“Students are Not Allowed to Ride Their Bikes to School” — Help Needed

Ok, readers: MORE advice needed. This time on how to persuade a school that it is being crazy excessively protective. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am so very upset right now and would love to have your (and other FRK readers) advice.  I emailed the elementary school principal, asking where my son can park/lock his bike.  (FYI, we live nearly a mile from the school — no bus service if a mile or less.)  This was his response…

Hello Mrs. MOM,

To ensure the safety of our children, students are not allowed to ride their bikes to school until they attend ADJOINING Middle School.

Take care,

MR. PRINCIPAL

Now, I have read the handbook and there isn’t a single mention of biking not being allowed.  The school is centered in the middle of several nice neighborhoods, there are sidewalks, crosswalks with guards, etc.  I plan to respond back, including the school superintendent in the conversation, but I want to make sure that I am building bridges, not burning them down.  Any advice or words of wisdom that you can share?  Thanks!

Signed,

Mrs. MOM

P.S.  My son has been practicing all summer, and was really looking forward to biking to school this year.  He nearly cried when I told him that he can’t do it (just yet…I’m going to fight this battle!!!)

Lenore here: I would suggest you get in touch with Safe Routes to Schools, which advocates for kids walking and biking to school. And also, print out some articles on the health and educational benefits of exercise. Also the fact that the #1 way kids die is as passengers in cars, not as pedestrians or bike riders. Good luck and report back, please! 

How can we get more kids biking to school?

How can we get more kids biking to school?

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93 Responses to “Students are Not Allowed to Ride Their Bikes to School” — Help Needed

  1. trish August 26, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    Does the adjoining middle school have bike racks? Can he park there and walk over to the elementary school?

  2. Buffy August 26, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    How on earth is it the SCHOOL’s say-so on how kids get to and from its building? And why do we, as parents, allow that?

    I’m sounding like Warren here, but I would suggest telling the school “I am the parent, so my kid, my rules. You are responsible for him once he arrives, and not a minute before.”

  3. brian August 26, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    I would be careful not to blame the Principal in this case. You are also new to the area so for all you know some kid was killed 10 years ago biking to school or something.

    Back in the 1980s in my school we always had a rule you couldn’t ride your bike until 4th grade. It was a real milestone when you could ride to school. So this is also something to be aware of.

    If you want to change the policy, I suggest that you become a partner not an enemy. Ask the Principal how you can work with him/her to get the policy changed. Phrase it in terms of Michele Obama’s work to get kids moving and to combat obesity. If that doesn’t work, write to the Superintendent and maybe go to a school board meeting to comment. Get it on the local blogs or in the local paper if needed. Make people aware and you will end up with partners.

    The alternative is to just do a work around. Find a fence somewhere he can just lock his bike every day or use that middle school bike rack. But I have the feeling you want this to be “legal” not just to work out.

  4. Warren August 26, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Mrs. Mom,

    Not all are the in your face person that I am. So first I would ask the principal for the exact rule, and where you can find it, as you have searched and not found an official rule.
    1. Then if they do not show a specific rule, and inform you that it is just the way they do it, GO FOR IT. Send him on his bike, have him put his bike in the adjacent school’s bike rack, and prepare to defend him.
    2. If they can show you an actual existing rule, then fight it within the system, but don’t give up. Start a petition, get the media involved, do whatever it takes.

    Standing up for your kid is not burning bridges. In this day and age being nice and not wanting to rock the boat is not a positive, as most places will just ignore you or walk all over you. There is something to be said for the school knowing that they cannot push you around.

  5. kate August 26, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Do you know any other like minded parents that will join you in this crusade? If you send your child on his bike, the administration may give him a hard time. But, if you can gather half a dozen kids to ride together, maybe this can become a more accepted mode of transportation. Alternatively,they will have to deal with a group of irate parents, rather than just you.

  6. BL August 26, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    @brian
    “I would be careful not to blame the Principal in this case.”

    Nonsense. Stop letting people hide behind “policy”. If they want to enforce something, it’s on them personally.

    Could you as the parent just say “it’s our policy that kids ride bikes to school! Don’t blame me, it’s a policy!”

  7. ChicagoDad August 26, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    My advice would be to ignore the principal, let your son bike anyway, and tell him to lock up his bike at a park or another public bike rack within a block or so of the school. The pricipal’s authority ends at the school grounds.

    If you want to pick and win a fight, then raise $500 from like-minded parents to buy a bike rack. http://www.belson.com/Traditional-Bike-Rack
    Then go to the school board meeting with your like-minded friends and tell them you raised money for a rack, you want permission to put it on school grounds and that you want the following added to the school handbook:

    “Bicycle Policy: Students may ride their bicycle to and from school by themselves when they are old enough and mature enough to do so safely. Students must walk their bikes through intersections monitored by crossing guards and at any time while on school grounds. Violation of this policy, or any unsafe use of a bicycle on school grounds, will result in a temporary suspension of bicycling privileges.”

  8. ChicagoDad August 26, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    One more thought. If you end up approaching the school board, it is a good idea to have some one-on-one conversations before hand. That advantage is that they won’t be blindsided, and one of them may even champion the cause. The disadvantage is that the principal may get notice and time to prepare a counter argument, but s/he would probably get that anyway. On the balance, it is better to have a champion of the cause on the board before the meeting where it is brought up.

  9. TM August 26, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    One possibility for your child while you’re fighting this fight (and something I did because my local schools had issues with bike vandalism/theft) would be if your child has a friend closer to the school (say a block or two), they could ride their bike there, leave the bike at the friend’s house and the two could walk the remainder of the way to school.

  10. Uly August 26, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Brian, one kid ten years ago does not a valid reason make.

    But I bet you anything that the excuse is “SAFETY!” while the actual reason is “yeah, we don’t have enough space”.

  11. joanne August 26, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    I feel confused. Based on the letter “(FYI, we live nearly a mile from the school — no bus service if a mile or less.)” the child does not get a bus because they live within a mile from school. So how does the principal expect the child to get to school if there is no school provided bus service due to proximity? Please note, I’m not saying kids within a mile should be bused because I don’t believe that, but I’m curious how the PRINCIPAL thinks the kids that are not on the bus route could/should get to school.

  12. jimc5499 August 26, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    I smell lawyers here. I’ll make an educated guess that the school doesn’t want to take a chance on being sued if a child gets hit by a car or wrecks their bike.

  13. Papilio August 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    What could possibly be wrong about children on bicycles…?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K_omtMbW48
    Why not encourage more kids to get some fresh air and exercise in the morning (helping to concentrate on their school work!)?
    As if a pick-up/drop-off line of cars is so enlightened!

    I wish I could help, but all I can think is, like someone else said, why does the school have a say about how your kid gets there in the first place (sure, they pay for the school bus, but other than that?)??

  14. MichaelF August 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Anytime you go above someone you are burning a bridge, or at the very least dousing it with something flammable and holding a match in your hand ready to drop. Talk to the principal, see what the rationale behind the unwritten policy is and see if you can talk out something. Diplomacy, face to face, works better than blind-siding with emails, although the “group bike ride” to school works out well…maybe even get the news crew to do a local story on it if you can; just focus on the ride not the school policy. Good human interest piece on that one!

  15. required name August 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    My 9 year old’s principal recently kept us from going onto the school’s playground after school because there were still buses loading in the area between the school and the playground. They were concerned that the buses would accidentally hit my daughter. Um…these are the drivers that the district wants us to trust our children with, who drive through our neighborhoods every day, dealing with children crossing streets, and yet suddenly it is dangerous for a child to be playing nearby because it’s on school grounds? Let’s not forget that the child was with her mother, who has somehow helped this child cross countless streets and parking lots without incident. I pointed this all out to the principal, who shrugged her shoulders and blamed it on “insurance issues”. I pointed out that my daughter is an “insurance issue” all day, including the morning bus dropoff times when she’s *gasp* playing on the playground near the buses! The only difference is that after school she isn’t in the care of playground aides, she’s in my care instead. I have much more than just “insurance issues” motivating me to keep this child safe. Again, the principal shrugged and blamed district policy. It has become a frustrating world.

  16. SOA August 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    This is one of those things you challenge the school on. They do not have authority to tell you how to get your kid to and from school. That is off school grounds off school property. So really it is not their call.

    You just go in the office and request a meeting with the Principal and tell them this is how it is going to be. Tell them you will sign a waiver giving permission for your child to bike to school and ask where they suggest your child stores their bike.

    Then leave it at that. They can’t fight it. If they do, call the superintendent and take it up the chain of command.

  17. Reziac August 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Someone says, “Back in the 1980s in my school we always had a rule you couldn’t ride your bike until 4th grade.”

    When I was a kid, we rode our bikes to school as soon as we were out of training wheels — first or second grade.

    The problem with any such rules is feature creep. Set an age limit, and sooner or later some immature kid of greater years happens along, and then the rules are “upgraded” to account for that corner case. Rinse and repeat until there is no age old enough to ride a bike.

    As a wise judge once pointed out, corner cases make bad law, and they make equally bad rules — by assuming we’re all as criminal or incompetent as the worst of us.

  18. Michelle August 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    If it were me, I would write back expressing concern that my child would have difficulty getting to school on time if he has to walk. Biking is so much faster than walking, you see, and could he park his bike at the middle school? Act as though the idea of driving your child less than a mile to school never even crossed your mind. (If the principal mentions driving, perhaps even go so far as to act like he must not realize how close you live to the school.)

    In the meantime, can you walk or bike with your son to school?

  19. Mark Swan August 26, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    We had trouble with Admin when we wanted to bike our son up in a bike trailer. First response to anything that doesn’t fit in their box is to say no. The principal was the one that worked it out with us.

    I assume you have him listed as a “walker”. At are school that means they would walk him out the front door to a corner at dismissal. “Carpool” would put him into another location where he wouldn’t be released until you show up. There may be a policy about the allowable radius for walkers that probably doesn’t mesh with the bus policy.

    If that is the problem, ask the principal how you can go about getting an exception to the policy or changing it. I agree with ChicagoDad about approaching school board members ahead of time.

    If you plan to send him without permission, do it when it would be reasonably convenient for you to go get him if needed. If they believe it is not allowed, they’d rather stop him and make you pick him up than risk being held responsible for letting him go.

  20. Michelle August 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    “I wish I could help, but all I can think is, like someone else said, why does the school have a say about how your kid gets there in the first place (sure, they pay for the school bus, but other than that?)??”

    Two reasons. One is that she wants her child to be able to park his bike on school grounds, and the school may attempt to prevent that (or, worse, try to take the bike away). Secondly, they may try to prevent him from leaving in the afternoons if they don’t approve of how he’s getting home. (A neighbor of mine had to go pick up her child at police station because the bus driver wouldn’t allow her to get off the bus with only a teenaged sitter waiting at the bus stop.)

    I’m not saying either of those things are ok; I find them outrageous. They’re just reasons why it may be preferable to get the school on your side.

  21. DIRK August 26, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    She needs to ask the principle why. Can he walk? Why not ride a bike. Also, middle school, is that 4th and 5th grade?

  22. Michelle August 26, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Dirk, where I live middle school is 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.

  23. Mary August 26, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Off topic, but this is depressing. 68% of people polled think it would be a good idea to criminalize letting preteens play unsupervised.

    http://reason.com/archives/2014/08/20/helicopter-parenting-run-amok-most-ameri#comment

  24. Mary August 26, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Haha oops didn’t realize YOU wrote the article! I didn’t see your book mentioned so for some reason thought you were uninvolved. Facepalm.

  25. Warren August 26, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Then there is the stance,
    1. The school is not providing transportation to and from school.
    2. The responsibility then falls on the parents to provide him a way of getting to school.
    3. Therefore the school abdicates responsibility thus relinquishing authority and control.

    Just tell the school, you cannot have your cake and eat it to.

  26. John August 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    This policy is not unusual, unfortunately. I work with a lady whose children attend a school only 2 blocks from where they live but school policy dictates that riding bikes and even walking to school is prohibited. Instead, bus transportation is mandated and furnished, even when children live close by. Then we wonder why we have a generation of fat kids in this country.

    The following website, healthychildren.org, speaks positively about children walking and riding their bikes to school although I disagree with their assertion that children up to age 9 should not ride their bikes without adult supervision and never on the street. I rode my bike 5 blocks to school when I was in 3rd grade, on the street and never once got run over. But at least we have a children’s organization encouraging bike riding and walking to school.

    http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Safety-On-The-Way-To-School.aspx

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also encourages children to walk or ride their bikes to school by citing obesity as an epidemic among children that needs to be prevented and they don’t stipulate an age limit. The following article claims a big barrier for parents not allowing their youngsters to walk or ride their bikes to school is crime and the fear of abduction. The same old myths that are impeding children’s development.

    http://lubbockonline.com/stories/081602/med_081602046.shtml

    I would share these articles with the Principal where these health organizations are actually encouraging kids to walk or ride their bikes to school. But perhaps you’ll need to take this higher up as the Principal may not have been the one who devised the “no bike riding” policy. Perhaps you need to contact the PTA or schoolboard or Superintendent, where this policy might have originated.

    I’m guessing a “no biking riding to school” rule was unheard of in the 1960s when American kids were not as fat as they are today!

  27. Kenny Felder August 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Don’t be confrontational. Express your appreciation for his concern with your child’s safety. Then point out all the stats about car accidents, etc, to make the case that biking is in fact much safer.

    As far as I know, no school has ever been sued because of a bike accident. If that’s true, it’s worth mentioning.

    Don’t create a situation where the principal loses if you win.

    An in-person conversation might work better than online.

  28. Andrea August 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Last year we were told that only the 4th and 5th graders could ride their bikes to school, and only if they signed an “biking agreement.” We had both a 5th grade student and a 2nd grade student. My husband challenged both the 4th and 5th only and the signed agreement rule, and asked what they would to do enforce either one. Since the school is surrounded on all 4 sides by public streets, there really isn’t anything they can do to enforce it. And after a lot of back and forth, hemming and hawing, they just let it drop, and our 2nd grader and 5th grader both rode to school most days, and neither one signed any “agreement.”

  29. Donna August 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    First you need to figure out whose rule this is. School board? School? There is no point in waging war, even a nice war, with the principal over a district-wide rule. That just burns bridges without any possible resolution.

  30. Glen August 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    This is another example of govt employees thinking they own our children. I would send my child to school on his bike and not seek permission.

  31. Andy August 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Why does the school think it is their right to police how the kid comes in?

  32. Swain August 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Dear Principal: thank you for your concerns for liability, er, um, I mean safety. However, the decision to let my son ride his bike to school or not is a decision to be made entirely by ME, thank you very much.

  33. Warren August 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Donna,

    So if it is a district wide policy, just say screw it and give up?

    If it is an actual rule, and not just some ahole admin. that prefers to say no before anything, then why is it not in the handbook? Why would the school not write in black and white so that parents know, like all the other rules in the handbook?

    Also, it does not matter if it is a district wide or just this school, if you want your kid to ride his/her bike, the school should not have a say in it, and you fight for your kids right to ride. Why are so many people afraid of confrontation, and taking on the schools?

  34. Karen August 26, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    I have had similar experiences. My question is: since the school does not provide the transportation in this case(no bus), then it really isn’t their legal responsibility how the students are transported to the school. Their responsibility starts when they enter the building. (BTW, I am a school bus driver). The school enters the conversation when we need a place for the students to stow their bike during the day. One principal told me that they didn’t want anything to happen to the bikes. Another school just cautioned that the High Schoolers like to take the little kid bikes and ride around, so lock them, not because of theft, more because of mischief. If it comes down to legal responsibility over the bikes, perhaps the PTO could help with proper bike storage?

  35. Karen Virtue August 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    All good comments here.
    A question: How old is the child in question? Are there any learning/developmental issues that would influence the equation?

    I would add to the comments get the PTA/PTO involved to sponsor a bike safety day in conjunction with local police, YMCA or community biking group. Education is important, right?

  36. Cin August 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    I would politely inform the principal and super that Mr. Principal has no jurisdiction on how my children commute to school. That’s my decision as a parent.

    I would reiterate you are not asking his permission, as that is outside his scope.

    I would then lobby the superintendent, ccing the principal but not involving him, for a bike rack at the school, using the evidence and resources Lenore gives above.

    Finally, I would instruct my kid to lock up at the middle school.

    I find the best way to deal with people trying to expand their authoritative reach (and strip our kids of their human rights) is NOT to argue my case — but to absolutely, unequivocally refuse to acknowledge they have any jurisdiction — because they don’t. I push back on the assumption of authority hard. That shuts them up, because they don’t have a leg to stand on legally, and they know it.

  37. Guacamole August 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    Where do schools get the idea that they can tell kids what they may or may not do outside of school hours and off school property??? I’ve never heard of that myself, nor would I stand for it. Having said that, my kids are in grades 7 and 9 now, and over the years I’ve often had cause to get in touch with the principal over various minor things I was seeking cooperation on. I would advise an approach that isn’t completely confrontational, so you can win but still preserve a working relationship with the school for future.

    In the end, if you have to simply rebel, you still should. But first, I would politely but persistently ask for details on why the school has the policy, why it thinks it can enforce it outside of school hours, and what it would take to change the policy and arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

    Do you have a local organization who might back you up? Something like the group behind this report: http://metrolinx.com/en/projectsandprograms/schooltravel/School_Travel_Planning_in_Action_in_Ontario_EN.pdf — which is also a document you might use to cite the benefits of biking to school.

  38. Donna August 26, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    “So if it is a district wide policy, just say screw it and give up?”

    No, it means that you are likely going to have to fight the school board, not the school administration. A school principal has no ability to change a district-wide policy. Fighting with him is the equivalent of banging your head against the wall – all you get is a headache and your problem still isn’t solved.

  39. wombat94 August 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    Warren,

    I didn’t take Donna’s comment to say that the fight isn’t worth fighting if it is a district-wide rule… just that fighting the principal may not make sense if it is a district policy.

    If that is the case, then it would be a waste of time to fight the principal – head right to the district administration/school board.

    Ted

  40. AnnMarie August 26, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    I am so thankful that my school district (actually, also the last one we lived in) was fine with bike riding. I don’t understand any school that doesn’t allow it given the obesity problems they are all trying to fight at the same time!

  41. Jill August 26, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    A child can’t be prevented from riding a bike to school, but she/he can be prevented from parking the bike on school property, if the administration so desires.
    I suppose the child could park the bike at the adjoining middle school, but then there’d be the issue of some school minion discovering that he/she isn’t a student there and kicking up a fuss.
    It’s crazy, but minions seem to live for kicking up a fuss, especially if they can bleat that someone is breaking the rules, or doing something “unsafe.”
    Why not go in person and talk to the principal? Don’t call, or send an email, because the principal can pretend to be too busy to respond. Find out exactly why the policy exists, and challenge it, firmly but politely.
    Is it an issue of potential theft or vandalism, and the school’s fear of liability if a child parks his or her bike at the school’s bike rack and, say, falls and whacks his or head on the bike rack, causing the parents to sue for millions of dollars? I’m guessing that liability is the culprit here, but you should try and find out because this is just ridiculous.

  42. Lindsey August 26, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    I bet this is in the south!

  43. lollipoplover August 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    I would choose a less confrontational stance, personally. I would have my kid bike/walk the route 90/10. Bike 90% of the way following all traffic rules, lock the bike on a street pole, and walk the remaining 10% of the distance with the other walkers.

    Schools cannot tell you how to get your children to school if they do not provide bus transportation and are off school property. They also cannot assume that everyone will drive to and from school. Not allowing a basic commuting choice like biking isn’t within the realm of the school’s power. Will they take on the teacher who commutes by motorcycle?

  44. Papilio August 26, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Actually, if it IS a district-wide policy, maybe you could find more parents at those other schools who’d also like to let their kids ride their bikes to school, or at least don’t agree there’s an age limit (what if parent & kid want to cycle to school together? Can’t put an age limit on that.).

    @Michelle: “Act as though the idea of driving your child less than a mile to school never even crossed your mind. (If the principal mentions driving, perhaps even go so far as to act like he must not realize how close you live to the school.)”
    No – Michelle! – you need to be holier than them: if the principal mentions driving, say you won’t drive your kid such short bits for safety reasons! After all, dying as a passenger in a moving car is the no1 cause of death in his age group…

    “school policy dictates that riding bikes and even walking to school is prohibited. Instead, bus transportation is mandated and furnished, even when children live close by.”
    Glad to see the childrens’ health is so high on their priority list… Oh wait. Can’t this be fought on some CDC/public health reason? I mean, it’s so NOT in the best interest of anyone involved.

    “I’m guessing a “no biking riding to school” rule was unheard of in the 1960s when American kids were not as fat as they are today!”
    Here it’s still unheard of. If anything, there’s a rule prohibiting parents from driving their kids to school. For safety reasons.

    It’s so frustrating (even for ME) to see that active travel is so ignored and not seen as important in the most obese country on the planet. And then they still claim it’s all for the children. Riiight. [/rant] Sorry.

  45. Maggie August 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    Frankly, how a child gets to school is not the school’s concern.

    Points to bring up, politely:

    1-The school has no legal rights outside of the school
    2-Childhood obesity is epidemic
    3-The school does not provide alternative transportation
    4-Biking is a safe alternative to walking, which is allowed

  46. lollipoplover August 26, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    The other approach would be to call for a meeting with the principal. Bring your son. Have HIM explain that your family made the decision, after careful thought and planning, to have him commute to school by bike. Explain that your family based this decision on the many benefits to his health, his school performance, and the environment. Arm yourself with studies. Find local pedestrian safety statistics for the route he takes. Any school that holds an Earth Day cannot have a policy banning biking.

    On a side note, our school used to ban biking. Both of my girls currently bike to school after the district cut bus service. Our neighborhood requested a traffic study from the state to evaluate our route being that the district previously banned it for safety concerns. The study results required the school district to pay for biking paths and new sidewalks that keep the kids separate from bus and parent traffic. It’s wonderful and worth the fight for this basic freedom for children.
    Good luck.

  47. Donna August 26, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    I’m curious. How do all the kids within a mile get to school? Do they all ride in cars? At my kid’s school, kids within a mile aren’t bused either. While very very few kids walk/bike alone, many do so with parents. Since a parent can’t ride two bikes home and then back to school in the afternoon, the kids’ bikes are left at school. This school seems to even preclude that as an option as there is no place to leave the bikes.

    I would meet with the principal in person to discover the true motivation behind the rule before formulating a plan. You could end up arguing apples while the real problem is oranges. For example, if kids are walking the same route, maybe the issue is simply bike safety. Maybe there were incidents of younger kids not obeying traffic rules. Arguing about overall safety statistics isn’t addressing the problem. Maybe the true issue is no bike rack at the elementary school and not wanting the younger kids at the middle school for some reason, at which point safety isn’t an issue, but raising the money for an elementary school bike rack may be.

  48. SimpleRyan August 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    I agree with @Brian and @Warren,
    Become a partner and find out how why the policy was made in the first place and then see how you can get the policy changed

    And if they don’t want to work with you, then you can go the route of making this issue known amongst other parents within your community, the media, online, etc.

    If you attack, people get defensive right away. But if you approach it with a mentality of “help me to understand so that we can work on this to make it better for our kids” then usually…and I say usually(not always) – most people are willing to help.

  49. jimc5499 August 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    Maggie,
    The school district, where I live, claims jurisdiction from when the child leaves the family’s property in the morning, until the child is back on their property in the afternoon.

    They get around this by having both the child and the parents sign a “Code of Conduct” that includes obeying all school rules.

  50. Jennifer Griffin August 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    Our schools require a waiver for kids to walk to school because the neighborhood has no sidewalks or crosswalks. Our buses cost $.50 per ride and will pick your kid up across the street if you pay for it. I don’t know your district, but in CO we have a Parent Teacher Organization and a School Accountability Committee, which is where I would start. I would not hold any perceived rudeness against a principal in the first two weeks of school. Things are hectic and letters/emails are dashed off one after another. It could be that by week 3 you could sit down with him and work something out.

  51. Birch August 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    We had a little protest walk to school, where some other friends walked with them. And then the most professional parent affected called the school to have a conversation along the lines of “I’m sure there’s been some misunderstanding…”

  52. Warren August 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Am I the only one that sees the insanity of a school being able to tell you how to get to school, and home when they are not providing the means itself?

    That is no different from an employer trying to tell you the same thing.

  53. Sarah August 26, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    Skateboard/ walk

  54. EricS August 26, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Mrs. Mom, you don’t need to “fight this battle”. If you and your son feel confident about him biking to school. Let him. If need be, scope out the area just outside of school grounds, for places to lock up his bicycle. Then he can walk the rest of the way. Even though NOT ALLOWED TO BIKE TO SCHOOL is not in their handbook, they’ve obviously gotten it into their heads that it’s a given. They are just protecting their collective arses. Your not breaking any laws, or even school policies. But if you lock up within school grounds, the school can (and probably will) reprimand your son and you. Don’t give them that option. Park outside of school property. If he can ride almost a mile to school on his own, walking a few meters shouldn’t be a problem. ;-)

    Just make sure you tell him not to make a big deal about it. Don’t boast. Keep it to himself. If there is anything about about authorities that anyone should know, it’s that they don’t like being challenged. Voicing out, and fighting this absurd non-written rule, will do just that. What your child does outside of school grounds is between you and your son. Not the school.

  55. EricS August 26, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    No Warren. You are not alone in that thought. Again, it’s all about the best interest of the school, not the children. The school authorities are only looking out for their collective arses. No one wants to get sued. At the same time, I do understand where they are coming from, because more and more parents are looking for that quick buck, by way of lawsuits. It’s a never ending perpetual issue in this day and age.

  56. Andy August 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    @Warren No, you are not alone, I see it as insane too. However, I would not be surprised by school here having written policy about anything here. On the good side, I would just ignore their policy and all would be fine in all likelihood.

  57. Angela August 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Cin – “I find the best way to deal with people trying to expand their authoritative reach (and strip our kids of their human rights) is NOT to argue my case — but to absolutely, unequivocally refuse to acknowledge they have any jurisdiction — because they don’t.”

    This, exactly. I tend to be the person Warren complains about, terrified of conflict and apt to accept suffering on myself before rocking a boat with others in it. I had to change when I had kids, though, both to be a parent to them and to defend them when it was needed. This is largely how I did it, creating a few rules – for myself as well as my children – that I enforce without accepting argument or debate.

    I never would have even thought to ask about biking, assumed if it was not forbidden in the handbook then the school must have the wherewithal to handle it. I have homeschooled all my kids for various lengths of time and am always having to point out to people that in Wisconsin you don’t ‘ask’ if you can homeschool, you inform the Dept. of Ed. (you don’t even have to contact your local district) how many of your children will be enrolled in your ‘private homeschool’ by the same date the schools have to report their enrollment. When the distinction was made to me by another homeschooler it stuck and I am very happy that it did.

  58. Warren August 26, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    Eric,
    Unfortunately having him stop short of the property, then walking, and keeping it quite, teaches him the wrong ideas. Teaches him, that to get what they want, instead of fighting for it, it is better to sneak around. And if a teacher or principal asks him how he gets to school, do you teach them to lie?

    It is a school and or school board. Each and every person in their employ works for the parents. Don’t forget that. Don’t let them forget that.

    And unless parents start fighting the system, it will only get worse. We have seen this.

  59. lollipoplover August 26, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Donna, around our school, there are parent walking/biking with students, groups of kids walking and biking together, and hybrid walk/drive combos at the bases of the biking and walking paths. Driving is not the silver bullet for all families.

    OT but worthy of sharing:
    http://widelawns.blogspot.com/2014/08/back-to-school-70s-vs-today-lot-has.html?m=1

  60. Papilio August 26, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    @Warren: Certainly not.
    Re Eric: it doesn’t need to be sneaking per se, just doing everything they DON’T have a say in.

    “And unless parents start fighting the system, it will only get worse. We have seen this.”

    The anecdotes on schools prohibiting walking too and/or raising the minimum age to walk/cycle further and further sure testify to that…
    I think parents need to work together in this fight, and cooperate with every single ally they can possibly find: Safe routes to school, CDC, Michelle Obama, cyclists’ organizations, active travel organizations, any organization fighting obesity, livability/walkability/New Urbanism(-like) related organizations – everything and everyone, I’m just trying to give people ideas here.
    An individual fighting these policies every once in a while doesn’t do much to push back.
    I know, easier said than done :-)

  61. Red August 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    @Dirk: the definition of “middle school” seems to vary wildly from district to district.

    In our old district, middle school was 4th, 5th, and 6th. In our new district, middle school is 7th, 8th, and 9th.

  62. Warren August 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    Everyone has a printer these days. So make up a flyer announcing that you want to get the school to allow kids to ride their bikes, to and from school.

    Stand out front, pass them out to parents. Send a copy to local papers, tv stations, radio stations and so on. Cheapest form of exposure I can think of.

  63. meredith August 26, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Up here in Alberta, that means your Grade 6 student can ride a bike to school the same year he/she is able to get a first Fast Food service job! What’s next–yellow buses to McDs or Ardenes for employed teenagers..?

  64. Lynn August 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    i don’t believe the elementary school can enforce this rule. Have him ride to school anyway and lock his bike at the middle school. They write a letter to the paper, take it to the PTA, school board meetings, etc.

  65. Kelly August 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    Just a quick thing to think about. Bicycling on the sidewalk in some cities is illegal since it is more dangerous than biking on the street — lots of cars backing out of driveways and sidewalks are for pedestrians on foot. Usually the idea is that 10 year olds can ride their bikes on the streets since they’re thought to be a little better equipped mentally to navigate and follow the rules of the road.

    It might also be that they are legally responsible for kids once they’ve left the house, if they aren’t with a parent, so that may be a reason they don’t like it.

  66. SOA August 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    My friend got into it with administration at her kids school because she lives across the street from the school and was walking to pick them up rather than sit forever in the car pick up line every day. The vice principal got into with her and was telling her she would not release the kids without my friend being in a car. My friend was livid. She finally caved but I would not do it. She even was pretending to be in a car pantomiming one day like she was driving up to pick them up. The Vice principal was not amused.

    I would not have caved but sometimes you just don’t wanna fight it anymore. At least she heckled her for a couple days and gave her a hard time about it.

    I don’t believe schools have a right to tell you what happens off school property and not during school hours. So if they leave the bike off school property it is none of their concern. They do have some say if you leave the bike on their property but heck chain it to a tree right across the street from the school and nothing they can do about it.

    I remember a similar situation when I was in middle school. My mom did not want to park across the street where they had the car kids wait. She thought that was stupid because you had to wait forever for the crossing guard to let your cross. So she would pull into a side parking lot that usually had an empty space in it and I would meet her there.

    One of the vice principals started trying to harass my mom about it and me too and my mom never did cave. She just kept parking there. It was safer in the side parking lot as I never even had to cross the street and no one was using that lot at that moment so it was not like she was taking anyone’s parking space.

    They just wanted to have control was all that was about. Some parents liked parking over across the street and that is fine but my mom preferred parking in the shade in that lot because it was easier to get out and head in the direction of our home from there.

    Schools sometimes think they can control the parents just as they control the kids and they got another think coming. I am an adult and as long as I am not breaking any laws, you don’t get to tell me what to do.

  67. Emily August 26, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    @SOA–How does that school handle students’ parents who don’t have cars? Saying “we won’t release YOUR OWN CHILD to you unless you’re in a car” is completely ridiculous, and probably illegal. Where’s Donna when you need her?

  68. J.T. Wenting August 27, 2014 at 12:25 am #

    “Just a quick thing to think about. Bicycling on the sidewalk in some cities is illegal since it is more dangerous than biking on the street — lots of cars backing out of driveways and sidewalks are for pedestrians on foot. Usually the idea is that 10 year olds can ride their bikes on the streets since they’re thought to be a little better equipped mentally to navigate and follow the rules of the road. ”

    Smart move would be to educate the children about road safety and bicycle handling…

    Maybe unheard of in the US, but in other countries they do it.
    Police and bicycle manufacturers (and local shops) support those efforts, supply people and equipment.
    Police would send someone to talk to the children and set up a bicycle course on the school grounds, bicycle shop supplies some suitable bikes from their rental fleet for children who don’t have their own (and may even hand out discount vouchers).

    Children learn about road safety, learn how to ride their bikes, school does its job of teaching, and parents get bugged by children that they want a bicycle.
    Local business happy too, they get to hopefully sell a few more bicycles and stuff to go with them.

  69. J.T. Wenting August 27, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    “i don’t believe the elementary school can enforce this rule. Have him ride to school anyway and lock his bike at the middle school.”

    legally, no. Technically, yes.
    They can make life miserable for you and your child, so miserable that you cave and do as you’re told.
    Or so miserable that you look for another school, if you’re lucky enough there’s one in the general area that will take “troublemakers” (and yes, news does go around that you’re a “troublemaker”).

  70. Andy August 27, 2014 at 3:01 am #

    @Warrent I would not see a big deal with parking the bike elsewhere. The school should have no say how the kid gets into the school and the kid is entitled to bike (or do other sport) before the school starts. The kid is not entitled to official school bike parking rack. It is somewhat jerk move to deny him the right to park in school (you do no even need bike rack for one bike), but it is still within their right.

    It is not sneaking, it is following the school rules where they have jurisdiction and doing what you want to do where the school has no say.

  71. NicoleK August 27, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    Ride the bike to school, park half a block away and lock your bike against a telephone pole or street sign and walk the rest of the way.

  72. Donald August 27, 2014 at 5:27 am #

    “…..but I want to make sure that I am building bridges, not burning them down.”

    Kudos!

    Your initial response will determine their initial response. If you attack, they defend and quite possibly ‘tune out’ your argument so much that they may not even hear it regardless of how good it is!

    The best way to get your way is to remember that is what your trying to do. GET YOUR WAY. Many people forget this and launch straight into fighting. (which will only make the other people dig in)

    Check out verbal aikido. It is a style of conflict management and resolution that involves treating the ‘attacker’ as a partner rather than an adversary.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbal_Aikido#Verbal_Aikido
    http://www.verbal-aikido.com/

  73. Leigh Ann August 27, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    It should never be up to the principal to allow or disallow a mode of transportation. If it’s not in the handbook or listed as a school district policy, then the school board likely did not vote on it. Policy is made by school boards, not individual principals. Furthermore, roads and sidewalks are the responsibility of the municipal, county or state government, not schools. School districts should not determine what mode of transportation is allowable. There are two resources on the subject that will help: 1. Change Lab Solutions resource called “Backing off Bike Bans” http://changelabsolutions.org/publications/bicycling-to-school. This provides more legal framework why schools should not ban bicycling. 2. “Why Should a School District Adopt Policies on Walking and Bicycling?” http://policy.rutgers.edu/vtc/srts/toolbox/School_Walk_Bike_Policy%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf Although it’s specific to NJ, there might be similarities to your situation. Find out if there is a school board member who would be sympathetic to your situation and talk to them about what can be done. There also might be local bicycle advocacy and Safe Routes to School groups willing to help you out. Good Luck!

  74. Thea August 27, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Out of curiosity I checked the rules for the elementary school that my son will attend in a few years. We live within a mile but because there are zero sidewalks and crossing a major rode, buses are provided. Walkers and bikers are allowed. No stated regulations on that. What got my goat was the line about dropping your kids off after the school day has begun, like from a doctor’s appointment. This is a direct quote: “Dropping children off is NOT(underlined) safe and (the following in bold) can be considered a form of child neglect.” Are you freaking kidding me? I could understand a K or 1st grader needing to be walked in but 3rd-5th grader can hop out of a car and walk inside to the office? Good grief.

  75. BL August 27, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    @Thea
    “I could understand a K or 1st grader needing to be walked in”

    I can’t. I walked to school at that age. OK, it was only half a block for me but other classmates walked 6-7 blocks.

    I don’t think kids are popping out of the womb any different. If they really can’t walk that far safely, it’s because they’re being deliberately dumbed down by “concerned” adults.

    I suppose our adults worried a bit about us crossing streets, so they appointed Safety Patrol kids to man the crosswalks. These were fourth-graders (and up to sixth). That’s right, any concerns about the safety of walking were well-addressed by competent fourth-graders.

  76. Ann August 27, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    There has been so much great advice given that I don’t have anything to add. Just wanted to say that I’d love to hear an update on this once she gets a resolution.

  77. SOA August 27, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    That was the same thing I said to my friend. I told her to lie and tell the VP that she did not have a car or that is was broken. Then what? I think she even tried that and the VP was like “I know you have a car I see you driving it”.

    Like she was not budging. I guess if the parents don’t have a car they are going to have to ride the bus but my friend wanted to get them out sooner as the bus takes longer to get home.

    Plus this is the South and they know everyone has a car. You kinda have to in the south because everything is so spaced out with not much good public transit.

  78. Thea August 27, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    @BL

    The line I quoted didn’t refer to walkers in general but the after the school day has started drop offs. There were no regulations about ages of walkers. I would hope that I have raised my son right and can trust him to walk into school after it’s started and to the office to check in and go to class. I know I did. However, I could see why they would put a age limitation. I don’t think it’s right but given other rules they have, I can see why they could.

  79. Warren August 27, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    In response to SOA’s friends problem.

    The moment that any school employee tells me they will not release my child to me, is the exact moment I call the police.

    No school has the right to keep your child from you. I don’t care if they have rules or not.

  80. Brooks August 27, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    I’ve been through this at my son’s school. I lost, but changed my strategy to wait till the long-time principal retired. He just did. He was a really great principal and was there for 22 years, so I decided not to try and win. I’m starting with the new principal now.

    Our solution was to find a parent’s home closest to the school and all the kids park there and walk the final block. It works great and the school can’t do anything about it.

  81. Brooks August 27, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Here are excerpts from the email I sent my son’s principal, if it would be helpful to you. It’s pretty easy to navigate the NHTSA web site for you to get state-specific data:

    ….. As you can see from my message, I think there is a way to officially allow cycling to school, but keep the bikes away from the ingress and egress of the cars to avoid potential problems. Since the email conversation with Mr.(assistant principal), I’ve checked with a city councilman, who says it’s not a zoning or engineering issue, only school policy. I’ve also done a fair amount of research of facts to see what the rate of school-zone traffic accidents are. For 2011 and 2010, respectively, here they are:

    School Zone, Nationwide deaths
    2011
    39 – Pedestrian (none in Alabama)
    2 – Bike (none in Alabama)

    2010
    20 – Pedestrian (none in Alabama)
    2 – bike (none in Alabama)
    Source – NHTSA web site data tables

    I have yet to figure out how to extract school-zone vehicle accident rates, but I’m sure we can both agree that they are higher. Bus accident rates are also much higher, but I could not separate the injuries from deaths to give a correct comparison. From a statistical perspective, riding in a car, bus or walking to school is more dangerous than riding a bike.

    Hope this is helpful.

  82. ky mom August 27, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I see a lot of they aren’t responsible until the kids get to school. Where I live, there is a “door to door” policy. Meaning if kid A gets bullied by kid B on the way home, they can take disciplinary action.

    Just saying. It was nice for me when I went to school here because I was sexually harassed in middle school. While the boys moms didn’t appreciate that they got in trouble for repeatedly acting out and saying innuendo despite my requests to stop, I was never harrassed by those two again. (And if there moms were that upset for consequences inacted because I stood up for myself, I doubt they would have done anything to curb their sons misbehavior.)

  83. Donna August 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    I actually agree with Warren about SOA’s friend’s problem. Schools are allowed to have rules about what occurs on their premises. Schools can probably even have rules about releasing children to adults as opposed to just sending them on their merry way (whether they can truly have rules about how children get to school is more questionable).

    I could be wrong, and I am not an expert on school law by any stretch of the imagination, but I cannot imagine that it would be legal for the school to withhold a child from a legal custodian there are the regularly appointed time to pick up children simply because the school doesn’t like the non-dangerous form of transportation that legal custodian chose. Maybe if they suspected that mom was high or that dad was about to put Jr. on his motorcycle without a helmet or something legitimately dangerous they could refuse the parent, but not just for walking.

  84. Michelle August 27, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    “My friend got into it with administration at her kids school because she lives across the street from the school and was walking to pick them up rather than sit forever in the car pick up line every day. The vice principal got into with her and was telling her she would not release the kids without my friend being in a car. My friend was livid. She finally caved but I would not do it. She even was pretending to be in a car pantomiming one day like she was driving up to pick them up. The Vice principal was not amused.”

    Just reading this made me so angry that my heart started racing and I had to get up and walk around the room to calm down. Normally, I’m very shy and non-confrontational, but get between my kids and me, and I go into Southern B*tch mode:

    [big smile]”I know, I understand, you have these policies, probably handed down to you by your boss, and you have to follow them. But I don’t. So you’re going to give me my children, right now, or I’m going to call the police. Thank you.”[/big smile]

    I’m not just blowing smoke – I’ve done it.

  85. Puzzled August 28, 2014 at 1:06 am #

    My attitude lately has been “don’t let anyone get away with anything.” I went to place an order on Amazon today, I have Amazon Prime, and I bought 2 prime-eligible items. I then noticed that, at checkout, the “2 day free shipping” wasn’t there, and the only option was “free standard shipping.” I wasted half an hour on the phone with a rep whose first language was clearly not English. I got 2 day free shipping, though. You give someone an inch, they take a mile. So in my current mood, here’s how I’d respond:

    Mr. Principal:

    To ensure the health of MY child (please take note, not ours, unless you are accusing me of infidelity, and certainly not yours, as I know this child came out of my vagina, not yours) my child is permitted to ride his bike to school. If you are unhappy with this arrangement, feel free to send him home – on his bike, where he will spend the day unsupervised, which is also perfectly fine with me, as spending the day at home watching tv is likely more educational than spending the day at a school run by a power-hungry control freak.

    Take care,
    Mrs. Mom – as in parent

  86. Bennett August 28, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    The on-the-edge-of-confrontational way I’d phrase it is

    “Thank you for your reply, but it does not address my question. I did not ask the school’s permission for my son to ride his bicycle off school grounds. I asked if there was somewhere he could park his bicycle on school grounds.”

  87. Warren August 28, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Puzzled,

    Just about the best damn response anyone could have come up with!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  88. Beth August 28, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    Safe Routes To Schools is losing its Federal Funding and, as a result, will be going away in many states. Check your state’s program to see if it will still exist by the end of this year.
    If not, make friends with the local police and fire department and see if they’d help you put on a bicycle rodeo — we used to have these in cities across America back in the 1970’s to teach kids bike safety. Or work with your state/regional bicycle advocacy group if there is one. Call the media. Shame the school district, if necessary. In the most extreme cases, the ones where the city actually CAN tell you how to raise your kids and take them away if they don’t like your style — then you will have to MOVE. You owe it to yourself and your kids.

  89. chris August 30, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    you know what- people are going to have to just start rocking the boat against these “ridiculous regulators”.
    Ride your bike! for — sake; see what happens- these regulators/administrators cannot control every aspect of you and your child’s life; are they going to throw you in jail, suspend you from school?- if so, it would attract unwanted negative attention to themselves, and they don’t want that.

  90. Sherri August 31, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    When my son started school I noticed the school handbook said “due to theft and vandalism students are discouraged from riding their bikes to school.” I went to the principal and said “shouldn’t we be encouraging active transportation?” She said “Sure, but we have had bikes stolen and vandalized.” I said change the handbook to read “Bikes are left at students own risk.” She said OK and changed it.

  91. hineata September 2, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    Coming late to this, but just had to add that I am absolutely gobsmacked by SOA’s story. I think even totalitarian states would look sidewise at teachers or principals not releasing children at the end of the day to their OWN parents. How in the world is that legal?

    Gosh, at the end of the school day I just say ‘Good afternoon everybody’, and they repeat ‘Good afternoon Mrs……’ ….and then I get the heck out of the way as they stampede out of the classroom and then out of school, like any normal child wants to do. No waiting for parents…..and that’s from 5 up. Some parents do turn up to pick up their kids, but that’s on them to arrive before the little blighters escape :-).

  92. Kim September 2, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    Hi Lenore,
    Here in Australia we have something called ‘Ride2School Day’. It is designed to encourage healthy activity and independence in primary and secondary aged school children.
    It’s a great initiative that is sponsored by the government and provides assistance to schools wishing to participate.
    https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/general/programs/345/
    I wonder if there is a similar programmme in the US?

  93. Wait? September 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    Write them a letter and ask them to quote chapter and verse of the safety regs. It may be their version of ‘dog ate my homework’.