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Folks — The Manifesto Club in  Britain is just a brilliant group dedicated to many of the same issues as Free-Range Kids. Among them: The way that pedophile panic is making us distrust absolutely every adult around a child. The latest example? This:

An Australian primary school has banned parents from taking photos of their kids’ swimming gala.

The headteacher justified the move thus: “We want parents to be able to have a record of the children’s events and be part of that, but it’s about protecting our children. (Swimming) is part of their curriculum and they should be able to participate in that while feeling safe.”

The suspicion directed at parents is a defining feature of many contemporary ‘child protection’ rules. Rather than focusing on ‘dodgy strangers hanging around’, controls instead target parents trying to record milestones in their children’s lives.

This primary school is ‘protecting children’ against their parents; and suggesting that children will not feel ‘safe’ if their parents and their friends’ parents are snapping photos of their races (which is, of course, the opposite of the truth).

This kind of ridiculous rule is what turns a community into a citadel of distrust. It’s the same kind of rule I heard about today when I was on the Michael Graham radio show. He said he was not allowed to visit his child’s classroom to read aloud because he didn’t have a background check. Like he was going to molest a child while reading to the other 24.

Our marching orders? Distrust every human over the age of 18. They all want to prey on kids. Maybe even the 84-year-old lady “saying” she needed help with a heavy package. Lady — we know your pervy kind. – L.

What kind of disgusting pervert took this photo?

Hi Readers! There’s the boogey man and then there’s the ice cream man. But thanks to a country suffused with predator panic, the two are fused together like the twin sticks of a  Popsicle.

It’s the same if you are guy and you want to work in day care, or as a birthday party clown, or even as a Cub Scout leader: everyone gives you the extra once over. God forbid an adult male likes being around kids! In our society, we’ve been conditioned into distrusting that. Hence, this latest proposal:

Earning the right to sell ice cream or any products door-to-door in Attleboro [MA] could soon require an extensive background check. City Councilor Mark Cooper will introduce an item at Tuesday’s council meeting calling for state and federal fingerprint-based criminal history checks for people applying for certain licenses….

“I don’t think it’s an invasion of privacy to make sure the ice cream man isn’t a person who would harm our children,” Cooper said.

His proposal — or at least the ice cream part of it —  is based on two entirely false premises:

1 – The idea that ice cream guys are creepy pedophiles until “proven” otherwise.


2 – That background checks make anyone safer. Considering that the majority of the guys on sex offender lists do NOT pose a threat to kids AND that the majority of the people who DO pose a threat to kids are NOT on the list  – what is the POINT?

Only to reinforce our fear of men around kids, period.

“This ordinance is based on paranoia, not on safety, and certainly not on common sense,” says Ben Miller, policy analyst at the think tank I’m working with, Common Good. “The real menace isn’t the ice cream man—it’s the bureaucratic license requirement making it harder for entrepreneurs to create jobs in a struggling community.”

Bureaucracy and fear go hand in hand.

Wait a sec! Isn’t that kind of…pervy? – L

How terrifying!

How terrifying!

Hi Readers — Here’s a story from this scary, scary Easter season that I’m reprinting in full from NBCPhiladelphia.com, (with some commentary): 


Police are on the search for a woman who tried to give candy to a child Friday evening along a quiet residential road. [HOW DARE SHE?]

A neighbor on Berkshire Road in Erial, N.J. approached the woman after she offered candy to a 7-year-old boy around 6:30 pm., according to Gloucester Township Police. [WHAT A PERVERT! OR...WHAT A NICE LADY. BUT STILL.]

The neighbor told the kid to go home and then approached the woman behind the wheel of a late 1990s Chevrolet Suburban with New Jersey plates. [JERSEY! I SHOULDA KNOWN!]

The driver, a woman in her late 40s, told the neighbor that she meant no harm and was just trying to get rid of leftover candy from a church event, according to police. [A LIKELY STORY. WHAT MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN DOESN'T WANT GOBS OF CANDY SITTING AROUND THE HOUSE?]

The neighbor told police that there was some candy on the passenger seat. [JUST LIKE DRUG PARAPHERNALIA. ONLY LEGAL.]

By the time police arrived the woman in the Suburban was gone. [THOSE SUBURBANS -- THE GET-AWAY VEHICLE OF CHOICE.] Police say the vehicle has chrome rims and silver trim around the doors. It also has a large gold-colored Chevy emblem on the rear door. [THAT CERTAIN NARROWS IT DOWN!]

Police want to talk to the woman and hope someone recognizes the car description. [MAYBE 2/3 OF THE COUNTRY?] Anyone with information should contact the Gloucester Township Police at 856-228-4500 or submit an anonymous tip at 856-842-5560 or by texting “GLOTWP” and the tip to 847411. [HURRY!!! CHANCES ARE THIS WOMAN IS STILL OUT THERE, MAYBE ON HER WAY TO BOOK CLUB OR BRUNCH WITH FRIENDS! HOW CAN FOLKS ENJOY A "HAPPY EASTER" KNOWING THIS WOMAN IS ON THE LOOSE?]

 Watch out for the middle-aged chick!

Hi Readers — Can you EVER leave your child unattended for a few minutes in a public place? That’s today’s big question. – L.


Dear Free-Range Kids: Last night I took my 5-year-old son and almost 3-year-old daughter to Taco Bell.  High class, I know.  The restaurant was pretty busy, about five full tables at any one time.  My son needed to use the restroom and upon hearing this my daughter decided she needed to go, too.  My son went to the men’s room, which has no stalls, just a toilet and a locking door.  I took my daughter to the ladies room.  We took a bit of time, more that usual, but my son still wasn’t out by the time my daughter and I were done.  After sitting at our table for a bit I felt the need to check on my son.  Since I was estimating it would only take 10-20 seconds I left my daughter at our table.  Twenty seconds turned into about two minutes as I discovered my son needed help wiping (he still needs a bit of help sometimes if it’s, erm, messy).

When I came back to my table my daughter was still in her highchair and looked content.  The ladies sitting next to me, however, were not.  My daughter told me, “The lady asked me if I was okay and I said yes!”  I turned around and was about to tell her thank you for looking out for my daughter, when she started ripping into me.  She told me, “You daughter was choking on her water.”

I asked my daughter, “Did you choke on your water or just cough?”  In our family there is a distinction between the two.  My daughter answered that she’d coughed.  I turned back to the lady and said, “She’s getting over a cold and still coughs.”  Her answer? “All the more reason you shouldn’t have left her.”  She asked me how I could just leave my kid there and I said I’d needed to check on my son.  She responded, “Then you should have taken her with you.  You are so irresponsible!  Anyone could have walked in here and just taken her!”  I looked her right in the eye and said, “You would have let someone take my kid?”  She was taken aback by that, then raised her voice and said, “I could have called CPS on you!  I SHOULD have called CPS on you!  You don’t deserve to have your kids!”

A bit more was said about how irresponsible I was, and then she left with her friend.  I was so humiliated.  I sat there imagining if the tables had been turned.  If I was at a fast food joint and saw a mother trying to deal with two young kids I would have kept the kid entertained while the mother was with her other child.  I wouldn’t have felt the need to involve government authorities.  I was just blown away by this woman’s vitriol.

In hindsight, yes, I should have taken my daughter with me.  However, I really was not expecting a 20-second check to turn into a two-minute “let me clean you up.”  Nevertheless, I did feel comfortable having my daughter sit by herself.  She is very independent and the restaurant was full of people.  I felt that the community would have pitched it.

I guessed wrong. — Krista

To which I replied:

No, Krista, you were RIGHT. You were not crazy , the other woman was: I’d like her to explain, step by step, the exact scenario by which some kidnapper who just HAPPENED to be in that exact restaurant at that EXACT moment would have sprinted off with your child in front of all those other people. Does she have any idea how RARE stranger kidnappings are? (Rhetorical question. For a reality check, I refer everyone to my “reassuring crime statitics” link on the right side of this blog.) And I LOVE your response to the busybody, “Would YOU have let someone take her?” Why don’t onlookers realize that they are PART of the safety net that looks after our kids and not the shame brigade? And the knee-jerk idea that some government authority should be involved to punish the “imperfect” parent is grating, too. This has become all too common, as if citizens WANT Big Brother bitch-slapping any parent who dares to trust her community, her instincts and her child.

Life is NEVER perfect and if it HAD to be for our species to survive, we’d be on display at The Museum of Natural History as a quaint, extinct (and often rude) species.

What’s crazy about our society is how we assume children are in danger at ALL TIMES, no matter how normal and unthreatening the circumstances. – L.

Think outside the social norms!

[brightcove vid=1777239257001&exp3=1684488549001&surl=http://c.brightcove.com/services&pubid=35121359001&pk=AQ~~,AAAACC1laJk~,tMO2d6O4mickzCfG8Kpt2wQCZRxpuzpo&lbu=http://www.ksdk.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1777239257001&w=300&h=225]

Readers — Will you please watch this news report and tell me what is going on? A man in a pick-up truck calls out to a girl, “Come here” and this is the BREAKING STORY OF THE DAY? Every single cop car is ON THE CASE? The newsroom is scrambling its reporters to GET THAT STORY? – L

Hi Folks — Here’s another little story that reminds us how  Worst-First thinking has become de rigeur when it comes to kids in the company of adults: A young Teach for America teacher took a student out for a hamburger and was immediately reprimanded by the school.

Yes, rules are rules, and he probably should have signed a lot of forms first, but sometimes — weirdly enough — a moment comes up that is not pre-scheduled and pre-approved and pre-notarized. It’s what we used to call “spontaneity.” (Now we call it “actionable.”) So off he and the kid went, got burgers and came right back.

The child’s mom sounds livid. As reported in the Houston Chronicle, she said, “He walked right out the front door with my child…This was not a role model.”

A better role model would NOT take an interest in her son?

I GET that we are terrified of adults grooming our kids into Sandusky  submission. The Miramonte stories shake me, too. But do we really want to treat every teacher-child interaction as prelude to perversion? My mentor, social studies teacher Genevieve MacDougall, took me out of high school for a few days, with my parents’ permission. She wanted me to drive her from Chicago down to Southern Illinois to check out a one-room school house she was thinking of buying. She paid for my meals and my room at a little hotel, and it is still one of the fondest memories of my life. I dedicated my Free-Range Kids book to her!

I doubt she’d be allowed to do that today. As the teacher in the hamburger story was quoted as saying:

“I care for my students and am trying to make a difference in their lives,” he said. “I try to build positive relationships with my students, and in that effort, I bought a student in my class a hamburger for lunch that we ate back at the school with others. I regret this mistake, but I am proud of YES Prep, and the work that I do there. I am glad that Yes Prep investigated the situation and found no reason that I should not continue to teach my students.”

As parents, we must (I say it every time this topic comes up) teach our kids to recognize, resist and report abuse. But we can NOT treat every teacher who dotes on our darlings as dangerous. Let’s bring that pendulum back to the middle, where it belongs. — L.

Dear Readers:  As the new year begins, I’m looking back on things I meant to comment on and here’s a piece from November that gets my goat. It’s an essay by a mom who declares she would like to be more of a Free-Range parent, but she simply cannot. How come? Because she recently heard the story of an elementary school principal in some city not her own, who secretly videotaped boys using the bathroom.

Now, this sounds like a disturbed and disturbing guy. Yecch. But the mom strikes me as disturbed as well. She seems to be saying that since sometimes some people in the world are bad to children, she simply MUST assume the worst first. And hence she will never be “Free-Range.” As if…Free-Range parents posit there are no bad people in the world?

That is not our position at all. In fact, our position is that since there ARE rotten people and situations — always were and always will be — the best thing we can do is prepare our kids to be street-wise, confident and self-reliant.

The other thing the writer seems to believe is that one single incident is enough to indict the entire human race. That’s a problem I encounter all the time:  The belief that ANY travesty, ANYWHERE in the world means that all bets are off EVERYWHERE, for EVERMORE, for THEIR kids. It is overreacting in the extreme and somewhat self-absorbed, too because it boils down to: I don’t care if the odds are a million to one. If something is going to happen to anyone in the world, surely it will happen to MY child and therefore it is MY job to be constantly on guard duty. (It also confers superhero status on the parent.)

Finally, while I think the principal sounds like an absolute creep, the essayist’s description of his crime seems to be that he videotaped the boys, period.  This is an invasion of privacy and certainly revolting. But let’s not conflate it with molesting or rape.

Yes, let us teach our children to recognize, resist and report abuse. But no, let’s not look at every adult as a probable pervert, and every moment as quite possibly our children’s last. Free-Range parents don’t clip terrible stories from the newspaper as proof that our kids need our constant supervision.  We figure that if those terrible stories make the paper, they must be  rare enough to be noteworthy. In other words, we try to keep things in perspective. That is indeed a Free-Range trait. — Lenore