PRESIDENT ABOUT TO SIGN FIRST FEDERAL FREE-RANGE KIDS LEGISLATION: PARENTS CAN LET THEIR KIDS WALK TO SCHOOL

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Today when Pres. Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act, he will be signing into law the first federal Free-Range Kids legislation. An amendment added by Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) states that:

“…nothing in this Act shall…prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the parents of the child have given permission; or  expose parents to civil or criminal charges for allowing their child to responsibly and safely travel to and from school by a means the parents believe is age appropriate.”

A caveat adds, “…nothing in this section 10 shall be construed to preempt State or local laws.’’

So, yes, there is still wiggle room for states to criminalize parents who trust their kids to walk to school (or who sleep through them doing this on their own). But it’s a great start. You can find the law right there on page 857, after 856 absolutely riveting pages of other clauses and sub-clauses.

For his part, Sen. Lee did not end up supporting the bill itself, but he emailed me that:

“Our amendment protecting parents who allow their kids to walk to school is definitely a silver lining. Unsupervised moments are a huge part of how children learn, grow, and build the skills that prepare them for the rigors of citizenship and the adventure of adult life.”

And, my favorite line:
“America faces great challenges today. Kids walking to school with their parents’ permission is not one of them.”
No kidding. So if any of you work in state politics, now is the time to bring this issue to the attention of the legislature to make sure that state laws do not criminalize parents who choose to trust their kids the way our own parents trusted us (when the crime rate was actually higher). Yes, it’s weird we have to have a law that lets parents parent, but a lot of kids will be back outside once their moms and dads don’t fear arrest for allowing the most normal, healthy, time-honored childhood activity out there.
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And maybe next year we can get a law that guarantees kids the right to play outside, too. Dream big! – L.

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We the people...can let our kids walk to school. Woo hoo!

We the people…can legally let our kids walk to school. What a country!

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80 Responses to PRESIDENT ABOUT TO SIGN FIRST FEDERAL FREE-RANGE KIDS LEGISLATION: PARENTS CAN LET THEIR KIDS WALK TO SCHOOL

  1. ChicagoDad December 10, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    Awesome! Congrats!

    And I love this quote from Sen Lee: “Unsupervised moments are a huge part of how children learn, grow, and build the skills that prepare them for the rigors of citizenship and the adventure of adult life.”

  2. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    This might be a symbolic victory, but it isn’t a substantial one. There wasn’t a federal law against letting kids walk to school before, and there isn’t one now. Meh. There probably COULDN’T be a federal law against letting kids walk to school… it’s outside of Congress’ Constitutional grant of authority.

  3. pentamom December 10, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    For once I agree with James. It’s certainly better than the opposite, but I don’t have any reason to think that the opposite was a real danger at the federal level. “We’re not going to make illegal something that nobody thought we were going to make illegal anyway, and we have no authority to enforce if we did” isn’t a big deal. This doesn’t even affect federal funding of schools that do have such stupid laws.

    If it has any value at all, it’s a minor bully pulpit value. But that’s about it.

  4. pentamom December 10, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    That said, I’m glad Sen. Lee put the language in the bill. It’s better to have it than not to. I just don’t see it as really accomplishing much, except as a backstop against things that aren’t currently in contemplation, but theoretically could be.

  5. bob magee December 10, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    Federal money for K-12 education is a bit over 8% – which is an increase of over 30% from early ’90’s when it was just under 6%

    As Fed dollars increase it is easier for pressure from Washington DC to have an impact on local education

    Having this language in a Federal bill opens up that door

    One of the best examples of Federal dollars as tool for State changes was the raising of the drinking age from 18 to 21. States that chose to keep a lower age lost out on substantial Federal monies.

    (and that 21 age limit is another whole kettle of fish in the current college coddling climate)

  6. Seth December 10, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    This is a meaningless ‘victory’.

  7. Jon Sanders December 10, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    We are supposed to forget that most of the nanny state control freak types harassing parents are Democrats? You don’t think these Democrats will see the sly wink the President has given them allowing them to ignore this?

  8. MichaelF December 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    “We are supposed to forget that most of the nanny state control freak types harassing parents are Democrats?”

    Are they? Seems pretty bi-partisan to me, unless you have some evidence to back this up.

    Granted its overall toothless, but the fact it is in a bill, signed by the President gives it at least some credibility, and if local law enforcement wants to harass someone about this then at least there is a statement on a Federal level to bring to court.

    In some ways, something is better than nothing…

  9. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    “We are supposed to forget that most of the nanny state control freak types harassing parents are Democrats? You don’t think these Democrats will see the sly wink the President has given them allowing them to ignore this?”

    Your partisanship is showing.

  10. Anne Allman December 10, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Well I say “yay”!!!! Maybe it is not enforceable at the state or local level BUT, it DOES give a parent/defendant a codified tool with which to argue their case. It is no longer just one parent’s personal opinion vs. law enforcement/CPS. They can point to this PLUS, I really do wonder just how many times a parent has actually “broken” a local or state law compared to a parent simply violating what have become cultural norms and getting in trouble for that. So this ruling is especially helpful if the parent is prosecuted not for breaking a law but for breaking a cultural taboo.

    Shocking that we have to codify what is actually reasonable parental behavior.

  11. Janice Bellucci December 10, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Congratulations, Lenore! Your efforts to speak out on behalf of kids and their parents are truly paying off. It is sad, however, that common sense requires legislation. Perhaps it is a sign of our times.

  12. EricS December 10, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    That’s pretty cool.

    But it’s still dumbfounding that a legislation needed to be made about something that was absolutely the norm for generations before this one.

    Life is not complicated. People make it complicated. So when they do, these things need to happen. When they shouldn’t.

    What I think really needs to happen, is that current state and federal laws regarding children, need to be amended. To be absolutely clear, leaving no room for “interpretation”. That way, sanctimonious people with authority can’t push THEIR beliefs on others, by putting their own spin on vague laws.

  13. Warren December 10, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Though it may not be able to counter state and local laws, it can be used to fight policies. If there is no state or local law, then this should prevent school boards from dictating to parents. School board rules and policies are not law, this is.

  14. Bryan Simpson December 10, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    Shameful that this type of language actually needs to be written into a law to stop the helicopter-parents from harassing those producing stronger children.

  15. pentamom December 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    “As Fed dollars increase it is easier for pressure from Washington DC to have an impact on local education.”

    The language of the law, specifically forbidding pre-emption of local law, means that pressure will not be there.

  16. pentamom December 10, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    The only reason this is in the law is that Senator Lee wanted to signal that he supports the right of kids to walk to school. And there’s nothing wrong with that (in fact it’s a good signal to send), and it’s good that nobody felt strongly enough against it to defeat the amendment, but it really, truly, doesn’t *do* anything.

  17. EricS December 10, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    But at least, it’s become a “priority” on the federal level, that new legislation is created. It’s now officially out in the open, and being addressed. Though not a complete victory, it gives parents a fighting chance to let their kids be normal kids without instant arrest. And hopefully, it will stop local authorities from ruining families’ lives because of frivolous charges based on individual opinions on children safety.

  18. Rae Pica December 10, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    KUDOS, Lenore! And, yes, let’s ensure their right to play outside too!!

  19. Jane December 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    OK, so this bill may be toothless, but I think it’s significant in that it sends a “subtle” message that may be picked up on by some of the ninny (not a typo) states. Additionally, it gives parents some back-up when dealing with the overly zealous locals and a copy should be sent to every police chief so s/he can direct officers to focus on real crime. Kudos to the good senator.

  20. Sam December 10, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    It is true that this amendment doesn’t “do” anything, strictly speaking. But most requirements of accompanying kids to/from school are not based in local laws, but in policies of individual schools (district or charter) or entire school districts. Then it comes down to the practical question: what happens if the school asks a parent to pick up the child, but the parent says “no, my child has permission to go by himself”. It seems that this new amendment disempowers the school from contacting the authorities, which leaves them with no choice but to abide by the parents’ and child’s wishes and release the child.

  21. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    “Maybe it is not enforceable at the state or local level BUT, it DOES give a parent/defendant a codified tool with which to argue their case.”

    It does not. And Senator Lee knows that full well.

    Letting your child walk to school isn’t, and never has been, a violation of any federal law. Nobody was trying to change that. Senator Lee’s amendment basically says “hey, that thing nobody’s trying to do? We’re not doing that.” Without this amendment, there would be no statutes that made allowing your kids to walk to school a federal crime.

    It’s even more toothless than you think. Not only does it not pre-empt local laws which might make parents liable for allowing their kids to walk to school (which is where any such law would come from.) it doesn’t even keep existing or future federal law from doing so… it just keeps this one law from being interpreted to do that (which nobody thought it did, except, apparently, for Senator Lee.)

    He MIGHT’VE deserved credit for inserting an amendment that said that NO federal statute could be interpreted as limiting a parent’s right to determine if kids walk to school… some of you seem to think that’s what Senator Lee’s amendment does, and it does not… but I’d consider even that a grandstanding move, since any such regulation that actually affects parents is going to come at the state or local level.

  22. Betsy in Michigan December 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    It may have been politically motivated, and yes, it’s sad to have to have a “law”, but I think it sends an important societal message, which America apparently needs. Sometimes we do have to legislate common sense.

  23. Mandy December 10, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    and we have to make a law so kids can walk to school because………?

  24. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    “it gives parents some back-up when dealing with the overly zealous locals”
    It does absolutely nothing for them.

    “a copy should be sent to every police chief so s/he can direct officers to focus on real crime.”
    Police chiefs, except for Washington, D.C., do not work for the federal government.

    ” what happens if the school asks a parent to pick up the child, but the parent says “no, my child has permission to go by himself”. It seems that this new amendment disempowers the school from contacting the authorities, which leaves them with no choice but to abide by the parents’ and child’s wishes and release the child.”

    The answer to the question is “exactly the same thing that happened before. Senator Lee’s amendment has no effect on this situation.”

  25. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    “and we have to make a law so kids can walk to school because…”

    We don’t have a law so kids can walk to school.

  26. Reziac December 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    So, in order to walk to school, kids get an updated Common Core inflicted on their educations.

    Here is something that is forgotten about the entire principle of our Constitution:

    Our Constitution’s guiding principle is NOT “All things not compulsory or expressly allowed are forbidden.”

    Rather, it is: “All things not expressly forbidden ARE ALLOWED.”

    It is technically unconstitutional to “allow” something, because Constitutionally, everything is ALLOWED UNLESS EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN.

  27. Eric S. December 10, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    The return of common sense, hurry lock your doors people! Common sense and logic has no place in politics or in American life period! Let’s hide! They must know something we don’t. Or it could be that the world isn’t as scary as the helicopter parents think it is.

  28. Victor Bongard December 10, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    As someone who has both prosecuted and defended cases in juveniles courts (where a child endangerment charge might be brought), I can assuredly say that this is indeed significant, even though not particularly substantial. Ultimately, judges and juries are human, and lawyers are allowed to argue the law, even from other jurisdictions for their persuasive effect – i.e., it is a tool, just as Senator Lee asserts. Unless a state statute expressly made allowing one’s child to walk to school to be a form of child endangerment, then the door is open to use the statute to explain how that activity is not covered. Apart from that, it is just as broad as it can be. A future legislature would always be able to undo or trump prior legislation of this sort, so the precise wording in this regard is not material to the provisions use as a persuasive tool. So, in sum, thank you, Senator Lee.

  29. That_Susan December 10, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    @Anne Allman: “…I really do wonder just how many times a parent has actually “broken” a local or state law compared to a parent simply violating what have become cultural norms and getting in trouble for that. So this ruling is especially helpful if the parent is prosecuted not for breaking a law but for breaking a cultural taboo.”

    So true. There are no laws against letting kids play outside, walk to school, live in a messy house, etcetera. If only there could be a law punishing those who’d like to interfere so much with families.

  30. CDG December 10, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    The only thing I want to see out of these govt wanks is the repealing of legislation, the less they do the better off everyone is. Leave my kid and my family alone.

  31. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    “So true. There are no laws against letting kids play outside, walk to school, live in a messy house,”

    But there are. There are curfew laws (minors must be indoors unless travelling to or from school activities or work), and there are trespassing laws and no-pedestrian laws. There are “unfit for human habitation laws”.

    None of them are affected by Senator Lee’s amendment to a bill he voted against..

  32. lollipoplover December 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    “Shameful that this type of language actually needs to be written into a law to stop the helicopter-parents from harassing those producing stronger children.”

    Not necessarily stronger, just better commuters.

    My kids already have “rights” in our state to travel to and from school with our permission and sanctioned by the school. How children arrive to school, which is a personal decision within families, is not the business of our education system or government. Get them there on time regularly and follow procedures. the government don’t police how parents feed their babies (yet) or diaper them, why would they interfere with their transportation choices?

    And I don’t think that this helicopter parent backlash. There are many good intentioned people out there who call the police because they genuinely feel a child is in danger when they see them out walking *alone*. Many were parents years ago and very much free range. They feel compelled to *do* something to ease their personal anxieties. It’s like a virus of paranoia has spread throughout this country, infecting certain areas and keeping children from playing outside.
    Like the Burgermeister.

  33. SKL December 10, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    It’s good that they are making a statement that walking to school is not outside the range of what is good/acceptable for kids.

    I really feel uncomfortable with the idea that this is something the federal government has any say over though. What if they did decide to regulate walking to school? Do they have that power? What if they decided to mandate walking to school? I hope they don’t think the US Congress has a right to legislate day-to-day childrearing decisions.

  34. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    “It’s good that they are making a statement that walking to school is not outside the range of what is good/acceptable for kids.”

    That’s not the statement they are making.

  35. Jana December 10, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    Great!!!

  36. Steve December 10, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    Even if this legislation can’t change a state’s behavior, it “is” something a parent can print out and take to a lawyer. Or take to show a judge, teacher, school administrator, policeman, or any other misguided do-gooder.

    You could say, “The Congress of the United States agrees with me.”

    I would think a Good lawyer might be able to build a winning case around the wording in this bill — with the help of a copy of Lenore’s book.

  37. BL December 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    Next Congress will pass a law allowing me to scratch my nose when it itches.

  38. Rob December 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    So a law clarifies that “nothing in this Act” does something it already didn’t do, while also effecting in no way whatsoever every other federal act, regulation and discretionary authority (while also not binding in any way any state, local authority, school board or anyone else either).

    An oft-quoted phrase from The Princess Bride springs to mind, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  39. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    “Even if this legislation can’t change a state’s behavior, it “is” something a parent can print out and take to a lawyer.”
    Yes, you can, in fact, do this. That lawyer will then patiently explain (at their regular hourly rate) why it does absolutely nothing to help you.

    “Or take to show a judge, teacher, school administrator, policeman, or any other misguided do-gooder.”
    They’d have to be very bad at their jobs to think this had anything to do with them. (unless the judge is a federal judge, and you’ve been charged with violating the “Every Student Succeeds Act” by letting your child walk to school.)

    “You could say, ‘The Congress of the United States agrees with me.’”
    Yes, you can say that… if what you’re saying is that the Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t prevent parents from letting their children walk to school.

    “I would think a Good lawyer might be able to build a winning case around the wording in this bill”
    Again, only if you’ve been accused of violating the Every Student Succeeds Act by allowing your children to walk to school. If you’re accused of anything else. literally anything else… this amendment does nothing for you.

  40. Warren December 10, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    Victor,

    Thank you for your insight, as to how this can actually be used.

  41. trishwah December 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    It will be interesting to see if anything changes.

    PA doesn’t have a minimum age to be left alone. My niece lives in a school district where she isn’t allowed to walk herself home from the bus stop until she is 14. She must be met by an adult. Currently she is a very responsible 12 yo. My retired MIL is starting to chafe at needing to meet her every day (both parents work).

    It is a ridiculous rule. I guess they get away with it because it’s a high-income area with lots of stay at home moms.

  42. lollipoplover December 10, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    “My niece lives in a school district where she isn’t allowed to walk herself home from the bus stop until she is 14. She must be met by an adult.”

    What??

    We are in PA too and don’t get bus transportation but the families I know who do get busing only have to be at the bus stop for kindergartners. My 14 year-old would be MORTIFIED if met by a parent. So would the 12 year-old! What a huge inconvenience to working families and insulting to capable children who can walk a few feet home quite capably. And 14 year-olds will be driving in 2 years but they can’t walk home from a bus stop?
    Nonsense.

  43. Havva December 10, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    @trishwah, that is nuts. In PA, of all places… I distinctly recall taking pictures of a sign at a park in PA (I believe it was Laural Hill) asking parents not to leave kids under 5 unattended on the playground, that was just over a year ago. But in your niece’s district the kids can’t walk home from the bus for another decade! Could it be an old rule from before the dangers of helicoptering were realized? Could the current school board be persuaded to end it? And if not, could the PA state legislature be persuaded to make a law prohibiting school boards from reaching that degree of madness…. in the name of preventing car accidents from young drivers who can’t navigate, if nothing else.

  44. That_Susan December 10, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    The more I think about it, the more I’m wondering what there could possibly be in the “Every Student Succeeds Act” that ANYONE could construe as a prohibition of kids “traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike” (I mean, I guess that still leaves motorcycles, planes, trains, sleds, horses, skis, skates, or skateboards as acceptable forms of transit, but I have a feeling I’m leaving something out) — unless they are worried that unschooling parents (as my husband and I were before our girls both decided they wanted the school experience) might feel that ATTENDING SCHOOL could hinder some children’s success, and start reporting all their non-unschooling neighbors? But I honestly don’t know any unschoolers who would try to legislatively force everyone else to unschool their kids, LOL, there are waaay more non-unschoolers who’d like to force their educational philosophies on us!

  45. That_Susan December 10, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    “”So true. There are no laws against letting kids play outside, walk to school, live in a messy house,’”

    “But there are. There are curfew laws (minors must be indoors unless travelling to or from school activities or work), and there are trespassing laws and no-pedestrian laws. There are ‘unfit for human habitation laws’.”

    Touché and spoken like a true lawyer. You’re absolutely right that for every freedom that one might say there are “no laws against,” a lawyer can most certainly cite instances in which that particular freedom would be prohibited.

    For example, if I say, “There’s no law against me washing my face every morning,” you could very aptly point out to me that this is not strictly true, and were I to feel an urge to purge the sleep from my eyes with the water at a nuclear waste facility, or to go barging into the home of a complete stranger, I would discover the limits to my freedom.

    But just to remind you of the layman’s perspective, when we common folk say “there’s no law against” something, what we mean is that we can do that thing in the way we want to with no outside interference. For example, I’ve been washing my face all my life and no one’s ever tried to prevent me from doing so. In contrast, many parents and children are finding themselves confronted with interference from (hopefully) well-meaning individuals — some of them official authorities like police officers and CPS workers — not for breaking any laws, but just for doing life differently than those individuals would do it.

    You can tell me till you are blue in the face that there are limits to where I can wash my face and what substances I can legally obtain to wash it with — but in my EXPERIENCE, I’ve been able to wash it how I wanted to, and that’s all that matters to me. No one’s been the least bit concerned with trying to make me wash my face THEIR way, so for all practical purposes, there’s no law against me washing my face. I think that what I and many others here would like to see is that same degree of everyone living their own lives, certainly offering a helping hand where needed, but then just getting busy attending to their own business and respecting others’ rights to attend to theirs in the way that they see fit.

  46. Ron Skurat December 10, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    I’m not a lawyer (thank god) but does the language “be construed to preempt State or local laws” include delegated powers to DFS? If read literally it would require an explicit act of legislature to criminalize allowing your precious snowflake to walk to school.

    If read more liberally (and the use of THAT word could be used both ways) DFS can do whatever the hell it wants, and god help you if you don’t have an extra 50,000 dollars for lawyers.

  47. Diana Green December 10, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    Thanks, Mike Lee!
    Congratulations, Lenore.

    Has anyone told Connecticut about this?

  48. Donald December 10, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    There are a lot of comments that this is a hollow, toothless, and empty victory.

    I disagree. Perhaps this bill isn’t much but it’s a good indication that change is happening. I’m amazed at this bill, especially in this day and age where if congress catches fire, they couldn’t even agree enough to call the fire department!

    Whatever you look for you will find it. Worst first thinkers and helicopter parents aren’t the only ones affected by this. Half full glass people as well as half empty glass people are affected by this as well.

    Congratulations Lenore! This is proof that you’re helping to make changes. You even got Democrats and Republicans to agree on something. That alone is worth a nomination for a Nobel Prize!

  49. James Pollock December 10, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    “I’m not a lawyer (thank god) but does the language “be construed to preempt State or local laws” include delegated powers to DFS? If read literally it would require an explicit act of legislature to criminalize allowing your precious snowflake to walk to school.”

    OK.
    When Congress passes a law, it will sometimes include some directions to courts that are interpreting the statute as to what they meant (and didn’t mean) for the effects they intended the law to have. This is one of those. As we’ll see, it’s both incredibly narrow and entirely superfluous.

    But, in order to see what effect it really has, you have have have the civics lesson on how law works in the United States. The Framers of the Constitution were afraid of having a central authority with all the powers of government at its control (i.e., they were fresh off a rebellion against the Crown.) So they invented a system by which the power of government would be divided… in a couple of ways. First, the federal power is divided amongst the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. But they also divided power between the federal government, and the states. The federal government has a list of things its allowed to make laws on, and there’s a little list of things that are exclusively federal or forbidden to the States. The states do not get their authority to make law from the federal government.

    So… there might be no law at all on a given subject. There might be only federal, there might be only state, or there might be both. Within it’s areas of authority, Congress can make federal law that supersedes all state laws. Congress can also choose to make a federal law, but also allow states to make their own laws. (An example of this kind of law is the minimum wage. Congress sets a federal minimum wage, but does NOT pre-empt states from enacting their own minimum wage laws with higher minimums. This means that in some states, the minimum wage is what the federal government sets, and in other states, it is what the state sets.

    So… can a state decide to criminalize “parents allowed child to walk to school”? Yes, in some cases. If there is something dangerous between home and school, then letting the child walk to school through that danger is child endangerment (consult a locally-licensed professional for specifics, if needed). It’s not “walking to school” that gets criminalized, but the how; the when, and or the where. The state has that authority.

    So, can the federal government decide to criminalize “parents allowed child to walk to school”? Yes, again, in some cases. For example, if there is a federal military installation, and the child is caught inside it without authorization. Or if there is a federal limited-access Interstate highway, which bans pedestrians. Or a whole bunch of other cases where it’s not the “walking to school” part, it’s the HOW or possibly WHERE.

    Of course, when we’re thinking about kids walking to school, we’re mentally filtering out nearly all of those unusual cases… we think of kids walking down neighborhood streets… nobody thinks “kids can walk to school, through other people’s yards and even right through their houses”. They have to follow the public thoroughfares, and even then they have to follow the same rules as everyone else (no jaywalking). If there was a part of town that had landmines scattered about, we wouldn’t say “well, of course children can walk to school through the landmines”, we’d think anyone who sent their child to school by walking through the landmines was endangering their child. There are hazards that, while not as OBVIOUS as landmines, nonetheless should not have children walking to school through them. Limited-access freeways, active railyards, airports, chemical plants… when you imagined children to walking to school, you assumed they would be avoiding these types of places.

    All right. So, there isn’t, and hasn’t ever been, a federal law that applied to limit whether or not parents could permit their children to walk to school (or bike, etc.) Nobody ever intended to apply such a law. No provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act would have that effect and I’m pretty sure nobody intended to offer an amendment or interpretation that would have that effect. In the absence of federal law pre-empting the field, states can, and have, passed some laws that affect this “right”… not by saying “parents can…” or “parents can’t…” let their kids walk to school, but rather, by criminalizing intentionally placing the kids in danger. The kids can walk to school, UNLESS doing so is too dangerous (assessment of what, exactly, is “too dangerous” is deliberately ignored here.)

    So… Senator Lee could have written his amendment so that it pre-empted any state attempt to limit parental choice with regards to having the children walk to school. That is not what he did.

    Senator Lee could have written his amendment so that it set as federal law that parents may choose to allow their children to walk to school. This also is not what he did.

    Senator Lee could have written his amendemtn so that stated that the policy of the United States is that parents should be free to allow their children to walk to school. Still not what he did.

    What his amendment DOES do is say that the Every Student Succeeds Act does not prohibit parents from allowing their children to walk to school. See how limited that is? It doesn’t affect any of the other bazillion federal laws. It doesn’t affect any of the 50 bazillion state laws. It says that the ESSA, which ALREADY didn’t prohibit parents allowing their children to walk to school, doesn’t prohibit parents from allowing their children to walk to school.

    So, if you are, say, charged with endangering your child because you let him walk to school and he chose to ignore all those “KEEP OUT! Toxic Waste Area!” signs and was picked up by police in the middle of a place where children are, in fact, endangered, if your lawyer were to take the approach that your defense should be “but the Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t prohibit parents from letting your child walk to school”, you are going to lose. You aren’t charged with letting your child walk to school, you are charged with endangering your child, and you aren’t in federal court, you are in state court. The state’s authority to charge you isn’t coming from the ESSA, it’s coming from its own inherent police power. The statute you are being charged under does not care that your child was walking to school when he was collected by the cops, it cares that your child was in danger.

    By contrast, the good lawyer is going to build your defense around your claim that, although your child was in danger, you didn’t intentionally put him there. The fact that you haven’t violated the ESSA (which probably doesn’t even have any criminal provisions at all) is as relevant as the fact that you haven’t violated the copyright act, which is not at all.

  50. trollbuster December 10, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    My comments on Warren are generating comments. Please continue to reproach him, condemn him, ostracize him, avoid him, blackball him, shun him, boycott his views, excommunicate him, reject him, oust him, expel him. I am not opposed to him due to he Mieztiv family issue. I am opposed to all his statements as they pollute the internet and mankind.
    HE MUST BE STOPPED. STOP POSTING. GO BACK TO YOUR CANUCK HOLE.

  51. trollbuster December 10, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    No Weasel Warren for 10 minutes. We are having an impact.
    No Weasel Warren for 11 minutes. We are having an impact.
    No Weasel Warren for 12 minutes. We are having an impact.

    There is still hope for humanity.

  52. ChicagoDad December 10, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    Warren, next time you are through Chicago, give me a ring and I’ll buy you a beer. I enjoy your thoughts in the comments. You can look me up on Lenore’s “free-range friend finder”, just search zip code 60643.

  53. Raissa Landor December 10, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    We should call this the Skenazy Amendment!

    You are really exerting an extraordinary influence!!! Keep up the good work!!!

  54. Warren December 10, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    ChicagoDad,

    Thanks, sounds like a plan. I have been told that The Squared Circle is supposed to be pretty good. Second round is on me.

  55. Tiny Tim December 11, 2015 at 2:30 am #

    Those saying that this is nothing have no idea how the legal system works in practice. No of course this doesn’t provide blanket amnesty to any parent who might run afoul of local authorities about this issue, but it does provide ammunition. It isn’t a fix, but it isn’t nothing either.

  56. sexhysteria December 11, 2015 at 4:48 am #

    Thanks, Sen Mike Lee! It takes only one courageous person to stand up and say “The emperor has no clothes!” to start massive change in the mob’s reflexive behavior.

  57. SKL December 11, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    I agree with the person who said, I wonder (nervously) what the law contains that could be construed as limiting parents’ rights in the first place. What kind of federal educational law dictates what kids do outside of school?

  58. Buffy December 11, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    @That_Susan, James is not a lawyer either. FYI.

  59. That_Susan December 11, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    “I agree with the person who said, I wonder (nervously) what the law contains that could be construed as limiting parents’ rights in the first place. What kind of federal educational law dictates what kids do outside of school?”

    SKL, I’m not sure if you were referring to me, but I was actually noting that the part Lenore quoted was talking about the law not being used to prosecute parents for allowing for ANY of the conventional means of transportation to school. Walking and bicycling were only two of the four modes that were mentioned; the other two being car and bus. So taken literally, they’d be saying, “This law cannot be used to prosecute parents for driving their children to school, or for letting them ride the school bus, walk, or ride their bike.”

    So it’s kind of like an assumption was being made that allowing children to go to school, period, could interfere with their success in life. Which is, of course, how many unschoolers feel. It’s why many of them unschool.

  60. lollipoplover December 11, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    @SKL- I wondered why the government and public schools were involved in student transportation choices too.
    What if you’re Amish (and I know they have their own schools)? How can you be required to take a bus or be driven to school and forbidden from certain forms of transportation? I could be a tree-hugging environmentalist and no-car family. To say a child couldn’t bike or walk to school would go against my personal freedom to choose to live this way.

  61. James Pollock December 11, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    “I wondered why the government and public schools were involved in student transportation choices too.”

    They’re involved, but in the other way. Government (and public school are part of the government) must provide access to schools by federal law, and the feds lay out rules for when the schools must provide transportation services for students. (If the school district does not provide school buses, then taking a school bus to school will not be your choice.)

  62. That_Susan December 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    I know, Buffy. But he talks like one. 🙂

  63. John December 11, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    C’mon folks, quit being negative here! This is certainly a start and what’s good about it is that it was a bi-partisan effort. So if anything, this is a sign that the mindset regarding unsupervised kids is changing back to what it was in the 1970s!

  64. mad mom maw December 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    I would like to see Congress and the President over turn the thousands if Forced Adoption and conspiracy over to their biological parents/ grandparents!! My rights have been violated severely! !

  65. Maria Hasankolli December 12, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    Oh Lenore! You are doing amazing things!!!
    This article has made my heart pound with positivity! It fills me with hope (HangOnPainEnds)
    Thank you for all that you do!

  66. Papilio December 13, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    “It’s like a virus of paranoia has spread throughout this country, infecting certain areas and keeping children from playing outside.
    Like the Burgermeister”

    The mayor can’t play outside either??

  67. lollipoplover December 13, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    @Papilio-
    The Burgermeister is a character from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. We just watched it last week (it’s one of our favorite Christmas specials) and that is what I was referring to…sorry to get lost in translation!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX87QQLVD5k

  68. Vicki Bradley December 14, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    I don’t know how I feel about this topic, as it sounds like the legislation of common sense, but I do know that I wish something could be done about “trollbuster.” Lenore, is there not some way that certain individuals, who have beyond a reasonable doubt proven themselves to be annoying, petty, and providing nothing of value to this website, could be banished from commenting here? I know the best thing to do is ignore childish, rude behaviour and hope they go away but unfortunately that doesn’t always work with bullies. Just my two cents worth…

  69. HankHenry December 14, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Someone calculate the carbon cost of this “kids can’t walk” policy. Then calculate the carbon cost of cooling homes so kids will play inside. But for air conditioned homes you couldn’t keep the kids inside

  70. James Pollock December 15, 2015 at 3:31 am #

    “Someone calculate the carbon cost of this “kids can’t walk” policy.”

    What “kids can’t walk” policy?

  71. That_Susan December 15, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Hi HankHenry, I totally agree and I wanted you to know that everyone here, even James, knows exactly what you meant by the “‘kids can’t walk’ policy.”

  72. Jusqu au jour du Drame December 16, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

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  73. James Pollock December 16, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    “everyone here, even James, knows exactly what you meant by the “‘kids can’t walk’ policy.”

    Apparently I was unclear. What “kids can’t walk” policy?
    There never has been one, isn’t one now, and nobody has proposed implementing one. So… to what are you referring?

  74. That_Susan December 17, 2015 at 6:59 am #

    James, he was referring to the general idea that if you see a child out walking, unaccompanied by an adult, this is your signal to call the police or CPS. I know, I know, he’s not talking about a formal, written “policy.” Deal with it.

  75. James Pollock December 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    “he was referring to the general idea that if you see a child out walking, unaccompanied by an adult, this is your signal to call the police or CPS.”

    Which is not what happens the VAST majority of the time.
    Deal with it.

  76. That_Susan December 18, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    “Which is not what happens the VAST majority of the time.
    Deal with it.”

    You’re right that there are many, many times that kids are out walking places and no one calls CPS. However, there are now enough CPS calls happening that such a call seems like more than just a remote possibility to many parents. No one knows if one particular walk will be the one that suddenly puts their family onto CPS’s radar, and this concern does have the effect of making some parents fearful about just letting their kids out to play and roam as freely as those kids would like to, and as the parents themselves feel is healthy and in the best interests of the kids.

    This mental policy, mindset, or whatever you want to call it — of believing kids are too fragile or the world is too dangerous for them to be out walking and playing on their own — DOES carry a high carbon cost as well as a high health cost, as evidenced by the much higher rates today of childhood obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes in children. Sadly, even the children of parents who don’t embrace the “kids can’t walk on their own” mindset can suffer effects similar to “secondhand smoke” if their parents become fearful about how others might interpret their children’s freedom. I think low-income and minority parents may be especially susceptible to this fear.

  77. James Pollock December 18, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    You need a new dictionary if yours says that policy means “more than just a remote possibility to many parents.”

    “a high health cost, as evidenced by the much higher rates today of childhood obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes in children.”
    correlation is not causation.

    “I think low-income and minority parents may be especially susceptible to this fear.”
    Think again. Low-income and minority parents are the most likely to be letting their children play un- or minimally-supervised

  78. That_Susan December 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    “You need a new dictionary if yours says that policy means ‘more than just a remote possibility to many parents.'”

    I never said that. I conceded that the attitude we were discussing was not, technically, a policy. You seem to be so hung up on dictionary definitions that you can’t just admit that you know what HankHenry was talking about. I guess that’s the price of a legal education. 🙂

    “correlation is not causation.”

    Yes, even though people with sedentary lifestyles are more likely to become obese and develop type 2 diabetes, it’s impossible to prove an absolute cause-and-effect relationship between parents being afraid to let their kids outdoors on their own, and a child having a sedentary lifestyle. Many other factors come into play, such as some parents having the resources to enroll their children in extracurricular physical activities, and others not having those resources.

    “Think again. Low-income and minority parents are the most likely to be letting their children play un- or minimally-supervised”

    That hasn’t been my personal observation, based on being a low-income parent living in a low-income neighborhood. I’m one of the few parents at school district meetings who doesn’t see it as a major problem that students living within a 1 1/2 mile radius of their school don’t qualify for bus transportation. I think it’s wonderful that my 10-year-old gets a mile-long walk in the morning and a mile-long walk in the afternoon, whereas most of the parents (minority parents especially) seem to see this as extremely dangerous.

    And low-income and minority parents absolutely are more aware about the possibility that anyone who disagrees with their parenting practices, or just feels vindictive towards them for any reason, may pick up the phone and dial CPS. People in low-income neighborhoods are a lot more likely to have been visited by CPS.

  79. James Pollock December 18, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    “I guess that’s the price of a legal education. :)”

    That and about $150,000.

    “Yes, even though people with sedentary lifestyles are more likely to become obese and develop type 2 diabetes, it’s impossible to prove an absolute cause-and-effect relationship between parents being afraid to let their kids outdoors on their own, and a child having a sedentary lifestyle.”

    I think diet is the most significant correlation. (People today consume far more dietary sugars than did our ancestors. And they seem to develop problems in their sugar metabolism.

    ” I’m one of the few parents at school district meetings who doesn’t see it as a major problem that students living within a 1 1/2 mile radius of their school don’t qualify for bus transportation.”
    What does this have to do with being allowed to play unsupervised?

  80. That_Susan December 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    ”’I’m one of the few parents at school district meetings who doesn’t see it as a major problem that students living within a 1 1/2 mile radius of their school don’t qualify for bus transportation.’
    What does this have to do with being allowed to play unsupervised?”

    Parents who feel their kids are in great danger just being out in the streets in their neighborhood, tend to keep them indoors.