Outrage of the Week: “We LOVE Seeing Children Outside (But Not Under Age 16)”

Hi Readers — It’s summer! Time for kids to run around and ride their bikes and play like puppies till the moon shoos them home.

Unless, that is, they’re living in the Eagle Place Townhomes in Lafayette, Colorado. There, no children are allowed to play outside, unsupervised, until age 16.

That’s right. No kids. Outside. Without an adult. Period.

That’s the new, written rule at the 60-home development and can you guess the reason given? Of course you can! You can recite it in your sleep! Quoth the property manager: “We just want them to be safe.”

 This article, in Boulder’s paper, the Daily Camera, details the “ghost town” the development has become. Said one dad, “It feels like prison.” Another said he has received letters from the management company saying his 5 and 8 year old kids can’t ride their scooters OR play on the grass between units OR play on the property’s playground without an adult present. Before this new rule, up to 30 kids would get together and play.

 Playing on a playground? Imagine that.

Eagle Place management even forbid a 15-year-old from reading a book on his porch swing. Talk about proactive danger management. His 12-year-old sister babysits in the complex. Now she is forbidden to take her young wards outside to play.

The impetus for all this seems to be twofold: One, management says that children are vandalizing the property. And two, recently a child got his foot stuck in an air conditioning unit and his parents couldn’t be reached. Instead, 911 was called. For this reason, management wrote in a letter to the residents, “Each time we find a child unattended they will be instructed to go home until an adult can accompany them outside.”

(The letter also said, “Children bring such joy to our lives and we all love seeing them outside playing in their carefree world.” Then comes the “but.”)

As bizarre as all this sounds, it is not the first time I’ve heard of such draconian laws. Other parents at other developments are dealing with them, too – and I’m not talking about retiree developments that specifically want nothing to do with kids. I’m talking plain old, all-American neighborhoods.

What’s terrifying is that this is what “all-American” may become: Neighborhoods so safe – at least from law suits – that the kids are locked inside or shuttled from supervised activity to supervised activity.

Of course, that sounds a lot like what America is becoming even without bylaws like the ones at Eagle Place. So much for our soaring spirit of adventure. The Eagle has, indeed, landed. It’s inside, playing videogames and  eating a Fruit Roll-Up. – Lenore

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40 Responses to Outrage of the Week: “We LOVE Seeing Children Outside (But Not Under Age 16)”

  1. Erik Gunn August 6, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    The other day my wife heard something on NPR about gated senior communities that do not allow children at all except for short visits. Somehow I think there’s a connection here…

    I think the “for their own safety” is a red herring, as your own analysis indicates.

  2. Tom August 6, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    Gah!!!!! This makes me want to scream. Kid’s belong outside!

    I posted on this very topic a few weeks back

    Here: http://20prospect.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/silent-summer/

    What a sad commentary on our society.

  3. Kevin McGowan August 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    this is awful and I don’t believe the “for their safety” line for a second. This is the old “children should be seen and not heard” thing again only now with 98% less “seen”.

  4. Amy mingo August 6, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    And yet there is this public outcry over childhood obesity. Well, if you would let kids play outside like they are supposed to…

  5. Chris M August 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    Looks like they realized they were morons and reversed themselves.

    LAFAYETTE – The property management company for Eagle Place Townhomes is no longer requiring children be supervised by an adult when playing outside. They are now simply recommending that children be supervised whenever possible.

    http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=120805&catid=188

  6. Denise Schipani August 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    Sigh. I take my kids up to a cul-de-sac near us to ride bikes and play Bad Man Tag (whatever that is) with a pack of friends most nights, and hang out on the porch with the other adults. On this porch, I talk to new-ish neighbors, from Israel. The mom is incredulous that she’s somehow expected to out there watching her kids play. “Why is it like this here?” she asks me. I tell her it wasn’t so when I was a child, but she doesn’t believe me. I’m just thrilled that my kids have this court to play in. I can see the natural order of things: the older kids look out for the littler ones, and they all shout, “Car!” when a car pulls in or out. I’m just there for the company.

  7. Doug B. August 6, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    Clearly they believe their development is inherently unsafe, so why would anyone want to live there?

    Fine piece of marketing that is.

  8. Gabe August 6, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    Thanks for the update, Chris M! The company seems to have realized how bad of a PR move their restrictions were (and possibly illegal) and they back-peddled.

  9. silvermine August 6, 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    Wow. And here, I bristle at the idea of people telling me what color I can paint my house.

    Doug B. — seriously. Worst PR ever. 😀

  10. Rich Wilson August 6, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    So I think the problem was summed up well by Bruce Schneier: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/08/risk_intuition.html

    You and Bruce have a number of common readers. What Bruce points out is that the institution’s (Eagle Place) assessment of risk is different from the Residents’. Eagle Place doesn’t care if kids can play, they view kids as a risk to be managed.

    I think what is needed is to change the risk to Eagle Place. Maybe a lawsuit for violation of 1st amendment rights. Or instruct the kids to ignore that order, and wait for Eagle Place to try to enforce it.

    I’d call it civil disobedience, but that implies breaking a law, and kids going outside to play are not breaking any law.

  11. Alexicographer August 7, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    What a relief that the policy’s been dropped.

    I know that children are different from adults in important ways (even though the child — adult distinction is a continuum, not a clear binary divide!) and I have, in some of my comments on other posts on this blog, defended the idea of some institutions enforcing some age cutoffs (I don’t, for example, get riled that people younger than 16 cannot in my state get a driver’s license), i.e. discriminating against children.

    That said, imagine either of the following two policies:
    (a) A(n) [man in his 30s / devout Christian / Hispanic] got his foot stuck in an air conditioning unit the other day, so we will no longer allow [30-somethings / people of religious faith / Hispanics [etc.]] to walk around outside or
    (b) A [woman / golfer /Ph.D. candidate] was recently caught vandalizing property in this development, so we will no longer allow [women / golfers / graduate students] to walk around outside.

    Nutty, nutty stuff.

  12. wellcraftedtoo August 7, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    I agree with Eric G’s comment above–I smell a red herring too (a big one!). This policy screams ‘fear of litigation’, and has, I suspect, little to do with ‘protecting’ kids.

    It also raises some very interesting legal issues related to the civil liberties of kids and parents.

    What is the ‘management’ of this development going to do when they spot someone under the age of whatever outside? Call the police? “File charges”? Charges of what? On what grounds? What gives the management the right to control and limit the mobility of the people who live there? If it is a private development, they might have some rights to some limitations (eg No Loud Music Past 10pm), but I doubt any court would hold up restrictions like this. What might be next–“Women and girls cannot travel the grounds of the development without male companions because it is to dangerous”???

    Eeks. How l984-ish is this place!?

  13. AirborneVet August 7, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    I would have sold my place and moved out, or sued the complex to buy my house at current market value so that I can actually take my kids to a place that doesn’t discriminate against them.

  14. Ashley August 7, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Back in the late 80s/early 90s I lived in a luxury apartment complex with similar rules. I was about 6 and told I couldn’t ride my bike, roller skate, scoot, draw on the sidewalks, or play “organized games.” However this was ostensibly because they wanted to keep the tone of the area upscale and I guess children bring down property values?

    We broke every single one of those rules (and then some) and had no problems there.

  15. Kacey August 7, 2009 at 1:53 am #

    sounds like the HOA is going nuts, as usual, with “rules”. This one takes the cake

  16. Kelly August 7, 2009 at 4:58 am #

    Apparently it’s illegal:

    http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=120805&catid=188

  17. babelbabe August 7, 2009 at 5:29 am #

    what the hell were you supposed to do at this point? Sell your house and move somewhere your kids CAN play outside? Wow. Just wow. That they thought this was in any way, shape, or form acceptable. Wow.

  18. Taking a Chance on Baby August 7, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    Yet another thing I’ll have to read the fine print on when we buy a condo

  19. Dave August 7, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Who came up with the idea of gated communities anyway. The were created to keep out those kinds of people. Turns out when you hide behind walls for safety from others you give over your rights to live life as you want to others. If vandalism is the problem catch the perps. if a child has and accident and you have to call 911 I always thought that’s what it was there for.

    If you want to live so save that nothing can happen you will no longer be able to be free.

  20. MaeMae August 7, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    My first thought was that can’t be legal. I am so relieved to find out it wasn’t and that they have reversed the policy. I would never live in a development due to all the other restrictions but this one would have had me screaming at someone. I probably would have invited all my nieces and nephews and all our friends’ kids over to run around just to see what the develpoment owners would do. How ridiculous!

  21. Steven W. August 7, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    I am so dumbstruck by this kind of stupidity that I cannot fully put that the management would do something so idiotic.

  22. Kim August 7, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    And this kind of idiotic rule is exactly why, when my husband and I first started house hunting (before we became parents,) we both agreed that we would NEVER live in any community, housing development, or what-have-you that had a “homeowners association” sticking their collective noses into everyone’s business. This is just sad, and I am so relieved to hear that they have changed the rule.

  23. Randy August 7, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    (referring specifically to the fear of child injuries on property)

    This policy in particular is even dumber than usual. You don’t get any kind of liability protection by publishing a policy saying “children can’t play outside!” Can you even imagine going in front of a judge and saying, “Yes, Your Honor, we knew that kids have tripped on these air conditioning units, but we took care of that by banning children playing outside unsupervised?”

    Makes you wonder what kind of people are graduating with business degrees and running property management companies. Arg! Depressing.

  24. Carol August 7, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    This isn’t a law, its a homeowner’s association bogus RULE, which often – golly. A friend of mine lived in one that forbid trees taller than 6 ft, and clothesline. We were with Kim – no CCRs where we live. There are enough laws as it is, I don’t need some self appointed committee of snoops, and “building managers” butting into my business.

  25. Ashley August 7, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    Oh, as the former acting president of an HOA (I got on the board SOLELY to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid), a lot of HOAs don’t ahve the organization or might to actually back up any of the rules. Some of the more standard, less stupid, and obvious rules of mine are:

    *no parking cars in the driveway or on your lawn (I have at least 3 people on my block do this)
    *maintain grass and weeds below 8 in (2 on my block break this)
    *no clotheslines (2 on my block)
    *all fences and other structures must be approved by the board (they’re not legally able to enforce this, and not one home gets board approval before putting up a fence)
    *all fences must be completed within 30 days of beginning construction (one house has had fence posts, but not a fence, for over a year-we call it the “pole-ish house”)

    We even have one house, the aformentioned “pole-ish house” that has tall weeds, vegetables all over their front yard, unapproved fence posts, and a drying line. Nothing’s happened to them, or ever will. Ok, the previous president tried talking to them; it didn’t work.

    Not all HOAs are evil; mine was put in by the developers and when I got on the board 3 of the 7 members were anti-HOA. And the pro-HOA ones were so disorganized that we got NOTHING done. :) :) :)

  26. sue August 7, 2009 at 6:36 pm #

    Thoughts:

    *The management doesn’t want to be sued if a kid gets hurt or damages someone’s property (stupid to think mgt WOULD be sued under those circumstances, but we are a litigious society!)
    *Some grumpy old (or young!) fart doesn’t want those bratty, noisy kids running all over the place
    *Some nutty parent is worried that their kid is going to be kidnapped and is foisting their irrational fears on EVERYONE.

    And here I’ve been grateful that my kids have had a lazy summer reminiscent of those I had when I was a kid! Didn’t realize I should’ve been hovering over my 9- and 11-year-old for the past 2 months! 😉 Seriously, though, how can they learn to make choices if we continually do it for them? I’ll refer back to an article that was posted here several months ago, one that referenced a book called “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting,” by Hara Estroff Marano. What a wonderful read! I am almost finished with it (finally), and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to give their kids freedoms but is worried about “what will the neighbors think.” Gives you lots of good reasons to let your kids BE KIDS.

  27. Katie August 7, 2009 at 7:02 pm #

    Thank goodness this was rescinded.

  28. get orgaized August 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    It seems that age discrimination is common practice in this country and that the time has come to unite and say NO… stop oppressing our children and young people. This is straight up age discrimination and age oppression. Imagine if we said that “women” or “Black People” (or insert any other marginalized group) where vandalizing, therefore ALL women, blacks, etc, should be penalized. Just because some kids may vandalize, does not mean that all kids are vandals, or because one kid got his foot stuck that all kids are prone to similar situations. Kids are continually being discriminated against by age, and unless people who think it is wrong, take action, it’s going to keep happening. This post in one example… The library post about no one under 12 unsupervised at the library is another…
    Organize with your communities and help your community institutions (libraries, housing developments, public pools etc.) create policies that address specific issues without becoming blanket discrimination against kids and young people.

    Also, a book I highly recommend for anyone reading this sight:
    “Watch Yourself, Why Safer Isn’t Always Better” by Matt Hern Published by New Star books.

  29. Erik Gunn August 7, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    @Ashley: Don’t want to hijack the thread… just want to say in this day of growing concern about conserving power I hope your HOA drops the no-clothesline rule…

  30. madmonq August 7, 2009 at 11:55 pm #

    Just so you guys know, condo or community bylaws, apartment complex rules,are not enforceable by the police department.

    I’ve heard stories about people calling 911 to try and make the police enforce some stupid rule like the ones listed here. Kids playing outside shouldn’t attract police attention. That’s just f’in sick

  31. Snake Oil Baron August 7, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    It’s not just kids. Health and safety zealots will have us all hiding in dark padded rooms if given the chance.

    But with all the screaming, drooling and graffiti tagging nonsense we have to put up with from kids, why not just breed them in pods with VR hook ups like in the Matrix (only deep underground so the pods don’t mar the skyline). When they are able to keep a job in the virtual world we dump them out, dry them off and set them loose.

  32. saratoday August 8, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    I don’t understand – this can’t be legal.

  33. madmonq August 8, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    saratoday. If you are paying rent / dues to an entity (rental property/neighborhood association) then you are contracted in part to follow their rules, however bizarre they may be.

  34. Rich Wilson August 8, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    @madmong

    There are some things that, in a contract, are not binding. A contract cannot compel you to break the law, or take away your consitutional rights.

    The offending clause would certainly be struck down, and could potentially jeopardize the rest of the contract.

    My personal peeve is “no parking in your driveway”. Driveways are perfectly acceptable places for cars, so long as they don’t block the sidewalk. Garages are for bicycles :-)

  35. Michele August 8, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    Oh, let the children outside to play regardless of the “HOA” rules. What authority do they have to even make a statement like that? Certainly the police wouldn’t touch those complaints with a ten foot pole. Can you imagine:

    “911. What is your emergency?”

    Caller/Eagle Place Gestapo: “Yes, I’d like to report that there are children outside walking down the street alone and swinging on the tire swing at the park without adult supervision.”

    911: “I’m confused. Are these babies or toddlers unsupervised and walking in and out of oncoming traffic?”

    Gestapo: “No. They are kids outside playing freely. We need the police asap.

    911: click.

    Let those kids out to play darnit! Don’t worry, the law will not cometh!

  36. madmonq August 8, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    @Rich Wilson

    That’s why I tried to qualify it with “in part”. I sort of thought the unconstitutional stuff was self evident. Though it is true people, businesses, associations etc have been known to try. I just meant it could get hairy once someone signs a community covenant or similar contract.

    Many of those so called community bylaws etc are largely unenforceable, civil and otherwise. If someone doesn’t want to pay fines for “unconfined children” or something crazy like that it could takes months or years to crawl through the legal processes.

  37. Hoppy August 31, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    I grew up outside. I roamed. I lied about where I went on my bicycle. My friends and I produced plays using blankets as curtains and a neighbors basement as a stage. We climbed on the lumber piles in spite of the the risk to our safety. It was fun to dodge the lumberyard workers!

    We roller skated outside and took chances down steep driveways. We swung on ropes across the creek. We caught snakes, grossed out at leeches, build damns in the creek. We had to be home before the street lights came on…but we all came home to eat supper and went out again. We played on the sidewalks and streets in the early evening with our families on the front porches or in the front yards talking or visiting with neighbors.

    In summer, we planned our own 4th of July parade. In the fall, we had a wonderful Halloween party with parents in the background.

    The pick up games of baseball were only on the vacant lots where allowed–by the kids only in that neighboring area. Basketball was at friends homes where there were goals. And yes, if more than about 10 kids gathered, there were adults on the sidelines. Unofficially, one or two would gather just to monitor the activity.

    In a time without air conditioning and little televsion, our parents and neighbors had their windows open. Fathers and husbands came home at a regular time. The moms and wives performed their chores regularly. Our group of kids–all our parents knew one another and the expectations for us to watch out for our friends.

    Yes, I talked with strangers and attempted to walk with them, but there was someone home in all the houses along my little side street so I could not proceed without notice on any of the sidewalks. (There were sidewalks on both sides of the street!)

    Now, with our insulated homes, I crack open the windows of my house so that when my grandchildren are here, I can hear them.

    The times are not the same because of our “modern conveniences”, folks no longer at home during the day, the HVAC insulated home, the strive for privacy (not knowing your neighbors) and unknown traffic. I live in a very short cul-de-sac with only 7 small lots on each side of the street. Yet, dozens of vehicles drive up daily and have no business here–they turn around and leave!

    So I say there must be some reasonableness applied to “free range kids” because the circumstances are not the same. Where was an adult responsible for the child whose foot got stuck?!

    While I do not see that we need hovering parents, we do need responsible adults stepping up to “watch” so that children can confidently know that adults are available, if needed.

  38. KyohakuKeisanki January 24, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    @Hoppy (last comment): Very good advice. The whole “stranger danger” thing has worked both ways. The parents, afraid for their kids’ safety, don’t let the kids out. Also, the parents, afraid to be thought of as criminals, don’t do anything when a kid is in danger.

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  1. Top Posts « WordPress.com - August 7, 2009

    […] Outrage of the Week: “We LOVE Seeing Children Outside (But Not Under Age 16)” Hi Readers — It’s summer! Time for kids to run around and ride their bikes and play like puppies till the moon […] […]

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