Posted on May 22nd, 2013 by lskenazy
Folks, this guest post addresses a sentiment that really disturbs me — the “one child” idea that is used to justify everything from not allowing kids to walk to school to never letting folks who’ve served their time return to the community as anonymous citizens, same as anyone else. “Shelly Stow” is the pseudonym of a member of National Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. and of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice. This piece originally appeared in longer form at Corrections.com - L
If It Saves One Child by Shelly Stow
Almost everyone today has some idea of what the sex offender registry is, and most feel it is a good thing. The registry was originally created as a way for law enforcement (and only law enforcement) to help keep track of repeat, sexually violent child predators. But now it has the names of over 700,000 people on it whose “crimes” are as varied as consensual teen sex, taking and sending a photo of one’s own breasts, and rape. And even though experts and studies have denounced the list as ineffective, the battle cry of its supporters is still, “If it saves one child…!”
“If it saves one child….”
There is no evidence that the registry has done that at all. However, many, many thousands of children have had their lives made a living hell because of it. These are the children of parents on the registry. Some of those registered committed violent crimes, but many — even most — did not. And yet, all the people on the registry and their families are subject to the whims of local and state laws, including severe restrictions on where they may live. They can also find themselves not allowed to enter libraries, parks or beaches with their children. Some states will bar the registered parent from even being within a 1000 feet of the school his child attends.
Recently a woman took the picture of a registrant that she printed from the Internet and brought it to the school where the registrant’s 5-year-old son was in kindergarten. She showed it around, warning children about this man. His little boy ended up in tears.
Vigilantes have murdered registrants, leaving their children fatherless. The false perception is that everyone on the registry has committed a serious crime and that most, if not all, molested children. So if they have children of their own who are harmed, so what? It’s just collateral damage because the registry might—MIGHT—”save one child.”
“If it saves one child….” Children themselves are registrants on sex offender registries. Nine years old is apparently the youngest age at which children have been put on the registry (in Delaware and Michigan). Several states register children as sexual criminals at ages 10 and 11. Registered 12-year-olds aren’t even rarities. And a 15-year-old who is the child victim for having consensual sex with an 18-year-old becomes a predator and registered sex offender when his or her partner is 14! In Wisconsin last year a district attorney did everything he could, and bragged about it, to have a 6-year-old prosecuted and targeted for sex offender registration for “playing doctor.” Some of these children find escape only in suicide. The registry didn’t save any of them; it destroyed them.
“If it saves one child….” Children do need saving. According to the Justice Dept. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, many thousands are sexually abused and molested every year. But the registry is not the answer. Most children — about 95% — are abused and molested by their family members and acquaintances, by those they interact with. Keeping the focus on “strangers” on the registry turns us away from the bigger problem, even while taking away the resources to deal with it.
“If it saves one child” isn’t good enough. Thousands — no, hundreds of thousands — need saving from the registry. When and how and with what will we save them? — Shelly
Not all dots = child rapists.
Filed under: Creating Community, Miscellaneous, Sex Offender Issues | 66 Comments »
Posted on May 22nd, 2013 by lskenazy
Readers — I do believe the flyer below is real, from a pre-k in Philadelphia. And, for the record, I love when kids make up their own superheroes, not the ones cadged from the media. BUT even I got my witch persona (uh, that is, my childhood witch persona) from The Wizard of Oz.
I understand the school’s desire to keep kids from actually hurting each other. But why not stop THAT instead of telling kids what they are and aren’t allowed to play? – L.
As always “the safety and well being of your child is our first and foremost concern.” NOT the exuberance and development of your child. Just the safety. – L.
Filed under: Miscellaneous, School and Zero Tolerance and Bullies | 53 Comments »
Posted on May 21st, 2013 by lskenazy
Readers — Is there anyone in any position of authority who EVER says, “Well, the chances are not 100% that your kid will be safe if you do X, but they’re close enough not to worry about them”? If not, maybe that should be my next job: Ask the Free-Ranger. In the meantime, I present what passes for wisdom and rationality in modern day America. Sigh. – L.
P.S. Not even getting INTO the idea that the babysitter is sometimes a college guy and she’s 14…
This might sound like a crazy question, but at what age do you think a 14-year-old student should be allowed to stay home alone? I am an only child who is going into 10th grade (I turn 15 over the summer), and my parents are still married. I know that is a miracle, because at least 60 percent of my friends have divorced parents. One of my parents works outside the house at a regular job, and the other parent has a home business where she makes and sells crafts over the Internet. It is pretty successful and together they make good money.
So at least one of my parents is always home. And even though I am 14, if they do go out, they still get me a baby sitter. They say that it is similar to an insurance policy to have a college student at the house – no need for the student until there’s a huge demand, and then they will be glad he or she is there. For example, if I get really sick and must immediately go to the hospital. If my parents go to the city or to a play, they want someone at the house who has a car and is old enough to drive.
Cherie, I don’t want to do illegal stuff, but it is humiliating when the baby sitter comes and I am almost as tall as he is. Can you convince my parents to stop this stupidity? I am old enough to be home alone. - Home Alone
I owe you one. You gave me a great reminder why it’s important to have a baby sitter with a car when Jeff and I go out at night. We also have a teen who doesn’t drive, and now that I think about it, there are many reasons for him not to be home alone.
You have good parents when they realize that it is not an issue for you to be home by yourself until it becomes a big problem.
It is just better to have an adult who has a car as well as a little bit more of the good judgment that should come with experience. The chances of a catastrophic event occurring are small, but you never know. They are only covering their bases by having a baby sitter there for you, and I think it is smart.
Someday, you may be that baby sitter for someone else. I hope you don’t have to drive a child to the hospital, or call the parent to say the kid broke an arm; however, it could happen.
For now, set up some ground rules about the baby sitter leaving you pretty much alone, and I think you’ll be OK. Thoughtful letter. Thanks!
UPDATE: As some of you have pointed out, it is possible the 14 year old is boy, not a girl. Sorry for jumping to that conclusion. – L.
Advice columnist says no one should stay home alone till driving age!
Filed under: Media Madness, Miscellaneous, Walk to School / Stay Home Alone / Wait in Car | 137 Comments »
Posted on May 20th, 2013 by lskenazy
Hey Readers — The American Studies major in me can’t get enough of the way language changes with the culture. At my lectures (book me!) I always point out what someone once noted right here: “Arrival” and “dismissal” at school have morphed into “drop-off” and “pick-up.” Inherent in those new terms is the idea that an adult is, of course, always with the child. The new terms define the normal culture. And now look at this:
Dear Free-Range Kids: “Cross my heart and hope to die/ Stick a needle in my eye,” has been changed. My kids know, “Cross my heart and hope to fly. Stick a cupcake in my eye.” – A Reader
I guess so many kids were sticking needles in their eyes, we simply HAD to change the rhyme. But really, what’s so disgusting about this change is that it assumes — once again — that while every previous generation could chant the old rhyme without becoming terrified, suicidal or eye-maiming, this generation is so endangered, it needs to be protected from even the sing-song suggestion of harm.
Sheesh. This is the same mentality that believes that when children point a pencil and go “Bang!” is is practically the same thing as kids shooting each other. We are becoming so literal, I could throw up.
Wait!! I don’t really need that bag! – L
UPDATE: Commenters are noting that the new words come directly from My Little Pony, which to me just means that some TV exec didn’t think anyone could say, “Stick a needle in my eye” on a kiddie show, which is in itself a sign of the times. But at least it’s not what all kids are saying now. – L.
All eyes on cultural hysteria!
Filed under: Helicopter Effect on Kids, Miscellaneous, Other Places Other Eras | 49 Comments »
Posted on May 19th, 2013 by lskenazy
Readers — Please spread the word, especially to nervous parents: If 2013 keeps going the way it has BEEN going, crime-wise, we are about to experience the LOWEST MURDER RATE SINCE 1906. That’s according to Rick Nevin, an economic consultant and anti-lead activist. (See his chart, below.)
THE LOWEST MURDER RATE in OVER A CENTURY?
Yes indeed. That’s not just lower than when WE were kids. That’s lower than when our grannies and even great-grandparents were kids, and I am pretty sure their parents didn’t make them wear GPS watches to track them every second. Nor did their parents nervously drive them to the bus stop, or forbid them to play on the front lawn unsupervised. Nor were the cops picking them up when the walked to town at age 7, or 11. And yet they were in MORE DANGER of being MURDERED than our kids are today.
Note: The decline is not a result of helicopter parenting, as most murder victims are adults and we have not been helicoptering them. And we certainly weren’t helicoptering back in the ’40s and ’50s, when crime was also low. In other words: This is simply good crime news. Nevin believes it’s a result of lowering the amount of lead exposure, which has meant less brain-addling. I’ve heard other rationales, too, from more police to better drugs for treating the mental illnesses that can lead to criminality.
Whatever the cause(s), maybe this is a sign that we should start allowing out kids back out into the world, rather than “protecting” them from it. Or, as policy analyst Ben Miller of Common Good says: Maybe it’s “a sign that our priority should be promoting common sense, instead of letting fear of every conceivable risk take control of our laws and rules. While our communities grow safer, we keep thinking up new fears — and rules — that prevent us and our children from enjoying the benefits of our safety.”
Let’s not look this gift horse in the mouth. For one thing: Ick. All those teeth and horse breath. But also: A gift is to be appreciated. And what a lovely one to give our kids. – L.
Filed under: Breaking news, GOOD News, Miscellaneous | 44 Comments »
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