A Question About the Toilet Down the Hall

Hi sssyrtfbsf
Folks! Here’s a question about bathroom break protocol at a Sunday School. Weigh in! — L

Dear Free-Range Kids: What got me interested in this movement is a conversation I had at church just over a week ago. I’m my church’s Health and Safety Officer, but we also have a Child Protection Officer who is also Churchwarden.  She approached me just before the service and asked my opinion on what age a child should be allowed to go to the toilet unaccompanied.

I should explain the toilet is in a room adjoining the church which connects with the school and has a door opening onto the school yard. This is left open so the Sunday School students can go into the school hall and return to the church later. The Churchwarden seemed to be worried that a stranger might climb over the fence into the yard and attack a child using the toilet.

She was called away by someone and the service started a minute later so I didn’t get a chance to reply, but the question lingered with me. Talking to her later, I suggested a cutoff age of 12. I actually thought younger would be fine, but felt that that would probably cause outrage, knowing how paranoid people can be about child safety. To my absolute astonishment she said others had convinced her it should be 14, as this was the legal age children could be left on their own in the UK!

I have since found out that is untrue — there is no proscribed legal age its up to the judgment of the parents.

I didn’t press the issue then but I have been researching it and that’s what led me to this website. I must say it’s one of the most heartening things I’ve ever come across. I work in a secondary school as a science technician and I’ve often felt sad at how restricted children are compared to when I was growing up.

But, back to the church issue. I’m sure she’ll bring it up at the next Church Council meeting, but I intend to fight a cutoff age of 14. Just what sort of society are we creating if a young person of 12 or 13 can’t be allowed the dignity of going to the loo on their own in broad daylight?

I agree! And I’d set the age a lot younger. I actually think first graders can get themselves to and from the bathroom on their own. Didn’t most of us? I sure did. And after reading (in the comments on the post below this one) about the 4 and 5-year-olds using machetes elsewhere in the world, I have a feeling we First World denizens REALLY underestimate what our kids of capable of.

What’s more, the idea that some miscreant is going to scale a fence in the  hopes of maybe finding a kid in the bathroom on the other side is bizarre in its unlikeliness. If I were a thug, I’d certainly prefer committing a crime that did not require me to start by climbing.

The whole situation sounds safe and simple, and let’s not forget it! — L

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110 Responses to A Question About the Toilet Down the Hall

  1. Grimalkin March 1, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Just for a little perspective, I was walking to school with kids my age (and no adults!) at 4-years-old. At 6, I was “roaming” – alone or with friends – around the village where I lived.

    While it certainly does depend on the child, and while I would be much more concerned about kids who make a habit of “forgetting” where they were supposed to be going and wondering off, I would say that any kid should be perfectly capable of going potty on their own by 6.

  2. pentamom March 1, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    But I do understand the OP’s point — if you set the age young, people will flip out and pretty soon NO child will be allowed to go to the bathroom unaccompanied. Loudmouths don’t have to be right or even numerous to wreck things for everybody. I think setting it at 12 to begin with would be a decent start, and maybe if you go for a while and people get used to it, you could work it downward.

  3. Claire - Matching Pegs March 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    This is actually one instance where I disagree about potential for harm in the toilets. I love Free Range Parenting, but I also know there have been lots of cases of people hanging around school toilets because they are private. I can certainly remember several instances of this happening when I was growing up, and several incidents have been in the news that I can think of.

    I don’t think the answer is having the child accompanied by an adult until they are 14, but I do think there is a middle-ground which is commonly used at Primary schools here in Australia (kids aged 5 to 12).

    Kids go off to the toilets in pairs. If someone needs to go then they ask the teacher for permission and pick a buddy. This also serves to deter these kids who get “lost” wandering around the school because they don’t want to be in the class – the teacher just makes sure their buddy is someone who is likely to return promptly.

  4. Grimalkin March 1, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    @pentamom – I understand the issue of strategy, I really do. But 12? In many parts of the world, and through much of our history, a 12-year-old could be expected to be a spouse, if not a parent. A 12-year-old would be expected to have a career. And here we are, thinking that they might not be able to handle going potty all by themselves?

    What does that do to a child’s self-esteem?

    A recent post called this “stealing from kids” and I agree completely. Even if it’s for their safety (which is debatable given the actual risks involved), keeping them locked up and protected like this is only going to teach them dependency. It’s robbing them of the confidence in their ability to do things for themselves.

    If we’re really worried about strategy, we can move the “potty time” as far back as 8, but I really wouldn’t go any older than that. Even 8 is pushing it, but 12? That’s just insane!

  5. pebblekeeper March 1, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    My boys are able to walk to the restroom alone at home. I would think if they are unable to use the facilities alone, their parents should become helpers. It might be nice to bring in a Tween or Teen to help out in the class – just to stand outside the door to make sure the kiddos don’t get distracted or turned around in the building.

    What exactly are the statistics of Church Restroom Kidnappings?

  6. Anna B March 1, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    I would send my 6 year old, no problem And when the bathroom police said something, I would say what I always say, “She’s fine. Thanks for letting me know.” That said, my lovely daughter has no sense of direction, so I would probably follow her at a distance.

    Here is a shocking idea…why not skip a formal policy and let the people who know the children best, their parents, decide? Each family could determine for themselves, based on their understanding of their child’s particular strengths and weaknesses, when to allow them to go alone.

  7. Ali March 1, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Start at 14 and negotiate down? How about starting at 4 and negotiating up. Amazing there are people on the planet that believe kids don’t know how to pee. I can tell you, kids are pretty well equipped.

    The whole “predator” thing is a red herring.

  8. Rich Wilson March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    The age at which they can wipe their own bottoms.

  9. Get Kids Outside March 1, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    In our licensed after school in Wisconsin we are required by law to supervise all children ages 6 and under while in the restroom (though we don’t watch them). Older kids need to ask permission to use the restroom so that we can keep track of them, but we do not have to go with them. Remember, we are a licensed child care facility so we need to track our kids at all times. This is critical when we are using public restrooms at a swimming pool or park.

  10. JP Merzetti March 1, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    A 14 year old is not a “child”
    (nor 13)
    lest we require diapers for the wee things?
    teens, tweens, or whatever flavor suits the mood, occasion or op-ed………………
    Are they maybe thinking of raising a generation or two of bovine maladjustments?
    (or the next generation of revolutionistas, hard to say)

  11. Ross March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Only slightly related article, but similarly stupid none the less:

  12. Grimalkin March 1, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    @Ross – By all means, let’s make sure our kids never value opening doors for people with their hands full! While we’re at it, let’s punish any kids who think to help old ladies carry their groceries!

    And then we get upset that this new generation “ain’t got no respect”?

  13. Melissa March 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    It’s an interesting question. I work at a very, very busy retail store. It’s about 200 feet, a straight shot, from the service desk area where I work to the restrooms and drinking fountain. Often, when people come in and come to my counter first, their kids get antsy and ask to go get a drink or go to the bathroom. So I see parents wrestle with this decision everyday. Some make horrible choices – one lady refused to let her 9 year old go by himself and wouldn’t put off her transaction to take him. I told her she wouldn’t have to wait in line, I tried to get a coworker to the counter to offer to take him, but alas, he ended up having an accident. A 9 year old. In public. He was HUMILIATED, all because his mom was sure someone would try to kidnap him. Another time, a guy let his 4 year old take the 3 year old to the potty. We were packed – I couldn’t even see them through the other customers. Luckily a coworker brought them back. She said they were wandering behind the registers, far past the bathrooms. My two cents is that there is no one right age – it depends on the location, the kid and the situation. I’m shocked by the suggestion of 14 – I would think if they absolutely had to pick an age, they’d say 9 or 10. For one thing, girls go through puberty starting around that age and need their privacy in the bathroom.

  14. highwayman March 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    In the name of security, civility is sacrificed. If we’re to be the “Land of the Free,” it behooves us to be the “Home of the Brave.” We do not have to be that courageous. We should just stop our schools from investing in fancy-assed security systems designed for pharmaceutical firms.

    Simply a public entrance to the school with a receptionist manning it should suffice. Meanwhile staff and student entrances should be located AWAY from the public approach and AWAY from public parking.

  15. Bronwyn March 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    If they have to scale a fence to get to the kid, don’t they have to scale a fence to escape?

    Aside from that this is ridiculous. I walked to school on my own from age 7. I could certainly make it to the loo and back on my own. If they can clean themselves up and find their way to and from, let them.

    If they are big enough to be away from Mum and Dad for school (or sunday school) they are big enough to go to the loo on their own. Even better, ask the kid, they’ll tell you when they can.

  16. SKL March 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    OK, would it not make more sense to change the layout so that the bathroom was not open to the outdoors if that is such an unsafe setup? I mean, I’m 44 and I don’t want to go to the bathroom where any weirdo could walk in unnoticed off the street.

    Now given a reasonably safe location, I would not be opposed to letting kids as young as 4 or 6 go on their own. It would depend on how far away it was, how “alone” they really were, and what attractive nuisances there might be along the way.

    This evening my kids and I had 5 stops to make before coming home. Since they are 4, I have pretty much stopped deciding when they have to go to the bathroom, so after about 3 hours (when we were in a bookstore), my youngest announced that she needed to go ASAP. I gave her directions to find the restroom, sent her 4yo sister to accompany her, and went back to my shopping. I completed my purchase and then met my kids, who were doing exactly what they should have been doing in the restroom. I knew some people would not have approved of their independence, but nobody complained. But at church, I have never sent them alone to the restroom yet. They don’t want me to, and besides, I can just see my kid forgetting herself and coming noisily back to the service during the prayer. However, I surely won’t be waiting until they are 14, 12, or probably even 6. (And the ladies’ room is right next to an outside door. But, what kind of criminal gets up early on Sunday morning to go looking for trouble?)

  17. Sera March 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Hum. Well. I guess it depends.

    The description of the toilet is a bit ambiguous. I sort of assume that the toilet is part of the church building but entered from outdoors. In which case, it would depend on whether or not the toilet is open to the general public also.

    Outdoor-entry public toilets are usually hella seedy and dangerous – especially at night. A lot of them I wouldn’t even recommend an adult using without another adult somewhere closeby.

    If it’s not open to the public then I really wouldn’t worry.

    Always remember to teach your kid what to do if someone does grab them. Struggle. Bite. Kick. Scratch and gouge at eyes. Scream “I’M BEING KIDNAPPED” (as opposed to “HELP”). I mean hell, someone trying to kidnap a kid making a scene like that isn’t going to get far at all in a public place with any witnesses. My parents let me go to the toilet by myself since I was old enough to not get lost on my way to and from, but they taught me to do that if anyone did grab me (nobody ever did).

  18. Dawn in Vancouver March 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    This is so timely.
    Today my mother in law took my 5 year old son to the airport to watch the planes take off and land.
    She was VERY shocked to find out that I let my son go into the men’s washroom alone, and tried to refuse him to go and was trying to get him into the women’s washroom. He refused. So she let him, while staying at the doorway ‘listening’ for anything that might go wrong. She told him told yell for her if he had problems.
    Well the usual problem that he has is washing his hands since he can’t reach the sinks.
    She heard ‘Grandma!’ and she rushed in to find an older gentleman holding my son up to the sinks to reach. While hearing the re-telling, I found it sweet that someone would help him. But I also found out that my son protested this help, but the man wouldn’t listen (or maybe couldn’t hear him).
    So it’s too bad that something ‘occured’ during this bathroom visit, for the fact that my mother in law thinks I am totally crazy for letting him go in alone. I on the other hand found what happened to be such a great thing. It has opened up more conversation between my son and I about how to make yourself heard by an adult. And more talk about what if he was a bad guy and how to defend himself. We’ve talked about this before but it’s great to bring it up every now and then for a reminder.
    This isn’t a complete comparison to the question above, since I’m usually just outside the washroom or I’m in the ladies washroom right beside the men’s, then we meet in the middle.

  19. Me March 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    My son (5) and daughter (6) are still accompanied to the bathroom at church during the service but that has 0 to do with the “someone is going to get them” factor and EVERYTHING to do with the “they will go play and not come back into the church.” If we are not in the middle of the service, by all means they can go by themselves.

    I guess I don’t quite understand the set up of this church and how someone could get from the yard to the bathroom, and if that is truly an issue, which it may be in some neighborhoods, why isn’t it an issue to have children going back and forth into that room in general?

    If our church required me to accompany my children to the bathroom until they are 12…an age which a lot of kids are BABYSITTING at least during daylight hours, I’d probably find a different church.

  20. Sera March 1, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    @Dawn – I’m actually surprised that happened. No adult stranger should ever touch a child if the child protests the interaction, even if it is for something innocent. It’s important for the child to have and maintain his own personal space and boundaries even at that age.

    Personally I’d have been pretty leery of that man.

  21. Emily March 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Sitting in the church foyer with our baby, my husband heard a mom threaten a child, “Don’t go around that corner! A stranger’s going to get you!”

    At church.

    A church where everybody knows everybody else, and half of them are related to each other (including this mother).


    On the other hand, in the wake of increased public awareness of abusive priests/scout leaders/etc., and just the added layer of caution when being responsible for someone else’s children for a period of time, I think it’s wise to have a (reasonable) policy in place that protects the rights and safety of children and the adults who work with them.

    In our church, parents or 3-to-11-year-olds are asked to take their children to the restroom and drinking fountain prior to Sunday school and then the teachers typically take their classes again during the transition from “group time” to “class time” (waiting outside the restroom as a class until everyone lines back up). I find that for 5-year-olds and up, that’s generally sufficient, and the 3- and 4-year-olds usually have a second teacher who can help if someone needs to go potty during class. If a child needs help with zippers/buttons/tights/etc., that’s the parent’s responsibility, not the teacher’s.

  22. Emily March 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Sitting in the church foyer with our baby, my husband heard a mom threaten a child, “Don’t go around that corner! A stranger’s going to get you!”

    At church.

    A church where everybody knows everybody else, and half of them are related to each other (including this mother).


    On the other hand, in the wake of increased public awareness of abusive priests/scout leaders/etc., and just the added layer of caution when being responsible for someone else’s children for a period of time, I think it’s wise to have a (reasonable) policy in place that protects the rights and safety of children and the adults who work with them.

    In our church, parents of 3-to-11-year-olds are asked to take their children to the restroom and drinking fountain prior to Sunday school and then the teachers typically take their classes again during the transition from “group time” to “class time” (waiting outside the restroom as a class until everyone lines back up). I find that for 5-year-olds and up, that’s generally sufficient, and the 3- and 4-year-olds usually have a second teacher who can help if someone needs to go potty during class. If a child needs help with zippers/buttons/tights/etc., that’s the parent’s responsibility, not the teacher’s.

  23. Steve March 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Tell the powers that be in the church to visit this blog and do some serious reading…especially the many comments left by visitors.

    They should also read Lenore’s book, Free Range Kids, as well as Warwick Cairn’s “How to Live Dangerously.”

    Also, go to youtube.com and type in “Lenore Skenazy” and watch some of the interviews, etc.

    Here’s a good one to start with:


  24. Nerida March 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    My girls have been going to the toilet alone at church since they were about 5. Before that the issue was difficulty in flushing & using the sink. The toilets are old. The whole church building & grounds is open to the street. They play outside unsupervised in full view of passers by after church during morning tea. We have never had an issue.

  25. Jill March 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    If she is listening to others, and if she asked you, it sounds like she might be open minded about the whole thing. Maybe this is a good chance to point out the merits of a freer range philosophy when it comes to child supervision? Perhaps you could mention to her this great website you found when you were thinking/reading about the issues, and point her here!

  26. Frau_Mahlzahn March 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    14??? Even 12 would be… embarrassing. Er, my four year old waves me off and tells me that she can go on her own… I mean, we go to Church, she knows her way around…

    So long,

  27. Frau_Mahlzahn March 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    @nerida: same here, although I do want to keep an eye on my four year old, when she goes outside to play in front of the church, because parking lots and traffic are a bit tricky there.


  28. Jo March 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Surely it’s up to the parents discretion as to whether they allow a child to go to the toilet unaccompanied. I would be some what put out being told that my perfectly capable 6 year old is not allowed to go to the toilet unaccompanied when the toilet is right next door.
    Has there been a recent spate of people jumping fences, invading churches and stealing children that I am unaware of?

  29. sue March 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    As a previous poster pointed out, a potential kidnapper would have to scale a fence, go into the bathroom, then escape with a heavy child in his arms while climbing up the fence to escape. The odds of a successful kidnapping in that situation seem to be slim to none, even if the kid was silent.

    I let my son go to the bathroom on his own in familiar places (mainly restaurants) when he was 5. He refused to go into the women’s bathroom at that age. At 12, he thinks that the whole helicopter parenting thing is ridiculous. I couldn’t imagine having to escort this child who goes to school, friends’ houses, and generally all over town on his own, to the bathroom. He would think that I was joking.

  30. Kitschy Coo March 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I’m having the opposite problem to this (Lenore- I tweeted you the link to my blog post but maybe you missed it!). My 3yo daughter is at nursery school and has had persistant bladder infections. We had a consult with a renal specialist who said that the lab results showed it was from poor wiping technique. When I asked the nursery to help her with wiping they refused because of Child Protection (the staff can’t have intimate contact with the children) . This is ostensibly to protect the children, but really it’s to protect the adults from allegations of improper touching. At 3 and 4, the children are expected to have total control of their own hygiene even when they have been shown incapable of doing a good job, and to the potential detriment of their health. Eventually (after signing medical forms) the nursery have agreed to supervise her on bathroom trips, but all the other 3 and 4 year olds are on their own.

  31. Thomas March 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Churchwarden? Sounds like this church has other issues.

  32. Sarah March 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    So this subject has been a source of debate among my family. I have 3 sons 22, 11 and 9. The oldest is on his own but I let the other two use the restroom by themselves all of the time. The only time I ask the 11yr old to accompany the 9yr old is when we have to stop at a rest stop or in a very busy place such as an airport or Disneyworld. Nobody has been molested, killed or maimed. Actually the boys have told me men in the restroom reminded them too wash hands or one held the 9 yr old up to wash when he was 5. The then7 yr old reported this when he went in too use the bathroom also.

  33. Marion March 1, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Hah! Does this person actually suggests an *adult* has to accompany 12 and 13 year olds to the toilets?

    Why, the pedophiles!!

  34. maggie March 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Ohhh! This reminds me of my Brownie co-leader!!!! They are 8-9 years old, we have our meetings in the same school they go to everyday, and the bathroom is right across the hall, yet she insists the girls take buddies!!!! This is starting to prompt some rolling from the girls. I think she is taking the buddy system tooooo far, but I don’t know how to politely tell her to back off a bit!

  35. maggie March 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    The bathroom is accessable from the inside of the church and the yard from what I can tell. Why not just lock the outside door when the service starts? Then anyone who needed to could go to the bathroom without worry.
    If something must be done then I like someone’s suggestion of having two kids go instead of just one. Especially if the kid is able to take care of all their bathroom needs by themselves.
    My 4 year old often goes to the men’s room by himself and, like many other stories, his only problem is reaching the soap!

  36. Tuppence March 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    14 is unacceptable. 12 is unacceptable. The next meeting is an excellent opportunity to let everyone know how sad you’ve been feeling about how restricted children are, compared to when you were growing up. I would strongly encourage you, even if it ultimately doesn’t affect the policy, to speak up. We’ve got to at least try to bring people back to their senses.

    Children are as capable as they were when you were a child, and the likelihood that a perv will scale a wall at exactly the right mo to get his hands on an unsuspecting kid using the loo is the same, in other words: Zilch. No (average) adult would have spent a minute thinking about this issue then. No adult should do so now. Spread the word!

    Don’t forget to send us an update after the meeting. Good luck.

  37. Laura V. March 1, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    @thomas – “churchwarden” is the (somewhat archaic) name of a particular role in anglican/episcopal churches. it sounds worse than it is (unless the meetings get reeeally long and tedious).

  38. Erika Evans March 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    I have to figure out a polite way to deal with a similar issue at our church. Our kids are so excited to get there and get into the nursery that they often run ahead of us to get into the building, or they go use the bathroom independently during transition times. Our dear sweet nursery attendant feels they need to be accompanied at ALL times, even going from the nursery to the sanctuary, whose doors are LITERALLY about twelve feet apart. We get the gentle lecture when the girls beat us to the nursery when we’re still coming in the main door, about how “you just never know,” and I have to nod and smile, but seriously? They’re going to get mauled and molested in the narthex of their own church, with churchmembers standing around?

    I need to have a gentle conversation with her about how comfortable our girls are at church, and how they feel it’s their home away from home, and how we want to encourage them in having their own sense of belonging, not just as being accessories of their parents.

  39. Picklelady March 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    My kids are 5 and 7, and I can’t imagine them ALLOWING an adult to accompany them to the potty. They would be SOOOOOO embarrassed! And BTW, my church’s potties are in a separate building separated by maybe 100 yards.

    Perhaps a policy of letting parents make that decision with their children is best. Some kids can handle it at 4, others maybe not till 7 or 8.

    Good golly, girls are getting their periods at 12 and 13 (due to the hormones in their food, but that’s another soapbox). We’re talking about people who are budding adolescents needing accompaniment to pee? Madness!

  40. Sky March 1, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    My daughter began going to the bathroom at church alone at age 5. I still take my 4 year old and stand outside the bathroom to wait for him, becuase I don’t trust him to come back to the service (or other event) and not wander off on his own. However, this is what I allow and am perfect comfortable with as a PARENT. Others in the care of children – Sunday School teachers, etc. also have liability issues to be concerned about, I understand. So in those cases, I would say to send students ages 6 – 12 with a “budy” who could wait for them outside the bathroom. I think this is typically how it is done in schools.

  41. EV March 1, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Since it is a church setting, perhaps a discussion of history might be in order.

    1. Jewish children were considered adults at 13. They were expected to maintain a part in community decision making.

    2. In most Christian traditions, 12 and 13 are the ages of Confirmation or baptism – placing them in “full membership in the Body of Christ (BCP-1979).

    This arbitrary age of 14 seems to force childhood on what historically has been seen as an adult. This article does not specifically discuss children and bathroom age, but does discuss the ramifications of restrictive behaviors and budding adolescence. http://drrobertepstein.com/pdf/Epstein-THE_MYTH_OF_THE_TEEN_BRAIN-Scientific_American_Mind-4-07.pdf

  42. Debi March 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    My older son decided when he was 5 years old that he was ready to go to the men’s room by himself. There was no convincing him otherwise. He would either be permitted to go to the men’s restroom, or he would “hold it” and likely have an accident. So, of course I let him. And he did just fine.
    He has high-functioning autism and letting him go into a bathroom by himself from age 5 on has resulted in nothing worse than the occasional mess and delay from playing in the sink. He’s 8 now, and sometimes takes his 3 year old brother into the bathroom with him, and does a great job helping him.
    When he started using the bathroom by himself, I went over the rules and made sure he knew to yell and fight if anyone tried to hurt him. I stood by the door that first year, listening to make sure he was okay. Now? He can walk to the other side of the store by himself, use the restroom, and then find me. I trust him completely, and I don’t think everyone I pass is a threat.

  43. Milo March 1, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    It all depends on the child. I have let my boys go into the restroom on their own since they were 6. As I knew that they could handle it, I would increase the distance, especially if it was a place they knew. On our last cruise, they were 9 and 10. I would allow them to leave the dinner table and go from dining room on the bottom aft to the children’s program on the top forward parts of the ship. They just had to call and leave a message in the room that they checked in. Do I care the route that they took to get there? Do I worry if they stopped off and grabbed a handful of pastries or cookies? No. They probably took some Family Circus route to the kids program, and that is fine with me. You have to evaluate the dangers and make judgement calls. The situation that was described seems to be a safe location. I would allow a 6 year old to go on their own most of the time.

  44. Marie March 1, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Thank you for bringing this up! I teach Sunday School and I’m actually having a similar problem – I teach 5 & 6 year olds and the classroom I work in is directly across the hall from the bathroom (maybe 10 steps away – AND within sight if the classroom door is open). Our bathrooms are not even accessible from the street unless the potential criminal wants to pick a lock – we do have one door that stays open to let in the families and students in – but a church greeter stands right there to welcome everybody and help new ones find their way.

    In light of this, if a student asks me to go to the bathroom, I will happily let them go (all by themselves!). I have never had any problems either. The child does what they need to do and comes back to class quickly.

    However, I know the rules state that we instead must take the entire class to the bathroom at the same (scheduled) time, so that the children are “supervised” (Teachers stand outside the bathroom door, not in the bathroom). Personally, I find this a horrible distraction from the rhythm of the day, as it takes 10 minutes out of a Sunday School session that is only an hour and 15 minutes long, we are usually right in the middle of something when the bathroom time comes around, and it takes the kids a while to focus on the lesson again afterward. In addition, most of my kids usually do not have to use the bathroom at all (since their parents wisely take care of that before bringing them to the classroom).

    I know that this is related to the questions of child-safety in churches brought up by another commenter – the adult volunteers want to cover their own backs. For the same reason, it is not allowed for any adult to leave the children “alone” in a classroom – even to go down the hall to the supply closet for a minute, even if one of the high school assistants is in the room (I never actually thought about it til now – but I’m wondering if they are considering these high schoolers “children” as well – probably, but I never think about or treat them that way. At least they are allowed to use the bathroom on their own…) This is in church, mind you, and the other classrooms in the hall have their own teachers inside, quite able to hear if anything should happen and come running. (We could all hear very well the morning one of the nursery students was sick and screaming/crying until her mother could be pulled out of service to get her).

    Not to mention, this same church has the rule that ALL of the students (up to age 12) must wait in the classroom for their parents to come and get them – not meet up in the parking lot or the church hall for fellowship – which is where most of the parents end up turning right back around to go after pickup. Now I could maybe see the value in this for the younger kids (even my kids). It helps to have the parents there after class to talk to if there are reminders or anything.

    But there are plenty of older students who are quite capable of walking to the church hall alone. Now this rule has not always been in place – I remember being 10 or so (I’m in my late 20s now) and walking, not just to the church hall, but HOME afterwards, on my own or with a small group of friends from this same church/Sunday School

    It just really disheartens me, to teach our children that they cannot trust the people around them, even in church? At yet we call ourselves a Community of Christ…

  45. Marianne March 1, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    Good God, i sent my barely 5 adn 6 year old to the bathroom in the supermarket ALONE!! You know what, they survived, and my often shy 6 year old felt really good about herself for getting there and back to me alone.
    I was berated by the nurse at the pediatrician’s office at her 6 year check-up for not having the stranger talk with her. She made it seem lik ei was lucky she hadn’t been abducted already given that I wasn’t scaring her SH**less.

  46. dmd March 1, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    I think this is a case of people *wanting* child sex abuse to be about “strangers.” Actually, I think that’s what drives a lot of the things we fight against in Free Range parenting. I don’t blame people – but they need to think. We’ve been led to believe this is a major major fear. And in a way it is – far far too many kids are sexually abused. But most of the time it’s not that stranger getting into the bathroom. It’s the older brother of your kid’s best friend. Or Uncle Jim, who you always thought was a little strange but never would have believed what he was capable of. Or it’s the guy you date who seems perfect, everything you would ever want, but he has this “problem.” We want to control the situation and this seems to be the easiest way to do it. Unfortunately, it’s a little like putting 10 locks on your front door, while you’re sitting in the room, but leaving the back door wide open.

  47. Dianne March 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    One argument the OP can make to her church board is that Christains are called to be like Christ. Jesus was teaching in the temple at 12 years old. This is a lesson not just for adults, but our youth as well. If our youth are called on to teach others, surely they can use the potty unaccompanied.

  48. SKL March 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    Just remind the lady that when Jesus was 12, he was off on his own for days before his family even noticed he was gone. Surely he could go to any toilet without supervision before then.

  49. SKL March 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Ha ha, Diane, I swear I did not see your comment before I posted mine! Funny though!!

  50. Ted Sali March 1, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    14 is unacceptable. By gawd, we should be waiting until they’re at least the age of majority and have a university degree before we even consider allowing a child to go to the toilet unaccompanied!

    …okay, seriously. Here’s how I started with my guys:
    Out for family event at public area (park, restaurant, etc) – Child says he has to go – I ask “do you want me to come with?’ – child looks around and assesses the environment and responds how he feels. All my boys seemed to become confident enough to do this by themselves around age 5-6, and have not had any issues with this since.

  51. Emily March 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    I’d think 5 or 6 is a reasonable age for a child to be allowed to go to the toilet by herself. I’m sure I remember being able to go to the toilet unaccompanied at school when I was in first grade. If people are worried about intruders coming in from the schoolyard, it seems sensible to fix the outside door so that it doesn’t open from the outside without a key. Problem solved, and you don’t need to hire a team of escorts to take the kids down the hall to the loo.

  52. Dee March 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    @SKL: “I gave her directions to find the restroom, sent her 4yo sister to accompany her, and went back to my shopping. I completed my purchase and then met my kids, who were doing exactly what they should have been doing in the restroom.”

    At least you didn’t end up with a passive-aggressively pissed off bookstore employee. I and the (almost-5-year-old) kid were hanging around a B&N recently, and kind of trapped there until my husband showed up. The kid was happily playing at the Thomas table in the kid’s section. Directly on the other side of the bookcases from the Thomas table was the SF&F section and I wanted to take a look through. I could see OVER the short bookcases on the edge of the children’s section to the Thomas table while I was browsing.

    And OMG did I piss off the children’s section employee for doing this. I think she was about to call mall security on me.

  53. Karen March 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    My words to the pastor, in church, loud enough to be heard would be, “I’m afraid that I can’t take my children to a church that is so dangerous that teenagers need to be guarded on church grounds! Even my low-income elementary school is safer than this!”

    And I’d be fighting hard not to add, “I guess the Catholics aren’t the only ones with problems…”

  54. SKL March 2, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    And not to open another can of worms, but in some states, a girl can get an abortion without informing her parents before she’s 14. But she can’t pee alone in a church bathroom? Again, if the bathroom is that dangerous, it isn’t safe for adults, either.

  55. SKL March 2, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Dee, this has been an interesting year. As my kids get older, I find I get fewer and fewer shocked looks when I expect them to be a little independent. Maybe it’s the culture around here, or maybe people are just used to seeing my kids around – I don’t know. They are still on the young/small side, but people now tend to assume that I am qualified to judge my kids capable of most things. (It does help that there are two of them, and I can send them together if a situation seems iffy. Of course, we parents know that “safety in numbers” doesn’t apply to the amount of nonsense they can think up. But at least if anything really scary happened to one, the other could come running for me.

  56. Claudia Conway March 2, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    I’d say it should be fine for any child of school age. After all, presumably school children are allowed to go to the toilets on their own, and, although the security might be greater in a school than a church, a determined abductor could still ‘climb over a wall’ there.

    It is certainly absurd that a child of secondary school age should be chaperoned to the toilets.

    If nothing else, I’d say to the church that if you want to encourage young people to attend, and we’re talking about young people, not children, don’t add to the potential barriers to church participation: ‘Can you believe it, Mum has to take me to the bloody toilet like a toddler when we go there.’

  57. Terry March 2, 2011 at 1:35 am #

    Less than 24 hours ago I was in Honduras on a service trip. We did a medical clinic in a small rural community, and were passing out vitamins and Tylenol to many of the residents. We were giving vitamins to a young girl who looked about 10 but said she was 14. Making small talk, we asked her if she liked school. She said she had stopped going to school when her mother died so she could take care of her brothers and sisters. She lived in a community with no electricity, no running water. She didn’t want the vitamins for herself, she wanted them for her younger siblings.

    The residence we stayed at was connected to an orphanage that was home to almost 30 children, who are 7 months to nearly 18 years old. We visited often, and repeatedly watched the younger children being cared for and comforted by children that were about 7 and older.

    While it is an unbelievable shame that these children have the burden of caring for the little ones, there is no doubt they are capable if it is required. And they are capable even in the absence of 911, CPR certifications, first aid kits, cell phones, safety helmets, electricity, running water, education, or any of the numerous conveniences or precautionary measures we have available here.

    My 4 year old is not allowed to go on the monkey bars at day care because they have a facility rule that you have to be 7 to use them. He uses them all the time when we go to the playground, and doesn’t understand why he can’t do it at day care, too. The world is really perplexing.

  58. David March 2, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    I asked the original question, and Lenore posting this today is quite timely as the next Church Council meeting is tonight.

    I’m sure this issue will come up and intend to argue that if we set any restriction at all (it should in any case ultimately be the parent’s decision) it should be no more than 10 and preferably 8.

    I’ve read all the comments with interest and in general agree with them. You’ve made many of the points I’ve already considered.

    One further argument I intend to use (that I hope will be quite persuasive) is the effect such a restriction might have on attendence. Like many churches we find it a struggle to keep young people interested during the teen years and into adulthood; something that will not be helped by publicly humiliating them!

    Anyway I expect quite a lively meeting tonight. I’ll let you know what happens.

  59. Patti March 2, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    I’d be more concerned about a kid wandering off because the playground was more interesting than the class. If kids are only in the building once a week and they don’t know many of the adults in the congregation, that might be a concern for wee ones who get distracted easily.

    In a licensed preschool in my state, children under 3 have to be in sight and hearing of an adult at all times. Children 3 to 5 have to be within hearing of an adult because kids who know how to use the potty deserve their privacy but have to be able to call for help. After that, kids are able to walk down a hall to use the bathroom.

    I like what someone suggested about using buddies. If you’ve got buddies and someone has any kind of accident there’s someone to get help. There’s also someone who can make sure the bathroom-goer doesn’t decide to take a detour. I’d say any kid 6 and up can effectively use the buddy system and feel safe.

    Or get a volunteer adult who’s willing to keep an eye on the bathroom and make sure the darlings go back to class (just make sure that person’s got a background check first, even if it’s your own grandmother).

  60. EricS March 2, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Let me start by asking, does age really matter? IF… and a huge IF, some wanted to go into that school/church to abduct or assault a child, I don’t think it would matter if they were 6, 8, 10, 12 or 14. C’mon, even adults get accosted.

    As we’ve been saying for a while now, first and foremost, we EDUCATE our kids in how to deal with various real life situations, even the not so common. This IS the first line of defence. Because in any situation it is THE child that will have to deal with the situation. Also, if they are so concerned that some stranger will jump the fence and sneak in the washrooms, then maybe they should install cameras in the perimeter of the school and have some one monitor them. Although I don’t find it necessary, maybe even lock the door or even remove the entrance from the outside to the bathroom. You don’t need more than one access to a washroom. Age isn’t a factor. Mental state (which affects maturity and the ability to face obstacles in their way) is. Train the mind, you train the body. A trained mind and body, regardless of age, is extremely efficient, capable and adaptable.

    Adults need to start reconditioning their way of thinking. Not stifle children’s. They do more harm to the child by keeping them sheltered, than allowing them (with training) to face the REAL world. Which isn’t as bad as most think, especially in their community.

  61. Dragonwolf March 2, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    I agree with Maggie – if having that door open is so dangerous, why not just lock it during the service? It sounds like a back door, so there’s really no reason for it to be open.

    Frankly, I’d be more concerned with delinquency, especially on nice days. Kids can easily be distracted by an inviting playground on a nice sunny day (adults, too, for that matter, though they don’t generally act on it when it’s not appropriate).

    Closing the door seems the best answer all around, in my opinion. Then you don’t have to disrespect the older kids and can teach the younger ones independence.

  62. Uly March 2, 2011 at 2:11 am #

    But SKL, just think! If those fourteen year old girls had been escorted everywhere at all times, and watched when they peed and when they slept, they would never have gotten pregnant in the first place!

    They’d have a host of other problems, but at least that wouldn’t be one of them! More bathroom supervision!

  63. EricS March 2, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    @ David: You might also want to bring up…is this decision based on the children? Or the fears of the adults? Considering the chances of a stranger coming in to the grounds to abduct children, like a fox sneaks into a hen house. That pretty much never happens. You also might add that, most abductions and assaults (when they do happen) are done by someone the child already knows. ie. a relative, a teacher, a priest. NOT a total stranger. And IF a total stranger was to abduct or assault a child, it would not be out of the blue. That person would have planned out the act. Following the child for a while, getting to know their habits and schedule, and picking the right time to strike. It would not be a random thing. People need to know FACTS, not conjectures and speculations based on fear. We can come up with countless scenarios based on fear. But if looked at with common sense and logic, based on facts, there aren’t very many bad scenarios. And of those, even fewer are likely to happen.

  64. Donna March 2, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    14? That is completely and totally ridiculous! Most girls are menstrating before 14. So they can get pregnant but not go to the bathroom on their own? I was navigating airports, including going to the bathroom, by myself before 14.

    I would be upset if they were insisting that my 5 year old needed an escort to the bathroom in a familiar building. She goes to the bathroom in some stores by herself. Ever since she discovered the lobster/candy connection, I don’t barely see her when we go to Trader Joe’s. She wanders around the store looking for the lobster while I shop. We occasionally end up on the same aisle but otherwise she does her thing and I do mine. Last week she even managed to sweet talk a male store worker into helping her find a lobster. And, yes, I let her walk around a grocery store with a strange man without me.

  65. Erica March 2, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    The swimming pool I take my daughter to has a sign on each bathroom stating that children over the age of six are not allowed in a bathroom of the opposite gender. I’d say that’s a good marker for when they can do things all on their own.

  66. Jynet March 2, 2011 at 2:32 am #

    Just for a bit of perspective….

    My daughter, at the age of 12 flew unaccompanied across the width of North America, with a flight change in a city she had never been to before.

    12 being the youngest age at which the airline books an “adult” ticket without forcing the parents to buy the (overpriced, and in our experience useless*) “Unaccompanied Minor” service.

    So she could fly across the country alone, but not go to the church bathroom??

    * Useless, because they left my 10yo brother alone in the Toronto Pearson International Airport for SIX hours between flights without making sure he had food or a bathroom he could get to. He left the room, bought himself lunch and a book, went to the washroom and went back. The airline never knew!

  67. EricS March 2, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    @ SKL: “Maybe it’s the culture around here, or maybe people are just used to seeing my kids around”

    I think it’s more that people are starting to realize (at least with you and yours), that their fears are unsubstantiated. So whether consciously or subconsciously, just like how they put the fear in themselves to begin with, their fears are subsiding. Which is more proof that it IS only in people’s heads. And it CAN they can be re-tuned to start thinking rationally than fearfully.

  68. Elissa March 2, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    As a girl who went to a catholic school and spent plenty of time in church bathrooms when she was supposed to be elsewhere – I think the question is at what age do we STOP letting kids go to the bathroom buy themselves? I mean I remember all kinds of trouble that we got into in the bathrooms…talking about sex, gossip, even smoking (yes! in a church!!) at the tender age of 14.

    Maybe the rule should be kids from 4-12 can use the bathroom on their own, and anyone over 13 needs parental supervision and most certainly not a buddy! 🙂

  69. Stephanie - Home with the Kids March 2, 2011 at 4:07 am #

    My mother was surprised when my shy, quiet 5 year old son started insisting on using the men’s room on his own. She wasn’t terribly comfortable with it until I assured her that he could do it and if I felt the place wasn’t safe, he’d have to deal with being accompanied to the women’s room (still to use a stall on his own, of course). At one of the stops we took, a man offered to keep an eye on him for us, which was kind of him if unnecessary. It was a McDonald’s with plenty of people around, not anyplace scary. Mom admitted it felt a bit odd having a stranger go in with him, but at least she knew who was in there.

  70. Donna March 2, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    I don’t get the buddy system idea either. I’m fairly secure that my child sent to the bathroom alone will return shortly with minimal distraction. I give her and her best friend a 50/50 shot of returning to the classroom without taking spin through the playground first (and the odds likely depend on the weather that day). Kids egg each other on and alone time on the playground is not nearly as big a temptation as unsupervised playground time with your best friend.

  71. Adrienne March 2, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    I have all girls, so we all get the pleasure of going to the restroom together (YAY me…), anyway, i feel confident that my four year old can use the restroom on her own (as she does it quite regularly). But this question reminds me of an incident that happened at a preschool where I was substituting. It was a class of three/four year olds. Both regular teachers were out (I’d been subbing for a week, but there was another lady subbing with me this day for the first time). There was one particular little boy who could not zip his own pants yet and all week he would come to me to zip his pants. No problem, i’d zip his pants and we’d go on about our morning. This day the little boy went to the other sub and asked her to zip his pants. She looked a bit petrified and asked “Well, can’t you do it yourself?” She literally looked like she could not fathom getting close to this little boys zipper and he just stood there looking helpless. Of course I stepped in and zipped his pants for him, but honestly, was she so terrified of some sort of accusation or something that she couldn’t help a four year old zip his pants? It was so silly.

  72. Pamala March 2, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    my 4 yr old niece goes to the bathroom at our church alone and comes back promptly with no issues.. my sister and I will even let her go into the bathroom at the store alone if neither of us need to go.. and if my 9 yr old dd is with us she can not only go to the bathroom at the store alone, (while I’m still shopping and not waiting outside the door) we also let her take my niece to the bathroom and she can also take my 6 yr old nephew to the door of the men’s room and wait for him there while my sister and I shop.. and then she brings them all back to where we were.. no big deal..

  73. Debbie March 2, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    When I was six I was walking my four year old brother to nursery school and then heading to the building next door to grade one.

    When I was 12 I was babysitting a five year old…Monday to Friday, eight hours a day.

    I think a six year old, not to mention a 12 year old can get to the bathroom by themselves.

    For crying out loud…can we please start to trust children again?

  74. SKL March 2, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    Uly, I know you’re just being funny (about the pregnancy thing), but we both know how many people actually think that way (for all the good it doesn’t do). As a teen, I could have been continuously pregnant based on the amount of freedom I had. But somewhere along the way, I had learned to “think” – imagine! And in fact, I conducted myself with a level of responsibility that sometimes surprises me now, in my dotage. I only hope I will have the courage to expect the same of my daughters.

  75. David March 2, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Well the meeting has come and gone. There was quite a heated discussion but in the end we decided not to impose any age restriction.

    It was decided though to ask parents not to send children alone unless they considered them responsible enough to return promptly and to not disrupt the service.

  76. Matt in GA March 2, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    re: Churchwarden? Sounds like this church has other issues.

    Oh, that was funny!

    Actually, the term warden originally referred to someone entrusted with keys and charged with locking / unlocking doors and gates and such.

    My own church doesn’t have potty issues, but our youth (grades 6-12, ages 11-18) meet in an adjacent building for both Sunday School and evening youth group activities. They’ve been meeting there for three years with no problem. This fall, however, a parent raised a “safety” concern about the middle school kids walking between the buildings on their own after Sunday school. It’s a whopping 20 yards from the youth door to the main church door, through a parking lot which, at the conclusion of the Sunday school hour, is busy with lots of members of the congregation arriving for the service.

    I am happy to escort any kid who wants to be chaperoned, but I refuse to treat the middle schoolers like toddlers. When I was their age . . . . you know the drill. Uphill both ways.

  77. Library Diva March 2, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    @ Maggie, I actually quit scouts at that age because of a policy like that. The troop met in the cafeteria of our school after classes were over. We were the only ones in the building other than the janitor. I found it so insulting, at the age of 9, that I, an A student who got asked to do special tasks in the classroom and at home all the time, couldn’t even walk down the hall alone. That, combined with the fact that we never got to do anything good and just did lame crafts, led to me dropping out.

  78. maggie March 2, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    Well Library Diva, I can’t do much about my overprotective co-leader, but I am trying really hard to provide enough opportunities to keep these girls interested!:) The louder, the messier, the better!

  79. bmj2k March 2, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    The fence seems to be the problem. Make it higher or put razor wire on top and let the kids go to the bathroom themselves without anyone worrying about fence-climbing pedophiles.

  80. Scott March 2, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    14 huh. Well I suppose it depends on whether they have learned to wipe by that age. Based on the news stories of coddling I am wondering that parents aren’t teaching their children to tie their shoelaces or wipe their bottoms until they are at least 21 years old.

  81. Cheryl W March 2, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Maybe just let the parents decide? Let parents know that the door goes outside, and they, knowing the maturity level of the kids should decide the risk.

    It may also be helpful to convince people to find out crime stats (including time of day, if you can) and any sexual offenders in the neighborhood.

    Personally, I let my kids go to the bathroom at the park and I don’t walk in with them. I do keep an eye on things though. At a church, with a fence, I wouldn’t think twice. I would be more worried about my kid flushing the whole roll of paper, or getting into any cupboards or something.

  82. Erin March 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    My almost 4 yr old goes to he bathroom by herself almost everytime. Case in point today: we were at the park – a public place with lots of ppl around 🙂 – and she walked to the potty, used it AND even washed her hands all by herself 🙂

  83. Hazel March 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    The sad thing is, it’s a more likely to be the person tasked with escorting the kid to the bathroom who is abusing them, not some mythical boogeyman waiting to scale the fence.

    In a horrible irony, this sort of policy may lead to a higher likelihood of abuse.

  84. Hazel March 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    I should clarify my comment – I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be supervising kids in the bathroom because of a fear of abuse, as that would be a serious FRK-fail on my part! What I meant was that the vast majority of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows – parent, step-parent, uncle… church worker. So the odds are higher of the child being abused by a known person than randomly abused/assaulted/kidnapped by a stranger scaling a fence, and for that reason alone, this sort of policy is mind-bogglingly stupid.

  85. North of 49 March 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    The buddy system works! After all, what if someone were to fall in(to the toilet)?

  86. Anthony Hernandez March 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    Any Free Range parent worth the designation must look at the numbers to determine where the real risk lies, right? So let’s look at the numbers. But first, an article.


    Wow, a priest masturbating around kids? Who could ever have imagined such a thing? But, in fairness, individual reports like this are meaningless and in fact are most often contraindicative–which is a fancy way of saying that the day you STOP hearing about plane crashes is the day you need to stop flying because that will mean they are too common to be of any particular note.

    The fact that we hear about every flying machine that has an unscheduled stop just about anywhere in the world is prima facie evidence that flying is safe… just like the fact that we know names like Kevin Collins, Polly Klaas, Jaycee Dugard, and others by name and by case history is prima facie evidence that worrying about kidnapping and murder every time our little bundles of genetic joy are beyond arm’s reach is just plain silly. That’s how the news works and is in fact precisely why it’s called “the news” as opposed to “yet more mundane s***.”

    So what are the real facts? A few minutes on Google turned up the following:


    According to this article, 4% of priests and deacons are involved in molestation–that we know of. This article says that incidence is “unremarkable.” This statement may not seem remarkable until you look at the following:


    According to this map, Delaware is the most “touchy-feely” state with a whopping 486 registered sex offenders per 100,000 people. Simple arithmetic reveals that the worst concentration of registered sex offenders is 486/100,000, which adds up to 0.00486%.

    Keep in mind that this is ALL sex offenders, which can include everyone from the poor schmuck who got caught peeing behind the wrong tree at the wrong time to forcible rapists. In other words, pedophiles are a subset of this bunch.

    But let’s give the goddies a break and hamstring ourselves for the sake of discussion by assuming the worst case scenario, which is that every single one of those offenders likes the young stuff. Let us also assume that all states have just as much “love” to go around as Delaware. In other words, let’s give the goddies the absolute maximum possible benefit of the doubt.

    Breaking out the calculator, we divide 0.04 (4%) of clergy by the 0.00486 figure to get a figure of 8.23.

    The best-case conclusion, based on numbers from reputable sources, is that the average clergy is over EIGHT TIMES more likely to be a sex offender than the general population. Again, this is the absolute best-case scenario.

    Once we take into account that A) most states have far lower concentrations of sex offenders than Delaware, and that B) only a subset of all sex offenders are pedophiles, we are forced to conclude that the actual multiple is far higher than 8.23.

    How much higher? I seem to recall crunching some numbers to come up with a total of around 50 but I confess that I don’t have those numbers handy.

    Priests are between 8.23 and fifty times more likely to be sex offenders than members of the general population. Those are the cold hard facts.

    I know that people who most know the kids are the ones most likely to molest them and that priests are only one small part of the population. I get that. So why am I singling out priests for such special treatment? Why am I so rabidly anti-church?

    Well, because the numbers are what they are. Priests are 8-50 times as likely as ALL OTHER PEOPLE (whether the know the person or not) to be sex offenders. Which begs a question:

    If you knew for a fact that Car A was between 8 and 50 times more likely to break down, would you buy it? Would you let your children ride in it? If you knew that placing your child in a certain situation was between 8 and 50 times as likely to cause serious mental and/or physical injury than not putting them in that situation, would you do it?

    Of course not!

    So… why would any parent who truly cares about their child’s safety let them set foot inside a church let alone allow any clergy within 50 feet? This is just one of many reasons why I maintain that any parent who takes their children to church should be found guilty of child abuse and that churches should be off limits to anyone under 21 years old.

    But, since that will never happen, the only alternative is to make damned sure that any child in a church is watched like a hawk by several non-clergy persons at all times and always escorted to and from any situation where clothing and/or genitals are involved. Since the incidence of abuse rises with age, the 14 year old is actually in far more need of escort than the 4 year old.

    Call me any name you like, accuse me of anything you want, complain to Lenore until your fingers fall off, hyperventilate, react however you like… but none of that will change those numbers.

  87. Renee March 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    I used to work in crisis pregnancy and adoptions. The fact that some parents (or church officials) think that a 12-13 y is ‘too young’ to walk to bathroom alone, but many 12-13 yr olds are able to produce children, is crazy. Obviously the big picture is not being looked at – as your examples clearly show. A 14y is deemed too young to babysit, but that same 14y will be held legally responsible for the care of her baby. No wonder our teens/ young adults are so confused about their role in society.

  88. Kokopuff March 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    I think the scariest part of this post is that this church has a health and safety officer. And Church Wardens. I suppose they also have thugs standing around when you pass the collection plate?

  89. pentamom March 2, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    Health and Safety officer is a common position at any large institution. Most businesses with extensive physical plant or many employees have them, though sometimes they go by other names, and in really large places have many people working together to fulfill the function. It is not a police-type position, it is a job description for a person who makes sure that the building and working conditions meet health and safety regulations. Banks and boards of directors have “officers,” too. Officer means “holder of an office,” not merely “policeman.”

    Church warden is a traditional term for a lay church official, what might be called an “elder” or “deacon” in a different kind of church. The word “warden” does not mean “person in charge of a prison,” it means “person with oversight responsibility in some kind of institution.” Hospitals used to have “wardens,” as well. It’s just that in the U.S., at least, prisons (and maybe Anglican churches) are the only institutions where we still use that word.

  90. MorahLaura March 3, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    I started my period the day after my 12th birthday. I was extremely embarassed about it, and if I had to be accompanied to the ladies room…well, I’m not sure what I would have done, but I would have been mortified by the thought of someone being in the restroom with me!!
    My 4 year old daughter uses the restroom by herself. She sometimes needs help reaching the soap and/or towels. My 8 yr old daughter insists that I accompany her, but just wants me in the room, not the stall. Every kid is different….

  91. Uly March 3, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    No, SKL, and they probably don’t understand sarcasm very well either, you’re right.

    But with any luck they’re not HERE reading my comment and being encouraged into whole new depths of wrongness.

  92. SKL March 3, 2011 at 4:18 am #

    But now that I think about it, my mom used to tell me that in her generation, girls often claimed that they got pregnant or got VD from a toilet seat. So, maybe there really is more to bathrooms than meets the eye.

    Not funny, I know, especially considering this is a church bathroom we’re talking about . . . .

  93. The Laundry Lady March 3, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    At our church adults are not allowed to accompany children to bathroom. There is a hall monitor to assure children get from their classroom to the bathroom and back without wandering off. Children who cannot use the bathroom alone or are potty training must be accompanied by a parent or authorized guardian, no other adults are even allowed in the bathrooms in that area during the Sunday school portion of the service. But that bathroom is not open to an exterior door. I understand the church’s desire to protect the children as well as themselves from liability. Churches in particular can be huge targets of lawsuits should anything, heaven forbid, actually happen to a child on the premises. But I do think that the danger to a 12 year old unattended in a bathroom is minimal. Especially considering the fact that in the UK 12 and 13 year olds frequently use public transit by themselves to get to school. When I was in England and attended school we walked over a mile to school, without an adult, and we were only 13. I’d be a lot more worried about my kid being molested on a subway on in the public restroom in the underground than in a church bathroom.

  94. Kim March 3, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    I am a co-teacher in my church’s Sunday school. I and another woman get to wrangle up to 23 very active and independent first and second graders every week, and I don’t think the thought of accompanying any of them to the bathroom down the hall (or down the hall and around the corner, depending on which room we’re in,) has ever crossed our minds. Nor has it ever come up in any discussions about rules or policies that I am aware of. If one of our kids asks to use the bathroom, we tell them OK and remind them to wash their hands. As for the “buddy system”, we discourage them from going in pairs or groups, because that’s usually when they tend to linger and miss half of the class.

    I also have a 3-year-old daughter, and while I still go with her when she has to use the bathroom, that is only because she sometimes has trouble getting her pants back on or reaching the sink to wash her hands…and even I have a hard time getting paper towels out of the dispenser. But when she finally gets the hang of these things and decides that she doesn’t want Mommy to help her anymore, that will be fine with me.

    And just for the record, there isn’t a single member of my church that I wouldn’t trust to help her out if she needs it in my absence.

  95. Matt March 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    The correct answer is: when they can. (As outlined in responses above, when they can do everything for themselves and figure out things like high sinks, etc. without requiring intervention.) For my son, that was late six-ish. When he started asking on his own to go to the bathroom by himself at the local Starbucks – after I instructed him how to lock and unlock the door by himself – then he got his pass to lockable restrooms.

    For busier public restrooms, at age seven, I’ve been playing it by ear, but on a recent trip through the airports when they weren’t packed I experimented with letting him go in by himself (it was either that or schlep all our luggage and lose our seats in the waiting area) and I just kept an eye on the exit to make sure he didn’t go out unbeknownst to me, and he was totally fine with it.

    Now, would I let him go the the bathroom by himself in the bus station downtown? HELL NO. I don’t like going to the bathroom by myself in some bathrooms.

    But for a church? There’s something wrong with the church if they’re worried about 12 year olds being able to use the john without fear of something happening.

  96. Matt March 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    I was just reading Dawn in Vancouver’s post, and there’s this weird conundrum we have at our local pool this brought to mind. The pool has a policy that a parent can’t take a child of the opposite sex into the locker room past age three. But they also have a policy that children can’t use locker rooms unaccompanied until they’re 12.

    They do have a (single) “family” changing room, but it requires tracking down a key which is not always available, and if it’s occupied, one can wait for 15 or 20 minutes to get into it.

    This has been a problem for my wife when she wants to go swimming with our boys and I’m not along. And this brings up the other question on the horizon, is my wife going to want to be changing with her 11 year old son, anyway?

    I would also add there’s almost always an employee/attendant in the locker room (at least the men’s, I can’t attest personally about the women’s!) so unless the policy is meant to protect my sons from the pool employees, I find it hard to believe my kids are at any kind of risk changing in a public place.

    I can only imagine how much worse this would be for me if I had daughters!

  97. Tracy March 4, 2011 at 5:38 am #

    I agree with Claire right within the 1st few comments. I think free ranging is an excellent movement to become consciously aware of how crazily over-protective we are in this country. BUT I absolutely believe it can be overstretched by going too far in the opposite direction. Not every situation is safe and just because we generally want to lighten up, it simply doesn’t apply in every situ. I worked in a church with kids for some years and so did my oldest son. We are all finger printed and have had a case of a prowler on the premises. It is well known in churches that predators will scale a wall to access children and even try to get in the church into a position which allows them to be alone with kids. This is not about whether kids can physically manage a bathroom break alone, it’s about protecting them from the very real risk of encountering a weirdo!

  98. Uly March 4, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    It is well known in churches that predators will scale a wall to access children

    I find that most things which are “well known” are not necessarily true. It’s “well known” that Columbus proved the world was round (he didn’t) and that prior to him everybody thought the world was flat (THEY didn’t). It’s “well known” that the crime rate is going up or at least holding steady at scary levels (it’s not). It’s “well known” that rats and mice carry rabies (theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely for about three or four reasons, and they’d be even less likely to transmit the disease due to their “dry bite”).

    Can you cite even one case in the past decade where an intruder scaled a wall to a religious institution (church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other) for the SPECIFIC purpose of harming a child? If you can – was that person successful?

    Where exactly did you learn this fact? Did you learn it through doing research, or did you learn it by hearing people talk about how “You know, everybody knows this happens!” and just believe it’s true?

    and even try to get in the church into a position which allows them to be alone with kids.

    This probably happens more often. Most abusers, after all, are known to their victim.

    But if your church has a pedophile on staff, will picking a grown-up to escort them to the bathroom REALLY help? What if you pick the wrong guy? Pick two grown-ups? What if they’re in it together? (Unlikely, but you’re the one concerned about people scaling walls here.) Three people? Well, it’s possible they’re all bad people. Maybe your whole church except for you is just victims and abusers!

    Maybe they’re safer with the strangers scaling the wall.

    Now, if you have a SPECIFIC case of a prowler whose intentions aren’t known (or ARE known, and known to be dangerous), then yes, you should take more precautions until the prowler is caught or is gone for a significant length of time. That’s reasonable. Acting as though you’re constantly under attack? Not so much.

  99. Donna March 4, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    “and even try to get in the church into a position which allows them to be alone with kids.

    This probably happens more often. Most abusers, after all, are known to their victim.”

    No really it doesn’t. People really need to spend more time with criminals. While you get the occasional Barry Madoff, the vast majority are not the most industrious, long- range thinking people on the planet. They are generally unemployed high school drop outs with the impulse control of a 6 year old.

    Child molestors do break out of that mold occasionally. However, very few are actual predators whose long range goal in life is simply to molest children. In other words, they do not decide at 18 that they are pedophiles and that going to college and grad school (the ministry, priesthood) to get a job teaching just to have access to children is the best way to go about this feeding this hunger. Most teachers, daycare workers, ministers, priests, etc. who molest children go into those professions for the same reasons as other people in those professions only to discover a sexual attraction to children (or a particular child) while there. The few teachers and ministers we’ve had as child molestation clients have generally been in those jobs for several years before they commit their first act.

    This matters none to the children actually molested but it should to the adults that have the mentality that any man who wants to work with children must just be interested in having access to children to molest. No, he is doing it because he genuinely enjoys teaching children. A small number of teachers go off the rails somewhere along the way but the vast majority of teachers, male and female, simply enjoy teaching children.

  100. Emiky March 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Wow, 14 is beyond silky. I tend to generalize 10 and up into a semi-mature tween phase where there’s a heck of a lot I would expect them to do.

    When I taught first grade, I was blessed to have the bathrooms directly across the hall. Mind you that I was also next to a door that opened out onto the front yard of the school near the street of a suspiciously quiet neighborhood. So of course I never bothered with fancy guard systems. They learned the procedure for asking permission and getting in-getting done-getting out. I had a handful of kids over the years where I did implement a buddy system with a responsible student, but those were individual child based exceptions. There were times when maintenence/construction required the kids to use other bathrooms and they went in groups then, but not for protection in a dangerous school crawling with teachers, assistants, and well-meaning parent volunteers. It was because 7-year olds have small bladders and there was no way they were going to wait for each other to come back.

    For the buddy system… I’m a Scouter. I think it’s a wise system. But using it in the local church is overkill. Now, I see maybe using it as a way to practice the buddy system with young Scouts, but only as practice, not to prevent pedo-attacks.

    It really depends on the kid, and I think people soon learn who they can send and who they can’t. I would say 6 as the general max age.

  101. Uly March 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Donna, more often than people scaling the wall? Yeah, it probably does. I’m putting “scaling the wall” as something at “death by sharks” level and “pedophile in the church already” at “struck by lightning levels”. And yes, there are more people struck by lightning every year than attacked by sharks.

  102. Tracy March 5, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    interesting my comments caused such a reaction. being asked for a specific case (ULY) and where did I learn it? Well no, I didn’t research it. It was personal. It happened to us at our church, or don’t you believe that now either? perhaps I’m lying to cause sensation. It REALLY DID. but you’d have to take my word for that because i can’t prove it to you!
    And acting as though you are constantly under attack? Not so much. Acting as though we live in a neighborhood where it DID happen (yes he scaled a wall!!!) we’d have to be dumb to do any different!
    But hey, it’s an opinion I stated. And I back it up with the fact of it happening. Comments that ridicule each other just show that the aggression of other people is probably most prevalent on sites like this.

  103. Britt March 5, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Had my church forced me to take an adult with me to the bathroom at 14, I would have gone escaped out the outside door or a window just to piss them off. By 14, my friends and I knew the church inside and out, including the unattended back staircase and under the stairs. Ironically enough, we did have a child molester enter the church–he was a member for probably about 20 years and a trusted nursery worker. So really, we were safer running around with our peers in the woods (snakes and hunters and child molesters o my!) by the lake (omygoshdrowning) anyway.

  104. Donna March 5, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    Uly –

    I didn’t say that pedophiles in church happened about the same as scaling a wall. Pedophiles are in churches.

    Tracy wasn’t just talking about pedophiles being present in church but about pedophiles seeking positions in church SOLELY to have access to children. That is as unlikely as a pedophile scaling the wall. The 18 year old who is going to seminary is not doing it just so he can, several years in the future, have unlimited access to children. Nobody plans their sexual conquests that far in advance.

    I’m definitely not saying that ministers, Sunday school teachers, daycare workers, teachers, etc. never molest children. But there seems to be that caution around men wanting to do these jobs with some notion that men only want to do them because they want access to children for sexual pleasure. A man who dedicates many years of schooling in a particular profession solely to one day have access to children with whom to have sex is on par with one who would climb a wall to snatch a child. Most pedophiles just make do with what they find available in their surrounding area (which is why the vast majority of child molestation occurs within families).

  105. tdr March 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Another case of prison and punishment for the parents/supervisors of these children. An adult is supposed to stop what they are in the middle of, leave unsupervised any other children (and potentially even the youngest ones who really should not be unsupervised) to accompany an almost adult (or even anyone over the age of 4) to the bathroom?!

    And what if the available supervising adult and the child are opposite genders? Which bathroom is the adult woman supposed to take the 13 yr old boy to? The Men’s or the Ladies’?

  106. Teri March 10, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    My word. I sent my 10 year old to the bathroom by herself at a church this past week that she had never even been to before. Guess I won’t be winning the “Mother of the Year” award for that one. Under age 8, I probably would have gone with her, not for fear of pervies, but for fear she’d get distracted or go exploring and end up playing with the toys in the nursery or raiding the fridge in the kitchen. No doubt I would have had to go find her at that age, so may as well just have gone with her.

  107. Walt July 8, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    My wife and I are more-or-less acting as parents to our nephew (he lives with his grandma, but he spends a lot of out-of-the-house time with us.)

    When we’re at a restaurant, the question of whether I take him to the restroom or send him on his own is based on:

    1. Whether I wouldn’t mind going, too.
    2. Whether I can point at where it is from our table. He’s not very good at finding it on his own.
    3. What kind of mood he’s been in – whether I think he’ll use soap on his own.

    He’s nine.

    During the school year he walks himself across the condo complex to the school bus stop. It started because his grandma’s hips and knees got a lot worse and she just couldn’t, but I don’t think she’ll walk him again even if they’re better.

    The worst thing that has happened was some dumpster diving.


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