Didn't "School Crossing" signs used to have younger looking silhouettes?

School Won’t Let My Kids Walk Home 2 Quiet Blocks

Have any of you come up with a workable solution to schools that won’t let parents decide how their kids get home? This is something we could all use — especially this mom:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am hoping that you might have some resources and/or know of people to point me to who can assist me with an issue that has recently come up:

Background: My family and I live in a very small town in Massachusetts and send our two boys to private school there. The boys are in 2nd grade and pre-K. Last year, when my oldest was in first grade, he walked to and from school by himself every day. This year my younger child started n the school, and I was looking forward to having the boys walk home from school, only to be told that the policy was that children in nursery and pre-K would not be released to an older sibling of any age.

It is approximately 2 blocks from my house to the school. There is one street to cross, that I have practiced with my children quite a number of times.I have tried to negotiate with the school about this issue, and requested that I sign a form that indicates that I give express permission for my boys to walk home together, only to be told essentially that the policy will stand as written.  I did reference the “Free-Range” amendment in the Every Child Succeeds Act, and was told by the head of the school that this amendment does not apply to private schools and does not apply to children younger than kindergarten age.

I have a full time au pair at home. Yesterday she walked to pick up my boys and had to wake up my toddler from her nap in order to do so. I find this rule inconvenient to my schedule, but moreover, fundamentally offensive that I have not been given the right to parent my children as I see fit.

My oldest son cannot understand why this is not allowed, nor can I.

I am contemplating trying to hire an attorney but don’t even know where to begin and/or whether this is a legitimate issue to contest. Any resources or thoughts that you have on this issue will be highly appreciated.

All the best,
Mindy L.

I wrote back that while I didn’t have any legal help to offer, I’d run her note here and see if others do. Do you? It is frustrating that the Every Child Succeed amendment can be so easily swatted away.- L

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Didn't "School Crossing" signs used to have younger looking silhouettes?

Didn’t “School Crossing” signs used to have younger looking silhouettes?

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39 Responses to School Won’t Let My Kids Walk Home 2 Quiet Blocks

  1. Katie September 25, 2016 at 8:18 am #

    Massachusetts seems to have no specific age in which a child can be left home alone. However if ths policy is stated in the school handbook and she signed something stating she would abide by rules, I don’t think there is a way to circumvent this. She should ask to see the policy in writing.

  2. ChicagoDad September 25, 2016 at 8:31 am #

    Mindy from Mass.
    This is very frustrating, I’m sure. To me, this doesn’t sound like a fight you can win.

    But, there are two very good things that come out of your situation. First, you have a very competent 4 year old who will be ready to walk home with his big brother every day next year. Second, you have a school that has no problem with kindergarteners and first graders walking home without an adult, which is becoming less and less common. That is a pretty good consolation prize.

    There is another solution though. Pull your preschooler out of school and have him play at home with your nanny and toddler. Or enroll him in half – day care so dismissal doesn’t interfere with nap time. Good luck!

  3. Powers September 25, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    “It is frustrating that the Every Child Succeed amendment can be so easily swatted away.”

    What’s frustrating is that you’ve misled your readers as to what that amendment does.

    ALL IT DOES is say that the Act in question should not be interpreted to invalidate state laws that allow kids to walk to school. THAT’S IT. Period. It /should/ be easily swatted away in this situation because it’s completely irrelevant — even if the school wasn’t a private school.

  4. baby-paramedic September 25, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Seeing the entire written version of the policy would help you in combating it. It is easier to combat when you have all the information.

    Other options I would consider include adding your son to the “next of kin” register (or whatever the equivilant is). Presumably the babysitter is allowed to pick the child up, and is not a parent, so would be on this list.
    As for not releasing a child to a sibling of any age, that is ridiculous. You can have a child with an adult sibling.

  5. TheOtherAnna September 25, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    Just get some other parent to sign him out on a regular basis.

  6. Michelle September 25, 2016 at 11:56 am #

    Powers, unfortunately some people are absolutely determined to read that amendment the way they want to read it, regardless of reality.

    I agree with TheOtherAnna. Find a sympathetic parent who is willing to sign your son out and allow the boys to walk home together.

    Another option is to talk to other parents at the school. You’re paying for your children to go there. If enough parents want the policy changed, it will change.

    I don’t think there is a legal way to force the school to comply with your wishes, no matter how unreasonable they are being. It’s sort of like trying to find a legal way to force your MIL to let your sons walk home from her house. You can fight with her about it, give up and do it her way, or stop sending them over there in the first place. For whatever it’s worth, there’s a lot of good research that preschool is completely unnecessary, and your younger son may actually be better off at home with a loving caregiver, learning through play and socializing through natural interactions with the people in his life. I was a preschool teacher before having kids, and didn’t think twice about keeping mine at home. (And no, I did not recreate preschool at home.)

  7. Alanna September 25, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    It seems like we keep giving kids less and less responsibility. It was not so long ago boys the age of the older child had full time jobs in factories. I’m not saying we should return to that type of child labor, but it seems to me like we have moved too far in the opposite direction. Now a kid in second grade isn’t even allow to walk his brother home!

  8. Flossy73 September 25, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    I am a former private school instructor. In the three different private institutions I worked in, each one had its set of (often bizarre and nonsensical) rules and regulations. These rules are often based on the ridiculous terms of the school insurance policies, making it out of their hands. More often these regulations were created by a admin. committee assigned to implement “student safety and security measures.” The pressure to look proactive about student safety causes them to literally make up new danger and create reactionary solutions to the imaginary hazards.
    Unfortunately (for the parent who thinks a rule is dumb) there is not much opportunity for legal recourse. As a private institution, the school may impose pretty much any rule they want to. As long as your child or family are not being directly discriminated against, or being harmed there is no civil or criminal violation occurring with these after school departure procedures.
    The only possible solutions I can see would be to make a direct and personal appeal to the administration and/or the Home and School Association. You will likely experience backlash if you go to a lawyer. Private schools can dismiss students at will. Even if your family isn’t asked to unenroll in light of a lawsuit I can almost guarantee the passive aggressive fall out will not make your life pleasant. Again, a direct appeal to logic may be persuasive. For example, if the after school rules were changed during the school year and AFTER you signed the contract and payed your tuition, you may be able to show that your family had never planned to schedule picking up the kids and that it causes hardship. Perhaps you may even suggest that you would be willing to sign a hold harmless agreement that would remove the school’s liability for “what could happen” while your kids walk home.
    This is a cause worth standing up for but if you make it a fight you will likely come out on the losing side. The school is primarily concerned about the old CYA before they care about your preferences.
    I hope you are successful.

  9. David DeLugas September 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    There are consequences to decisions all parents make. She can withdraw both children from this school and request a refund (terms of the contract may not result in a refund). She can organize parents to state displeasure and threaten that all will not renew their contracts next year. She can resort to social media to alert other parents not to enroll their children there. But, it is NOT an issue of freedom of a child or a parent’s right to decide. It’s similar to pay admission to a go-kart ride that requires use of helmets (and there is no local law requiring helmets) and complaining that the parent should decide if his or her child should have to wear a helmet. Buy your own go-kart and, so long as there is not a local law (and even that would be difficult to argue against, similar to seat belt laws and the state’s interest in protecting children from harm), then let your child ride without a helmet. If a parent doesn’t like a school’s uniform policy, same thing. It comes from making the choice to enroll in that school. BTW, same is true for public schools. Vote out the school board. It gets to make the rules. However, in the case of school boards, the argument is that ONCE off campus, the school no longer has authority to dictate what parents do or don’t do with their children (the students). I suppose an argument (legal argument) could be made that once school is over, the state (the public school) no longer has authority to dictate how a child gets to school or leaves school. These are all, of course, ways in which others attempt to control how parents raise their own children. The National Association of Parents is pushing back . . .such as when a mother is arrested because she went to pick-up food to go and she was not with her children who were not hurt AND not in any actual danger of being hurt. https://www.parentsusa.org

  10. sexhysteria September 25, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Threaten to change schools. As long as parents surrender meekly the policy is not likely to improve.

  11. Becca September 25, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    I hate to say it, but it’s a private school. They can make whatever rules they want.

  12. Curious September 25, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    Flossy73 hit the nail on the head.

    Why not put the infant to nap in the pram and have the nanny take the little one for a walk to pick up the laddies?

    Sorry about the boys losing their independence, though.

  13. Colin September 25, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    I wonder if it would be possible to enlist another parent that is there to pick up their own kids to “pick up” her kids and then let them walk home? This would seem to absolve the school of any perceived liability for the children’s welfare.

  14. Anna September 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    “For whatever it’s worth, there’s a lot of good research that preschool is completely unnecessary, and your younger son may actually be better off at home with a loving caregiver, learning through play and socializing through natural interactions with the people in his life. I was a preschool teacher before having kids, and didn’t think twice about keeping mine at home.”

    Yes, this, absolutely! I do have my son in preschool, but only because he has no siblings and that’s the only way he gets to spend time with other kids regularly. But from what I see of their pedagogy, he absolutely learns more in an hour at home than in an hour at preschool.

  15. James Pollock September 25, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    You have a couple of options, most of which have already been raised.

    First, you can vote with your feet. Take your kids out of the school if their usurpation of your parental authority bothers you enough to override whatever other factors caused you to choose this establishment in the first place.

    Second, you can try to enlist other parents to force a change in policy. I don’t know any of the other parents, of course, so I don’t know how likely this is to work. I wouldn’t put money on it.

    Third, get another parent to escort your child out of the school, and as far down the street as you and the other parent deem necessary.

    Fourth, passive aggressive. Don’t go pick up your son. Let him stay until either the school lets him go or brings him home. VERY LIKELY TO BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

    Note: Raising the Every Child Succeeds Act “free range” provision was entirely useless, for the reasons Powers gave. When it was being trumpeted as a great achievement on this site, I pointed out that it actually did exactly nothing, and was excoriated for it. Now y’all are learning that it actually does exactly nothing.

  16. myra welch September 25, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    I am the mother of 3 grandmother of 6 & great grandmother of 11 and can not understand why you would put that much on either child lots of crazy things going on these days.

  17. James Pollock September 25, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    “I […] can not understand why you would put that much on either child lots of crazy things going on these days.”

    Which crazy things have impeded the abilities of school-age children to walk unassisted? Most 2-year-olds have mastered most of the skills necessary to walk from one place to another place. Nearly all school-age children are able to spot the dangers of walking on a sidewalk.

  18. Beth September 25, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    “A legal way to force the school to comply with your wishes”??? Why do you need a legal way? You are the parent. You have deemed it permissible that your children can walk home from school, and that should be the end of it. The school is not in charge once that bell rings, and there should be no need for an attorney.

  19. Richard September 25, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    Beth, a private school has pretty much free reign as to setting the conditions under which it will accept or maintain a child as a student as long as no laws or regulations are broken. Generally parents must either accept those conditions, negotiate a general or specific change in those conditions, remove the child from the school, or insist on violating those conditions and let the school exclude the child. I certainly disagree with this policy, but a parent does not have a unilateral right to insist a school change a disliked policy.

  20. SKL September 25, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    Good luck getting them to release a pre-K kid to a 2nd grader in these times.

    Personally I would just be glad that rule only goes up to pre-K. Here, they won’t let KG kids walk to or from a bus stop, with or without an older sibling.

    When my kids were in K I needed to do the fingerprint thing to sign them out. :/ Granted, their K was part of a daycare, but still. :/

  21. James Pollock September 25, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    ““A legal way to force the school to comply with your wishes”??? Why do you need a legal way? You are the parent. You have deemed it permissible that your children can walk home from school, and that should be the end of it. The school is not in charge once that bell rings, and there should be no need for an attorney.”

    This is pretty much 180-degrees incorrect.
    The school may establish whatever conditions it likes to accept custody of the children who attend… parents may choose not to send their child to this school if they object to the conditions. Once the school HAS accepted custody of the child(ren), they may exercise custody… and a failure to reclaim the children in the prescribed manner leads to a number of possible solutions, only a few of which are good for the parent and only one of which is good for the child. They may call social services to report an abandoned child, for example. They may call police to escort the child home. They may escort the child home… and all of these are likely to be followed by suspension by the school until the conditions are followed in their entirety.

    In short, if you don’t want your children to be subject to the school’s rules, don’t send your children to that school.

  22. Sam September 25, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    This is one specific issue that affects millions of families every day, on which I was hoping FRK could have a tangible impact. A great many public and private schools impose severe restrictions on how kids can travel to/from school. I have struggled with it as a NYC public charter school parent. In fact, almost all NYC public schools (both district and charter) have such restrictions, and it is the largest district school in the US. (Moreover, contrary to popular perceptions, NYC is a very safe city both in terms of traffic and in terms of crime, – and with extensive public transportation.)

    It sounds very wrong when family decisions are overridden like this (our school simply says “we think it’s unsafe”, end of story). But this rule is very hard to fight, since few people will involve the child into an overt protest, e.g. by not picking them up and then claiming illegal detention. A kid may be capable enough to get himself home, but not up for being a pawn in this sort of fight between adults.

    And I don’t quite agree that schools can set any rules they want, – particularly publicly funded schools. If we have to pay a caretaker to pick up a child who no longer needs this help, in NYC this can run $30 per trip, or $60 per round trip. The school is no longer “free” when one multiplies this mandated expense by the number of school days each year.

    The issue was discussed recently here,
    http://www.freerangekids.com/i-must-get-out-of-the-car-to-pick-up-my-8-year-old-and-i-am-disabled/
    (although for a private school), but nothing came of it.

    If FRK can make progress on this issue, it would be a huge service. Unjustified arrests of “negligent” parents are discussed here frequently, but in reality occur rarely. On the other hand, the school commute issue affects millions daily.

  23. James Pollock September 25, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    “This is one specific issue that affects millions of families every day, on which I was hoping FRK could have a tangible impact. A great many public and private schools impose severe restrictions on how kids can travel to/from school.”

    Of course, sometimes the restrictions, however severe, are justified. (I’m not claiming that this is true in the case, just that it can be true in some cases.)

    There’s not much a school can do about how a child gets to school. The student arrives, whether on foot, chauffeured by parents, or dropped off by an unknown male in an unmarked white van, and that’s it… the student is present, the student goes into the school, end of story. The only exception that comes to mind would be if students arrive by walking, and then cross a busy street between crosswalks, which I am familiar with because when I went to junior high school, that’s how I got to school every day. Jaywalking students would be subject to school discipline, even though the offense happens off the school grounds.

    LEAVING school is a different story. The school has accepted custody (and the related liabilities) of the children; they are allowed to set rules about how and when that custody (and the related liabilities) ends. For example, my daughter’s grade school, when she attended, released students to school buses, to walk or bike home, or to designated caregivers who provided transportation from the school to their own facilities. But one thing they did NOT allow was students being dismissed from class, and going outside to the playground to play. The rule was that students had to go home after school and then come back to the playground.

    Now, in theory, a parent can grant their own children autonomy, to make their own way home from school (or to other peoples’ homes, or even to other places entirely. If a public school were to hold such a child without probable cause to believe a crime had taken place or was about to take place, it would be a violation of civil rights under color of law, which are magic words to a civil-rights lawyer. In practice, however, schools are given wide latitude to violate the civil and property rights of students under the guise of “maintaining good order”.

    Now… private schools have different rules because their services are contracted for, and thus, the choice is “agree with the contractual terms” or “don’t enter the contract” and agreeing to follow school rules… however arbitrary or unfair they may be… is one of the contractual terms.

  24. Heather September 26, 2016 at 9:47 am #

    This is a private school; you’re voting with your pocketbook.

  25. Anna September 26, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    “And I don’t quite agree that schools can set any rules they want, – particularly publicly funded schools. If we have to pay a caretaker to pick up a child who no longer needs this help, in NYC this can run $30 per trip, or $60 per round trip. The school is no longer “free” when one multiplies this mandated expense by the number of school days each year.”

    I agree with this with respect to public schools – although as others have noted, the school in this letter, being private, can probably set whatever policies it wishes. But in principle, universal compulsory education is not supposed to impose that kind of financial and logistical burden on parents. That’s why school districts bus kids who live more than a certain distance away; because it used to be assumed kids less than that distance away could walk. Creating requirements like parents needing to stand at the bus stop or kindergartners not being allowed to walk home doesn’t make sense, and is definitely worth fighting against.

  26. lollipoplover September 26, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    “But in principle, universal compulsory education is not supposed to impose that kind of financial and logistical burden on parents. That’s why school districts bus kids who live more than a certain distance away; because it used to be assumed kids less than that distance away could walk. Creating requirements like parents needing to stand at the bus stop or kindergartners not being allowed to walk home doesn’t make sense, and is definitely worth fighting against.”

    When schools decide for their own financial benefit (before and aftercare programs) the transportation requirements of families, they are indeed imposing the burden on families. Walking and biking should be a PREFERRED method of children arriving and departing to schools. Instead, all that these release/permission policies do is make a simple, safe walk home a logistical nightmare for working families. Driving and car traffic around school should be minimized, if they were truly concerned for the safety of the children. But requiring an adult to escort the child only increases traffic around schools. It’s absurd and only puts more kids at risk.

    When did the choice of how we transport our kids to school get to be decided by our schools? I’m struggling to understand why parents can’t come up with their own transportation plans- walking, biking, busing, or driving. We’ve made a two block walk into…what?

    I believe kids can and should walk short distances to school. Our transportation choice for our family is for them to bike (and walk in bad weather) and we mark that down for the school on the forms sent home. We have the infrastructure to support it and it takes the least amount of time and effort for all. I encourage you to meet with the principal, or better yet, invite the principal to walk with your sons the two blocks outdoors to discuss transportation policies that encourage environmental and personal responsibility. An older brother can walk a preschooler home. Why are we making it seem like he’s walking him over a tightrope?

    I don’t wish to open a can of worms, but if parents can mark religious exemptions to get out of vaccinating their children, isn’t there some kind of treehugging/environmental/competent pedestrian exemption that parents can indicate to get their children out of these release requirements??

  27. James Pollock September 26, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    “I don’t wish to open a can of worms, but if parents can mark religious exemptions to get out of vaccinating their children”

    In some states they can’t, or the right to do so is sharply curtailed.

  28. Mark Roulo September 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    “I find this rule inconvenient to my schedule, but moreover, fundamentally offensive that I have not been given the right to parent my children as I see fit.

    I am contemplating trying to hire an attorney but don’t even know where to begin and/or whether this is a legitimate issue to contest.”

    You are *PAYING* this school. If you don’t like the product, your simplest option is to stop paying them and find another school that does what you want.

    If Ford doesn’t have the hatchback you want, you don’t hire an attorney. You give your business to someone who has the hatchback you desire.

  29. catherine September 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    Myself, I would leave the toddler napping and go pick up the kids if it’s only 4 blocks round-trip and you can’t get out of the pick-up.

  30. SteveS September 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    I would guess that there is some written policy that specifies this procedure. I don’t see any kind of legal remedy that is likely to work and the school would just drop you the following year. I agree with the other posters that are suggesting getting like minded parents together and approaching the administration with your suggestions. If that doesn’t work, you may either have to tolerate the policy or just leave.

  31. John B. September 26, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Quote: “…..only to be told that the policy was that children in nursery and pre-K would not be released to an older sibling of any age.”

    This is such a bunch of horse plop. Now what if that older sibling was 16 or 17? Is the school saying that just because the teenager is not legally an adult, he or she is not responsible enough to care for his much younger sibling? So is the morning of our 18th birthday when we magically become mature and enlightened? Why are Americans so fixated with age 18? Goodness gracious can we not use some common sense here?

    Back when I was in 2nd grade at the local elementary school, I remember this little Hispanic boy named Danny. Cute little devil who was a Kindergartener. His older brother, who was a 5th grader at the Catholic school up the road, would always pop into East Elementary school at the end of the school day to pick up his little brother. So why can’t kids still do that today? It’s so common in other countries for older siblings to care for the younger ones.

    I think the problem could lie in the fact that we have put too much unrealistic responsibility on the school for the safety of its students. This includes their safety traveling to and from the school. As far as I’m concerned, it’s unrealistic to expect the school to know or control what happens to a child 4 or more blocks from school property. But this ties into the American mentality that when anything bad happens to a child, it’s EVERYBODY’S fault and EVERYBODY must suffer severe consequences when something bad does happen to a child!

  32. SteveS September 26, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    I don’t wish to open a can of worms, but if parents can mark religious exemptions to get out of vaccinating their children, isn’t there some kind of treehugging/environmental/competent pedestrian exemption that parents can indicate to get their children out of these release requirements??

    I don’t know that this would help. You are correct, in that the vast majority of states have some kind of religious or personal exemption, but this is statutory. If parents want to force schools to allow kids to walk, they need to get the legislatures to do something.

  33. marie September 26, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    I don’t wish to open a can of worms, but if parents can mark religious exemptions to get out of vaccinating their children, isn’t there some kind of treehugging/environmental/competent pedestrian exemption that parents can indicate to get their children out of these release requirements??

    Great comment (all of it), lollipoplover! I love the idea of a competent pedestrian exemption. LOL.

  34. marie September 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    invite the principal to walk with your sons the two blocks outdoors to discuss transportation policies that encourage environmental and personal responsibility.

    This is a terrific idea. You may not be able to change the principal’s mind but it certainly cannot hurt to try. Walking and talking while the two children walk ahead of you is a good lesson for everyone.

    Even if you convince her of the rightness of your cause, the principal may not be able to change the policy so be ready to go to the PTA meetings and the school board meetings. Approach the topic calmly, without accusing the school of making your life difficult. The POLICY makes your life difficult, of course, but the school is the entity you need to convince. The more people–other parents waiting for kids, other parents complaining about the long pickup lines, the PTA, the school board, the principal, teachers–you convince with calm reasoning, the sooner the policy will change. It may not change in time for your second child but I hope you would like to see it change for other children.

  35. DrTorch September 27, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Homeschool, and tell the private school to **** off.

  36. brian September 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    I agree with the above. There is no legal case. Just tell them if they dont change the rule you will send your kids to normal school (public) if the private company wont let you have them walk. This seems like an easy problem to solve in a private school. Trust me 3 tuitions will get their attention.

  37. EricS September 27, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

    Unfortunately, if it’s the schools policy, nothing can be done about it without raising a big stink, and going through the courts. Which probably isn’t the best idea. Perhaps if she can get a considerable amount of parents together (enough to make a noise that can’t be ignored by the school), that can at least help in the school becoming more laxed towards the children who’s parents are fine (and want) with their children walking to and from school on their own. This policy is in place because the school is covering their asses. After all America is full of litigious people looking to make a quick buck at the expense of others. Understandable. But it’s nothing a simple signed waiver by the parents can’t fix. So she can find out how many parents agree with her. And if it’s enough people, bring it up in the next PTA meeting. Pointing out, it’s not about the adults, it’s about the natural growth and progression of the children. Generations upon generations before this one were doing it. Why change? Absolve the school from any liability via waiver. Everyone is happy.

  38. Papilio September 27, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    @John B: “Quote: “…..only to be told that the policy was that children in nursery and pre-K would not be released to an older sibling of any age.”

    This is such a bunch of horse plop. Now what if that older sibling was 16 or 17? Is the school saying that just because the teenager is not legally an adult”

    Even worse: it says ANY AGE. It could be a 35-year-old halfsibling from dad’s first marriage and she’d still not be allowed to pick up this kid…

  39. EB October 1, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    My kids all walked to and from school with siblings from K onward. However, I can see the school’s point. This particular 2nd grader and this particular pre-K student might be fine walking home together. But any school teacher (and most parents) can tell you about 2nd graders who would not be watchful enough crossing the street, and even more so about pre-K aged children who are not mature enough to follow the instructions of the 2nd grader. All it would take would be one pre-K child hurt or killed when they ran into traffic for this school to face extreme disapproval from the community, if not actual legal liability. To a great extent the rules imposed by schools are aimed at accounting for the likely behavior of all of the children, not just the likely behavior of the most mature kids with the best impulse control Two of my kids would have been fine walking with an older sibling; the third, not so much. Schools make rules Yes, you could say “let the parents decide when their children are old enough.” But the school has to deal with the reality that some parents will make bad decisions through inexperience or carelessness.