Should It Be a Crime to Hire a Kid to Rake Your Lawn?

Readers — Right now it is a crime in Ohio to hire a kid under 14, without his/her parents’ permission, to do anything for you, including rake your lawn. The idea, as always, is to keep kids safe from evil adults. But the law smacks of zero tolerance, putting leaf work right up there with a striptease. According to Ohio Public Radio:

Jason Romage ran afoul of that law in 2010 when he offered some kids quarters to move boxes into his Columbus apartment. The judge threw the case out, an appeals court agreed and the state went to the state high court.

Melanie Tobias defended the law to the justices, saying the state has a compelling interest in protecting children. But several justices questioned how the law does that without sweeping up innocent people as well.

And one, Justice William O’Neill, noted that even he may have violated the law.

“I moved from South Russell to Chagrin Falls last weekend. The going rate is $10. I had kids unload a truck. Did I break the law? I didn’t ask their parents. They’re kids that are known to me and to my kids. Did I break the law?”

Gotta love a judge who lays it on the line like that! And if you listen to the report (it’s under 2 minutes), it’s fun to hear Tobias wriggle to defend a law that so clearly was written without any thought of how it would affect most adult-child relationships. But when you see the whole world as one big predator, you write bad laws and then you squirm to defend ’em. Simple as that. – L.

A child and some leaves? I smell a felony!

What kind of pervert hires a child to rake leaves?

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34 Responses to Should It Be a Crime to Hire a Kid to Rake Your Lawn?

  1. Nicole October 25, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    If prosecutors would use common sense, and realize there’s a difference between paying a kid to rake leaves and running a sweatshop out of your basement, we wouldn’t have this problem. Just because you can prosecute something doesn’t mean you should.

  2. Warren October 25, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    At 13 and 14 we would go to pickers corner. Two local large farmers would come by in the early am., call for the number of pickers he needed, and we would hop on the trailer. If you were good, you could make 80 bucks in a 7 hour pick. Not bad for 1980s teen.

  3. Daublin October 25, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    There is more law than this involved. As is a theme at Free Range Kids, lawmakers imagine a fairly unrealistic threat, and then they pass laws that interfere with perfectly normal and even admirable activities like doing odd jobs around the neighborhood.

    In addition to the law listed, minimum wage is also in effect. The imagined threat is that someone will be “forced” to work for a dehumanizing wage of $10 for raking a lawn. The more realistic scenario is that a kid demanding $9/hour will be told that maybe we’ll just leave the yard unraked.

    There is also child labor law. If the kid is below 12 you are not supposed to pay them no matter what, not even for half an hour’s work. Again, the imagined threat is that children will be put on an assembly line in some 1920s factory. In reality, those factories don’t even exist any more–they use robots. There are plenty of lawns that need raking, but you’re not even allowed to use discretion if they are less than 12 years old.

    It doesn’t have to be a cash transaction, either. If you pay the kid in lollipops, or offer to take them to the zoo, that’s compensation and you can get turned in for it.

    @Nicole: the discretion you describe exists, but in a different body of law around child negligence and child abuse. I know this will sound odd, but what exactly does it help to have labor law for children? Any case I can think of where you’d want it would already be child abuse, anyway.

  4. Emily October 25, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    What about babysitting? Is that against the law in Ohio too, for young people under the age of fourteen? Here in Ontario, you have to be twelve to take the babysitting courses from the Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance, or similar, and after you’ve done that, you’re considered good to go.

  5. lollipoplover October 25, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    How is raking leaves with pay an enticement?
    It doesn’t sound enticing at all- raking leaves sucks.
    Same with shoveling snow.

    I pay kids to do these dreadful chores all the time. It’s win/win- they get money and I don’t go to the ER for throwing my back out. Plus they’re lower to the ground and actually enjoy jobs like this.

    So I guess there are no Ohio young entrepreneur groups? What about babysitters? Do kids magically become ready for jobs and skills at 14 in Ohio and resist enticement? Life skills and job skills (learned by actually doing something)protect kids and turn them into responsible citizens, not laws forbiding them from contributing to society.

  6. Steve Cournoyer October 25, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    As a kid I raked leaves, shoveled snow and did all sorts of chores of that ilk for the neighbors. I made money, leaned about doing a good job, working hard and managing my earnings. I recently hired my neighbor’s 14 year old son to mow my back field, he earned a 10 foot boat for his troubles( he loves to fish at the local pond down the road). Win -win for all involved. These lessons will be lost with stupid laws like these…

  7. lemonlover October 25, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Maybe next we can get the heat off of the lemonade stands.

  8. Warren October 25, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    It is not so much the law itself. Though it is sketchy at best. The whole without parents permission aspect stinks of kids being sold into labour by their parents. But that is another topic.

    The really insane part of this story, is the prosecutor that took this to thru the different levels of appeal. How much money and resources were spent on this?

  9. Donna October 25, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    This is ridiculous. I don’t even want to be involved with my child’s employment ever. If she is offered a job and wants to do it, why do I need to be involved? It is her time and effort, not mine.

  10. SKL October 25, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    We have to reverse the pendulum swing if we ever expect young adults to be employable.

    When I was little – primary school age – I used to get a nickel or dime for helping the elderly neighbor wash dishes (without my parents’ permission!). A little later my sister and I would go to a pizza shop and fold pizza boxes for a quarter. (Without parents’ permission!) I also remember one time when a politician paid us in popsicles to distribute flyers up and down the street. LOL. I don’t recall whether my mom had to sign for me to get a paper route at 13, but she definitely didn’t have to pre-approve my babysitting jobs.

    My parents both worked. If I had to get their signature on everything I did, I’d have been sitting around getting fat much all summer.

  11. Captain America October 25, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    I remember going around the blocks around my house in Lombard, IL when I was 9 and 10, knocking on doors and selling personalized Christmas cards. It was lucrative. I learned responsibility from this.

    Nowadays, a kid does that and everybody lifts his eyebrows, and not a few consider calling in the Armed Forces.

  12. David October 25, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I thought I read that the charges were dismissed, which is the same as finding the defendant not guilty. Since when is the state allowed to appeal?

  13. Papilio October 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Why would you remove those leafs, it’s just extra food for the grass.

    Apart from that, having neighborhood kids do some minor little chore for a few bucks is completely normal. Especially when they come over to your house and ask for it.
    That is something completely different from children with a regular part-time job with minimum youth wages and taxes and everything.

  14. Donna October 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    David – A dismissal is not the same as finding a defendant not guilty. Cases can be dismissed for many reasons that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s guilt or innocence.

    While it is true that the state cannot appeal after a not guilty verdict, it can appeal any adverse judicial rulings while the case is still pending.

  15. Warren October 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Am with Papilio about the raking of leaves. Never have and never will. Far too good for the grass, to get rid of.

    I am just glad the last judge put the prosecutor in her place.

  16. steve October 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Chagrin Falls, Ohio – Where Cartoonist, Bill Watterson grew up.

    Everybody who enjoys CALVIN & HOBBES cartoons has a connection to Chagrin Falls.

  17. pentamom October 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Papillo, your English is so excellent, consider this a tip, not a criticism: it’s leaves, not leafs. But it’s roofs, not rooves. Just another joy of English!

  18. Earth.W October 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Far too many have interfered with sensibility. I had a confrontation with one of those child services types a handful of years ago. The woman was of the belief that it is child abuse to get your child to do yard chores including mowing the yard. I’m talking about children aged ten up.

  19. SKL October 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    We have so many oak trees in our backyard, we do have to move those leaves in order to allow anything to grow the next spring.

    Ever since my kids were 2, that has been a way for them to make some spending money. $1 per bucket. Unfortunately they are not highly motivated (probably too spoiled) and we never do quite clear all the leaves. (They are to dump the buckets down the ravine, so the leaves still get to decompose and give back to nature.) In the winter, they can remove snow/ice for a little pocket money.

    I have a family living next door with a couple of teenaged kids (now they seem around 17-19). For years they have lived there and never once came over to ask if they could do anything for pay. This seems strange to me. I mean, I have kids that could be babysat, a yard that could use some work, a car that could stand some cleaning. I have kids who need to be carted around when I could be working. Those are just the obvious things. Everyone in my house is female – two under 8 and three around 50. Surely there are things we would pay young folks to do.

    This is not what I want to look forward to as far as my kids are concerned. I want them to go out and ask for work, just like I did.

  20. K October 25, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    We rake our leaves and put them into the compost. It sucks trying to make snowballs and snow forts with slimy half rotted leaves mixed in. Plus it’s harder to find where the dog pooped when I let him out in the middle of the night. Heck if I’m following him around my yard with a flashlight!

    I was pet sitting by ten, babysitting by twelve. My moms neighbors child spent the summers running his own lawn mowing business. He made a pile of money. He was twelve. Ohio needs to lighten up.

  21. Donna October 25, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    My 8 year old has started to walk around the neighborhood to sell her art work for money. Obviously that is only cute for so long. Her next planned endeavor is sselling lemonade and cookies. I need to start suggesting offering she ask to do odd jobs.

  22. Emily October 25, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    @Donna–If your daughter is a good artist, then selling her artwork isn’t just “cute.” If she’s just average, then maybe she’d be interested in taking art classes after school, to improve her skills, and therefore, improve her merchandise. I know that that doesn’t sound very free-range, but there are a few places that offer them for cheap or free, like public libraries, and also, there’s a DIY collective near my house that does them. I’m going to start volunteering to help teach the classes this coming Wednesday.

  23. Kurt Kemmerer October 26, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    By the time I was 14, I had probably mowed more than 1000 lawns. (I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, so there were no leaves, but people still had to have grass.)

    Yeah, that was bad. I bought a car with the money I made (which was added to the money I made delivering papers, washing cars, and cutting back bushes) when I was 16. I did use the money to go on some dates now and then. Oh, and, I suppose I bought some beer a couple of times. So that’s the problem!

    Oh, wait. I also used much of the money to help me get through college without taking any loans. Yeah, that was stupid. Avoiding college loans is the devil’s work.

  24. Donna October 26, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Emily – Sadly my daughter is definitely not a good artist. She may not even quite rise to an average 8 year old artist. Her artwork sales are truly just cute.

  25. Papilio October 26, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    @Pentamom: Argh! But thank you, and don’t worry, I don’t feel critisized. I know I make mistakes, that is just the reality of being a non-native speaker. (I am actually more worried about grammar and using expressions in the right context.)
    Note to self: always read Lenore’s captions (even when you’re in a hurry). 😉

  26. EricS October 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I wish more and more authorities reverted back to the common sense and logic thinking of Justice O’Neill. No doubt this world would be a better place again for children.

    “But when you see the whole world as one big predator, you write bad laws and then you squirm to defend ‘em. Simple as that.” Absolutely agree Lenore. :-)

  27. EricS October 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    @Nicole: It’s not even about prosecutors. It’s the the fear that people hold on to. Whether your a prosecutor, a judge, a police officer, a social worker, a doctor, a parent…FEAR makes you unreasonable, and use poor judgement. Fear can be a great motivator if seen in a positive light. But for many fear is a negative thing. And they react negatively. It was never like this before. Or rather, considerably much, much, much less of an issue than it is today. Reiterating again, that crime is much lower today than it was back then.

  28. EricS October 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    @Emily: Not saying taking a “babysitting” course at Red Cross is wrong. I think everyone, including children, should learn First Aid. The only thing I see negatively about it is, it’s dubbed “babysitting” course. As in, you CAN’T babysit without this certification. I’ve done my share of babysitting when I was younger. As young as 10 years old. By then, my parents have already taught me to cook, clean, do laundry, iron clothes (the first three since I was 6). So I already knew the do’s and dont’s of being left alone in the house. I knew to call if something came up. I knew my neighbors just in case I needed immediate assistance. But I did not know first aid. Other than putting iodine (that’s what we used back then) on a cut, and then putting a band-aid over it. Knowing First Aid now, I think it would have been fun to take back then. So in regards to “babysitting” course, it’s not so much what you learn, but the notion that kids are NOT capable of babysitting without taking this course. Other than First Aid, this course wouldn’t teach you anything you don’t already know. So then it implies to kids, they don’t know anything until an adult tells them they know it. The me, me, me mentality of adults.

  29. Kay October 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    This law is about predators luring children, not child labor laws. Apparently, it is considered dangerous to solicit a child to rake a lawn for money without the parent’s permission.

    An earlier article:
    http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2013/02/senators_to_revise_ohios_child.html

  30. JP October 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Talk about anti-“right to work.”
    I mean, the irony is just too delicious.
    Of course, nothing wrong with parental permission – which could allow a whole host of income opportunities.
    But it’s also capable of removing spontaneous moments (and independent decisions.)
    And of course, there’s the age thing again. 14?
    13 is high school.
    Think about that. Too young to know the difference between a grocery parking lot granny’s tip for helping her haul/load groceries…..and predatorial motivations?

  31. SKL October 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    About the babysitting course. I would be truly interested in what it teaches. Because I definitely made mistakes when I was a young babysitter (age 10 to 14, say). I basically treated my charges the way kids in my house got treated – which I eventually learned was not always the paying parents’ expectation. Nothing dangerous or anything, just ignorant. (The parents would tell me what they preferred for next time; no biggie.) But today, the way people overreact to everything, I could see it being a big deal. Like the time a kid refused to eat his dinner, so I put it in the fridge for him to eat whenever he got hungry. His mom thought I should have made him a sandwich instead. And I even tapped a kid on the butt once or twice for hurting a younger sibling. Can you just imagine doing that today?

    I could see a babysitting course teaching kids things like how there is a broad range of expectations for child development and behavior, and strategies to guide and discipline that are acceptable in our oh-so gentle world. Perhaps changing a diaper, for those kids who have never done it (nowadays that is not unusual). My mom swore that my aunt (who had no younger siblings) never knew how to put on a diaper that wouldn’t fall off.

    It’s true that I knew a lot about kids because I had younger siblings and had a lot of responsibility for their care. This is missing from a lot of kids’ childhoods now. My own kids included.

  32. Rachael October 26, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    I love how the attorney essentially makes an exception for the judge.
    “Tobias then offered another option. “Then you could make the argument that the statute as applied to you would be unconstitutional.”

    How can a ‘confession’ of hiring kids for $10.00 be excepted when getting ‘caught’ hiring them for $0.25 isn’t? Oh, because she wants to play nice with the judge.

  33. Stacy October 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    A neighbor kid has been walking around, offering to shovel driveways, every time it snows since he was about ten. I thought it showed pretty good initiative. We didn’t hire him because we made our kids help us shovel instead. Would a parent be expected to walk around the cold, giving permission at every house?

    As I read this, my under-14 kid is raking leaves for $1 a bag, to be used to replace something of his that his friends broke. Serious child abuse. :)

  34. Dee October 28, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Hah! I can remember being about 11/12 and putting an ad in the paper to do odd jobs and/or babysitting. One family hired me to vacuum. They had a baby and didn’t trust an 11-year old to babysit but were fine with household chores. The husband said he had never met a hustler who was so young. (I guess b/c I was hustling work.)

    I *did* get several less-than-desirable requests. Someone wanted me to file for their pornography business. (Yeah, right.) This was back in the late 70s/early 80s so the “culture” we are told to be so afraid of has been around for a while!