoever in a completely insincere forced apology).

  104. Pediatrician October 17, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

    That is so ridiculous your neighbor couldn’t even walk over to talk to you! It’s great she cares about your kid’s well being, but that’s a bit much. That being said, as a pediatrician, I didn’t realize that my mandate to report is only on my proscribed territory. And maybe your neighbor didn’t realize it either.

    Regardless, I’m sorry that there’s been a clash in your neighborhood. Hopefully it can be repaired, because gold neighbors are a blessing.

  105. James Pollock October 18, 2016 at 4:22 am #

    “Are you really suggesting that innocent people never get punished or have something bad happen to them.”
    No. You quoted my words, and they are nothing like yours. Do you make a habit of intentionally twisting other people’s words in ways they obviously never intended, or is it just an occupational hazard?

    “I have had a number of clients that have actually had to undergo fairly lengthy periods without their children because of allegations that were subsequently found to be not true.”
    I’ll go you one better; I have personally had to undergo a period without my child because of allegations that were subsequently found to be not true. But then CPS investigated my case, found that they were not true, and the court reversed the temporary custody order, and ultimately ruled the way I wanted on permanent custody. At no point did I fear CPS… I *KNEW* the accusations were false, and that CPS would find they were false, and tell the judge they were false.

  106. James Pollock October 18, 2016 at 4:45 am #

    “For someone who is not a lawyer, you sure dispense a lot of legal advice and claim to know a lot about law in this state. I take it from some of your other comments, you don’t live in this state, so why are you saying that a lawsuit would be dismissed. As is typical, you don’t know what you are talking about, but want to appear that you do.”

    For someone who claims they IS a lawyer, you sure is short on details that support your claim. Is that because there ain’t any? I explained my conclusion(s), whereas you just make accusations. If I’m wrong, HOW am I wrong? If you see a valid legal claim here, what is it?

    “Her attorney should have suggested some kind of meeting, possibly at their office, instead of sending a no contact letter.”
    Here’s an example of why I doubt your professional competence. You have no idea what preceded the no-contact letter. I can think of several possible scenarios that fit with all the known facts and in which a no-contact letter was appropriate. (For example, and most likely, if Kim was openly hostile and threatening when first contacting the neighbor about this subject. I don’t know this to be the case, and said so the first time, but if you have evidence that says it’s not possible, please share it.)
    In any case, you’ve totally missed the forest because of the trees in the way… BOTH lawyers should be advising these people that the legal system is not well-suited to settling their dispute.

    You disagree with what I said: “I am not a lawyer. But whoever IS her lawyer should be actively counseling against pursuing this as a legal matter..”
    Let me guess, as her lawyer, you’d advise her to spend as much money as possible pursuing a legal theory, any legal theory, under which a lawsuit would get past early dismissal. After all, she SAID she’d be willing to pay even with very little chance of success. You’d advise her to go just a little bit further, and pay even with no chance at all of success…

  107. James Pollock October 18, 2016 at 5:02 am #

    “Clearly, the neighbor was the one that took aggressive action by contacting the authorities in a situation where it does not appear it was necessary.”

    I was taught in law school that sentences that start with the word “clearly” usually contain at least one incorrect assumption by the speaker.
    Here we have another reason to doubt your professional competence. A skilled and experienced lawyer should know better than to assume they have all the facts after hearing only one side of the dispute. You should run for a judgeship! Imagine the efficiency you’ll be able to display, with trials lasting only half as long!

  108. Claudia October 18, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    I thought the child was playing in the school playground, wouldn’t that make it the teacher’s territory? If it is your private property by all means your child should be allowed and entitled to play whenever her little heart desires, but if it’s the school’s playground and she’s there without adult supervision, most public playgrounds require adult supervission for children under a certain age, particularly school playgrounds, then she had every right to report it. Sorry folks, but we live in a society with rules.

  109. James Pollock October 18, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    “I thought the child was playing in the school playground, wouldn’t that make it the teacher’s territory?”

    The “teacher” is a neighbor, not, as far as we know, an employee of the local school.

  110. Donna October 19, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    “I thought the child was playing in the school playground, wouldn’t that make it the teacher’s territory?”

    Since the writer specifically brought up the fact that mandatory reporters are only required to report in their territory, it is safe to assume that the teacher was not at her own school or otherwise acting in her capacity as a teacher. It is not uncommon for teachers to live in one school district and work in another. Or work in one school while having children who attend another. Nor did the writer say that it was during school hours or on a school day. The clear implication from the letter is that the reporter was not “on the clock” at her own school when she called.

  111. jj October 19, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    if you wanna fight back, post her phone number or mailing address. some people clutch their pearls at this suggestion. well, we’re at war on this. yes, we are. so post contact info. or not, and let it happen time and time again.

  112. James Pollock October 20, 2016 at 3:01 am #

    “if you wanna fight back, post her phone number or mailing address. some people clutch their pearls at this suggestion. well, we’re at war on this. yes, we are. so post contact info. or not, and let it happen time and time again.”

    Stop, for just a teensy, tiny moment, and try to imagine what would happen, oh, about 15 minutes after the first phone call. I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with “nit nor nat”. There’s just no getting around it… if you want to be seen as the sane, responsible, adult in the conflict, you have to act sane, and responsible, like an adult. If you act like a child throwing a tantrum, people will treat you like a child throwing a tantrum. Hint: They rarely get their way.

  113. Juluho October 20, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    What kind of person is this? Talk to a child, call the police- mother contacts you, call a lawyer?
    Talk about the breakdown of the fabric of society. If you have to use surrogates to intervene I truly worry about your ability to be a teacher. How do parent teacher conferences go?
    Parent: “How are Tommy’s reading scores?”
    Teacher: “Welll….”
    Lawyer: “I’ve advised my client not to answer that question.”
    I mean honestly, teachers have to deal with ALL kinds of parents. Answering this mother’s questions after you’ve involved the police in potentially expensive and life shattering situation is just common decency.
    I’d be also very concerned about the teacher’s understanding of neglect/abuse and mandatory reporting given that she works with children!

  114. James Pollock October 20, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

    “I mean honestly, teachers have to deal with ALL kinds of parents.”
    Actually, they don’t. If parents are hostile or abusive, teachers don’t have to deal with them, and the administration will VERY quickly back the teacher.

    “Answering this mother’s questions after you’ve involved the police in potentially expensive and life shattering situation is just common decency.”
    Depends on how the questions were presented, and whether or not these two have a prior history.

    I have no direct information, but I would not be surprised if Kim’s relationship with this neighbor were strained even before this event, or if her initial response to the neighbor was hostile, accusatory, and possibly even threatening.