Boys Over 11 Not Allowed in Church Bathroom at Same Time as Boys Under 11 (And Other “Security” Measures)

Hi tdrarrrdkd
Readers! We’ve been talking about over-the-top “security” measures lately (including parents required to have background checks to watch their kids on field day, and parents not allowed to hold the door open at day care for other parents), but I do believe this reader’s Sunday school takes the cake (and several slices of pizza, and a gallon of ice cream, and all the milk). – L.


Dear Free-Range Kids: This past summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) was just plain ridiculous.  In order to get my kids dropped off, I had to (in this order):
– Walk them into the building, past no less than 3 “security team members,” complete with walkie-talkies and stern expressions
– Stand in the line appropriate for our last name
– Sign them in next to their name on a list
– Write down the name of the person picking them up
– Be handed their name tags and put them on in the presence of the sign-in crew
– Walk them to their group leader and stay with them until the leader checks their name off on her clipboard
(I have FOUR kids! This new procedure, just to drop off, made them almost 45 minutes late the first day!)
To pick them up, I had to:
– Walk into the building through one specific door, again past the “security team members”
– Stand in line, again, as appropriate to our last name
– SHOW MY PICTURE ID (even though the same people were sitting there as when I’d dropped my kids off 3 hours earlier)
– Sign my name next to the name I’d written when I checked in, then have it checked for a match with the written name and my picture ID
– Retrieve my children’s “claim cards”
– Go to each child’s room and wait in another line
– Show my claim card and wait until the room’s “security team member” matched it with my child’s name tag (I won’t even go into the nightmare we had to go through the day my youngest child’s name tag fell off and was lost before I arrived to claim her!!!)
– Hand over my claim card so it could be ripped up and discarded (so no one else could use it on another day)
– Stay with my child while we went to other areas of the building to collect her siblings, all the while being watched by the “security team members” stationed in every single corner, stairway and hall.
Ridiculous, right?  Well, just wait, it gets even better (worse!).
Thankfully, for our fall program, we’re back to the computer sign-in and printout name tags, though I am not allowed to let my 7- and 9-year-old daughters find their own way to class.  I must DROP THEM OFF IN PERSON.  I also have to print out claim tags so I can get them back at the end of the evening.
But here’s the part that has me on the verge of pulling my kids from the program altogether.  
My sons are 12 and 15, and they are allowed to attend without name tags for the first time this year.  HOWEVER, they are both “too young” to be in the hallways unaccompanied by an adult during the program hours, and “too old” to be allowed into ANY of the public restrooms if ANY other child is in there.  There are literally guards for every bathroom.  Kids up through the age of 7 or 8 have to be escorted to the bathroom by not one, but TWO adults (this part I actually somewhat understand; the church is trying to keep the adults accountable by not allowing one adult to be alone in a restroom with a young child, though I think it’s silly that any child over the age of 5 needs to be chaperoned at all!).
But back to my boys, and their bathroom trips.  The guard monitors who comes and goes from the restroom.  If there is any other boy in the bathroom (with or without a chaperon), neither of my sons is allowed to enter the restroom until the other boy leaves.  So now my boys are, at the same time, being treated like babies who can’t find their way around or be trusted to move from room to room without adult supervision, but they are also PEDOPHILES just by merit of being over the age of 11, and male.   My boys are also not allowed to enter if an adult male is in the restroom.  Even my “PEDOPHILE” boys aren’t safe in the restroom with another “PEDOPHILE,” by virtue of the other one being fully-grown.
I’m truly fed up.  My children absolutely love this program, and it would really devastate them if I removed them.  I want to so badly, though, just to make the point that normal human beings do not put up with this!  The church has never explained to us the reasons for the yearly increases in its so-called “security measures.”
We parents are just supposed to go along blindly, “thankful” that those in charge are always tightening up the rules to protect our kids.  To me, all they’re really doing is sending the kids the message that, “We don’t trust you.”  They don’t trust the kids to go where they need to be.  They don’t trust them to stay out of trouble.  They don’t trust them to find their way back to a parent at the end of the evening.  And they sure as heck don’t trust any of the tween/teen crowd — over 90% who have grown up in this church — not to molest or harm the younger kids.
So help me, please.  How do I go about finding like-minded parents in the church and put a stop to this nonsense before someone does get hurt?  My oldest son was absolutely devastated to be told the restroom rules.  You should have seen his face when he realized what they were assuming about him!   Have any of your readers encountered this?  And if so, what were they able to do to stop the insanity??? — Midwestern Jen

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101 Responses to Boys Over 11 Not Allowed in Church Bathroom at Same Time as Boys Under 11 (And Other “Security” Measures)

  1. elsiroomom October 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    It is sad to think that there might in fact be some basis for this level of scrutiny. Our religious education had two hall monitors throughout and kept people out of the hallways, but I learned by overhearing a conversation that included FAR too much information to people who really didn’t need to know it, that there had been two instances of custody issues at which a parent who did not have authority to pick up a child had attempted to do so without permission of the custodial parent. (Police were called, etc.) Whether this level of security results from an actual situation (custody or pedophilia) that has occurred at this church, or whether it does not, it still seems to me a very sad way for children and parents to interact at a place of worship.

  2. Linda Wightman October 5, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    If you tried to make up such a scenario for a novel, it would be rejected as unbelievable.

  3. Elizabeth October 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    At our very small church, our pastor has recently announced that all children must be accompanied to the bathroom. We don’t currently have any teens in the church, but do have several children who are 8-11. I asked if it included them, and he said that it included anybody under 18. I have not escorted my 10 and 8 year old children to the bathroom in some time, and I frequently send them to accompany their 3 year old sister. This is so frustrating to me!

  4. Jessica October 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    You might not be aware of how hard churches are being pressured to follow insane measures like this. Our church couldn’t get INSURANCE unless we followed a MILE long list of ridiculous “safety” precautions.

    Honestly, I believe most churches would love to be more open, easy and trusting — but we’re under attack and pressure from sources outside our control to crack down on imaginary perverts. I hate it, but if we want insurance (and we are required by law to have it in order to operate), we have to do as we’re told.

  5. Trey October 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    If insurance is the reason for this, ask to speak to the insurers and the actuaries involved in this. I doubt they’ll want to come out and possibly be seen, but some hard questions about risks (child endangerment), costs (all that labor ain’t cheap and if its volunteer for the security then its worth exactly what is paid) and benefits (safe environment) in order and how they can be achieved with less disruption.

  6. Terrie Coats October 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    I guess the first thing to say is- holy smokes, that is a LOT of security measures. While I would expect some measures of safety in any kids program as a parent, probably with churches this is a sensitive subject. My guess is, they have gone way overboard so that, they look ABOVE board. Also, the whole thing with the treatment of older boys is just unacceptable. We cannot send the message to our young men that they are so distrusted, just because of their gender. Were I in your shoes I would be constructively sharing your experience with them, and give them what sounds like, some much-needed common sense feedback on their safety measures.

  7. Dave October 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    I pastor a church in Manhattan, NY. When I am in the building Theodore are alwaysvopen. We have a gym program for neighborhood kids. Security amounts to the parents who set around socializing know who is coming in the door. Safety is accomplished not with security guards but by building community. Oh yea in eight years nothing has been stolen.
    Church should be a safe place because real community exists.

  8. Mark Davis October 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Time to find a new VBS methinks. I simply wouldn’t consider all of that worth whatever they’re getting out of the program.

  9. John C October 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Pull them out of the program, and do it now! There are plenty of other things your kids can be doing in far less restrictiive and facist environments. Your kids may love the program, but they’ll get over it quickly when you find somewhere else to bring them. You do not want them ever thinking that this is acceptable, regardless of how much fun they might have.

  10. Erika Evans October 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Pull them out, and write a letter to the church council (or whoever governs the church other than the pastor) telling them what you told us.

  11. Lollipoplover October 5, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    This is insane. I’d pull them out of the program.
    Or I’d send them in wearing Depends.

  12. Liz October 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    How terrible for your son, when he realized the reason behind the bathroom rules. That really borderlines on abuse, for him to be subjected to that treatment for no legitimate reason. Why should good kids be treated like perverts/ rapists/ sluts? That is degrading, humiliating, and damaging to their psyche. I would yank all the kids from the program, and tell them it is unacceptable to treat children that way. I don’t care what the church’s reasons are, or insurance requirements, it’s simply no environment for children to be in.

  13. Donna October 5, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    I would pull them out of the program regardless of how much they enjoy it. It is too damaging to their psyche. I would explain to them fully why they are being taken out. I would also write a letter to the church leadership – or let the boys write one – explaining why the boys have been removed. I’d also try to see if you can get more parents to do the same. I can’t imagine that any of the parents of older boys are okay with this. If people don’t protest the rules, they are never going to change.

  14. Donald October 5, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    Children shouldn’t be treated as objects such as baggage that you sign in or get a ‘claim receipt’ for. Actually, baggage is a wrong comparison but they are truly being treated like objects. In other words, THEY ARE NOT PEOPLE.

    What’s more damaging? The one in a million chance where a pedophile will gain access to your child
    constantly telling children that they are helpless objects.

    Unfortunately, the strong survive and the weak get singled out. The best way to ensure that a child grows up weak, frail, and of little self confidence is to bubble wrap them. They will then become an ideal target for pedophiles and bullies.

    To make a long story short, this over the top security will make it more likely that children will become victims. However, it’s the best way to protect the church against liability. I guess the later is more important.

  15. mollie October 5, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Community, community, community.

    Venerating on that. I want more of it in my own life, I want it for all people everywhere.

    Especially the congregants and visitors of this church.

  16. Rachel October 5, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Talk to the 15-year-old about it. He’s upset by the bathroom procedure implications, get him in on deciding if he wants his younger siblings to have that same realization in a few years. If he gets on board, pulling the rest out and finding a less oppressive environment would be a lot easier I suspect.

    I absolutely think you need to get them out of that. Children should not be in prison environments!

  17. Donald October 5, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    @ jessica

    I love your comment

    ….but we’re under attack and pressure from sources outside our control to crack down on imaginary perverts. I hate it, but if we want insurance (and we are required by law to have it in order to operate), we have to do as we’re told.

    In order to fight back we need to do a name and shame campaign. What are the names of these insurance thugs that put profits before the health and wellbeing of children?

  18. Elizabeth October 6, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    While I don’t really agree that this is “borderline abuse”, I have to say that under these circumstances I do think you should pull them out of the program. But do not go quietly into the night! Make sure that everyone with any authority to change this knows exactly why you are leaving. Be polite, but be vocal.

    As difficult as it will be for your children to lose something that they love doing, think of the benefits of teaching them that their dignity and worth as human beings is valuable enough to take a stand and say “No, I do not deserve this treatment, and I will not tolerate it.” I think the value of that lesson far outweighs any disappointment they will feel, in the long run.

  19. Cheryl October 6, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    This is so very, very extreme (and sad!) that it gets me to wondering: is it possible that they have a young man in the community who has done something inappropriate, but that they don’t want to kick out? It’s very unlikely, but it is possible. I would definitely go to the church leadership & ask what’s up w/ all the security. If there’s no specific reason (they wouldn’t give you the specifics, but they could tell you that they do exist) for them and they’re unwilling to change these procedures, then I think it’s time to find a new faith community. Best of luck!

  20. mandy October 6, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    This is the worst thing I have ever heard of. I would have left a long time ago!

  21. Lara October 6, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    I can’t believe that America, the land of the free, has come to this. The politicians have us all living in fear of the boogey man behind every corner. I am so tired of the fear mongering of the politicians and the media. We have lost all of our freedoms in this country because we have been told to be fearful. Isn’t that what the Nazis did in Germany before the Jews ended up in concentration camps? I am so glad my children are grown, and yet I fear for their future and their children’s future.

  22. Lea October 6, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    Holy smoke batman that’s nuts! It is so wrong. That level of crazy just doesn’t have an excuse.

    They are putting unspoken labels on everyone and not good ones.

    First they are labeling the whole church and the activities it hosts as unsafe!

    The little kids are irrisponsible and can’t handle the routine of walking themselves to a classroom.

    The adults are trying to pull something over on people, are likely to steal children so they must go through an 18 step security check everytime they walk intoo the building.

    Teens are both to big to be around little kids and to young to be along going to the bathroom.

    Males are all some sort of pedifiles based on their gender alone.

    It wouldn’t matter to me how wonderful the program itself was or how much my children were liking it. I would pull them because of the message all that “security” is sending to them. I would not go quietly. Ridiculousness like that won’t change until someone speaks up. You are unlikley to be the only one feeling all that is ridiculous and uncalled for but many won’t take the step to be the first to speak up.

  23. Marion October 6, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    If you changed “boys over 11” to “blacks” people would be screaming discrimination at the top of their lungs.

    This is SO, so wrong. Children shouldn’t have to live in the equivalent of an armed camp where every adult is looked at as a kidnapper, abuser, or pedophile.

    I feel badly for my sons, who some see with distrust, simply because of their gender.

  24. Emily October 6, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    Everyone else already said what I was thinking–I agree that the best course of action would be to change churches, and explain why, both to your own sons, and to the church. You don’t want to teach your kids that this kind of craziness is normal, and maybe if you speak up and/or go elsewhere, others will follow suit. The end result will either be a change in policy, or an empty church, which would probably lead to a change in policy.

  25. Library Diva October 6, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    This is absolutely insane! Have you talked with the other parents about this to see how they feel? Maybe a group of you who don’t like these regulations can work towards getting them changed. I feel for you because these measures have put you in between a rock and a hard place with your kids.

    If you can’t get them changed, and the church won’t budge, I think you should talk with your kids about it. Even the youngest ones are old enough to have some input into this. Do they feel that what they get back from this program is worth all of this? You said your oldest boy figured out the implications behind these rules — does it bother him enough that he wants to stop going, or does he love this program enough that he wants to stay with it?

    Even if all four of your kids hang together and say they love this program so much that they’d be willing to submit to strip searches, I think you should still make a lot of noise about these ridiculous restrictions. Someone has to. In fact, do you have a community newspaper in your town? When I worked for one, we definitely would have covered a story about something like this. Just saying. Usually, all you have to do is call up and ask to speak to a reporter or editor.

  26. Warren October 6, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    @Midwestern Jen

    Since you oldest is feeling the stress, you have an ally.

    Would you kids be up to wearing black and white striped painters caps, black and white coveralls, with inmate on the back, and a fake ball and chain around their ankles as a form of peaceful protest?
    Just a thought. If they do not like the way they are being treated, and it is a program they really want to do…….it might make them feel like they are doing something to help.

  27. Havva October 6, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    You would be absolutely right to remove the kids, “just to make the point that normal human beings do not put up with this!” The situation at your church is completely unacceptable. And I humbly suggest that it is time to take a stand, beyond just leaving.

    Some approaches… letters to the community via, church list-serve, facebook, community address book, whatever. These letters should make a plea from your son and yourself to quit treating children as either pedophiles, or luggage. And/or, get a meeting with the bible camp leadership and clergy, on rolling back to sane security. (Why can’t teachers check their own class?) If church leadership is cooperative, have a big meeting on establishing, trust, community, and self-protecting kids, with appropriate security. But I doubt the church will cooperate, so you need to be prepared to leave, not just bible school but also the church. If you know anyone who left recently (perhaps you could find some support from them).

    If/When you leave, let the 15 year old explain to the others that he and all boys over 11 are being tacitly accused of wanting to commit crimes against other children. Explain that the tags show distrust for their teachers and them. Explain that normal churches let 7 year olds use the restroom alone. Then give them one last day in class to say goodbye and explain why to their classmates. Take the days they would have been at bible school to find a new spiritual home, it will be good for the soul.

    If insurance is brought up as an excuse. I’ll be happy to find out who insures my synagogue where potty training kids go to a modified restroom themselves (and call for help if needed). Where care providers manage check in/out (even for infants), and send 8 year old kids to find other kid’s parents in the sanctuary on the two days a year with 50x normal attendance.

  28. baby-paramedic October 6, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    Reminds me of security measures of a certain primary school… In a war zone. That was a known target.
    And even they were aplogetic about it, despite it being a reasonable risk of being attacked.

  29. steve October 6, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    I would not belong to a church that operated like that.
    Have you talked with any other parents? Are they comfortable with those conditions? If there aren’t many who agree with you, that’s another good reason to find another church.

  30. Sara October 6, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    There cannot possibly be enough benefit to this program to remain. Pull them out. If they ask why tell them. If they don’t ask then they don’t care. Don’t worry yourself with what they think, find a program that suits your family’s needs.

  31. carolyn October 6, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    That is very frustrating, but I don’t know that I would pull them out of the program ‘just to make a point’. As free range parents we believe that kids are resilient and can handle a lot more than most give them credit for. Therefore, I believe that the kids could handle this oppressive environment and even grow from it if there is health dialogue about it.

    Of course it would be great to confront the craziness and try to be a voice of reason. But if they won’t listen, then you and your kids need to decide if what they get out of the program is worth putting up with the yucky stuff.

    And even thought it drives us crazy, we need to try to look at the hearts of the people making these rules. They probably have good intentions, but are just mislead. I remember being upset about a new policy in our children’s ministry, until I realized that I may have encouraged that same policy before I read ‘How to Raise Free Range Kids.’

  32. Dennis October 6, 2012 at 4:52 am #

    Nothing will change until people are fed up enough to start talking back and pulling their children out of these situations.

  33. JessicaD October 6, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    Time to find a church that cares about PEOPLE and HEARTS.

  34. Donna October 6, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    I wouldn’t pull them out “just to make point.” I’d pull them out because this is an unhealthy environment for them to be in. Kids are resilient. That doesn’t mean that we, as their parents, don’t have a duty to remove them from unhealthy environments that they don’t need to be a part of.

    I would agree with not removing if the kids were under 11 – and fighting to change the rules. They are treated like babies but they can deal with it.

    Maybe because I am not religious, but I can’t imagine even considering allowing my teens to be part of this program. They are being told, starting at 12, that if you have a penis, you cannot be trusted around younger children. The older boy already understands the message. The younger will eventually.

  35. Stijn Hommes October 6, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    I would actually do nothing. Don’t risk your kids’ happiness just to make a point.

    Your kids enjoy the program now, but it looks like your oldest son is on the verge of acting on these ridiculous safety measures himself. Encourage his critical thinking and support any reasonable action he’s willing to take.

  36. Stijn Hommes October 6, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Please ignore my comment about you “making a point” I forgot to read the previous messages.

  37. BL October 6, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    “They probably have good intentions, but are just mislead.”

    No. This “good intentions” excuse should be eliminated now and forever.

    Are they doing this to girls as well as boys? If not, get an attorney and sue ’em for sex discrimination.

    The “name and shame” advice is good. The insurance company (if they’re behind this) and everyone else should have their individual names all over the internet and, if possible, television and newspapers.

  38. Andy October 6, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    @BL Because every problem should be solved by lawsuit. That is how it should be. I mean, they are cheap, practical and never cause collateral damage.

    It is not like the fear of lawsuits would not made a damage already. The more of them, the better for society.

  39. suzyq October 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    ……..because once they turn 11 they, too, become predators?

  40. Meg October 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    About whether they can handle being there because they are resilient? Sure they are. The big worry I would have, is that they might become habituated to being treated like that, and get to a point where they accept it automatically and without question or objection.

    Being conditioned to see that as normal and acceptable treatment, would be my first fear for kids left in that sort of program, because it primes them to accept that kind of treatment later on in life, also.

  41. nobody October 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I would ask myself if the LORD is present at this particular church. It sounds to me like He might not be there.

    A lot of churches fall into this trap nowadays. They set up tons of “programs” to involve everyone in some capacity and always need dozens of people to volunteer. I used to attend such a church and know it can be fun for awhile, but then I realized that what I was doing was nothing more than a hollow gesture.

    Don’t sue or make a big scene. Just quietly withdraw and leave to find a new church. If anyone asks, just answer that you no longer feel the presence of the LORD in this church or congregation. If they continue to press, just explain that you don’t feel that Jesus would treat children in such a manner.

  42. CrazyCatLady October 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Do they have planning meetings? Do they have teens involved? (They should, as an organization serving youth.)

    Go to planning meetings. Take your son, and any of his friends, male and female (preferably not with their parents, have them just come with you!) You need to encourage them to get up an talk about how this makes them feel. They do not have this amount of “supervision” at school I am wiling to bet. And yes, there are still schools around the country, both public and private, that have kids grades K -12 in the same building, and I am willing to bet they don’t have rules like this. (I bet they allow older kids to tutor younger ones, with minimal supervision!)

    It may not change anything at the church having them talk. But it will empower the teens to feel better that they can at least be heard. Then it is up to them to decide if they want to continue with the program if the church refuses to change. And, up to them if they want to encourage other teens to follow their example and maybe set up their own private bible study group or vacation school for themselves at parents’ homes.

  43. CrazyCatLady October 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    That is, parents can come with their teens, but it would also show that the parents trust other parents with their kids if the teens came with you without parents. If the parents want to speak out, that is fine too.

  44. CLamb October 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    What is the denomination of this church? Some churches are locally controlled and some are controlled by a hierarchy. Also, a denomination which has been hit by scandal may be overly cautious.

  45. Michelle October 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    For the sake of your sons’ self-respect, I really think you need to make it clear that this treatment is unacceptable, and that they should *not* tolerate it. Make them part of the decision, and figure out whether you’d rather try to change the church policy, or find another church.

    (This reminds me of a situation with my oldest daughter’s best friend, who became emotionally abusive. I left it up to my daughter whether she remained friends with this girl, but on the condition that she did NOT tolerate the abusive behavior. She made it clear that she would leave any time her friend started behaving cruelly, and not come back until she got an apology. Eventually the friend got the message and changed. I did warn my daughter in advance that you can’t *make* other people change, and that her friend might not want to change.)

    If you and your kids decide you want to try and convince the church to change their policy, I’d start by talking to other parents while you’re waiting to pick your kids up from their classes. Just casually ask, “So what do you think of all these new security measures?” and see what people say. Also encourage your sons to talk to their friends about how they feel about it. If you find that other people are incredulous or upset, too, go to the church management together. Try to find out about any planning meetings and bring up your concerns. It might also help to find out what kinds of security measures other churches in your area have, in case your church tries to say they have no choice in the matter because of insurance or whatever.

  46. Stephanie October 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Those rules are plain ridiculous. I wouldn’t put up with them for my kids, especially at a church.

  47. Beth October 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Setting aside the bathroom policies for the moment, which are truly ridiculous, I would not have my kids in any program which took 45 minutes out of every day just to check them in.

  48. Matt in GA October 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Talk to the leadership of your church. They need to hear your perspective.

  49. Jay October 6, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    This church is obviously willing to tolerate these terms, so it’s silly to blame an insurance company.

    Every organization wants to avoid being called out for its abusive policies, but it’s important not to tolerate this kind of buck passing.

    Vote with your dollars. If this organization is being unreasonable, find another activity that’s more palatable. Most of all, find an environment that respects its members.

  50. TaraK October 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    This is beyond nuts. We have a church in our area which has what I would consider to be a crazy check in and out policy, but I’ve only heard ONE person complain about it.

    This church also happens to be in the neighborhood where a level 3 sex offender is being moved (which also happens to be within 2 miles of my house. The moms asked me what I was going to do and how I planned to keep my daughter safe.

    The offender raped girls ages 7-14 whom he knew. There was not a single stranger attacked by him. I told my friends this and said I was just going to make sure that my kids stuck together and that I know the people that my daughter (5) knows as much as possible. I will also be listening for her school bus which drops her off 4 houses down the street on the corner and wave to her as she runs down the street. They think I’m nuts, but what else can I do???

  51. BL October 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm #


    Why did I mention lawsuits? Because if this was aimed at just black people, or just homosexuals, or anything-but-Y-chromosome-bearers, there would be legal action in milliseconds. Would you suggest any black members of this church quietly go elsewhere if they were the target of this policy?

    No, lawsuits are not always the answer. But any solution to this must recognize that what’s happening here is completely unreasonable, is being done by completely unreasonable people, and no appeal to reason is going to work.

    Fine, you can just walk away from Vacation Bible School. But we’ve seen similar policies are driving men out of the teaching profession.

    If we never appeal to the law, then we’re easy prey and the only alternative is taking the law into our own hands. Is that what you prefer?

  52. Donald October 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    @ Jay

    I don’t believe that it’s silly to blame an insurance company. By your own words

    ……………This church is obviously willing to tolerate these terms

    This doesn’t sound like they want to do it. Why are they spending so much money on security if they are only ‘tolerating these terms’

  53. mary margaret October 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Here’s something no one mentioned. The real danger here is that children will get used to this kind of treatment making it easier for a fascist government to take control.

    My church had some sort of procedure at vbs but I told the organizers, “We live 2 doors down. She’ll be walking to and from by herself. She’ll tell you when she’s leaving.”

  54. Miss Happ N Stance October 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I disagree with pulling them out of it. If your children love it so much, then there is reason to stay. It is a community that they are a part of. Stay and fight. Talk openly with them and the leaders and the other parents and find out the reasons behind all of this, and point out that this level of discrimination should not be sustained. Fight from within!
    After all, if you just pull them out without fighting, aren’t you just teaching your children that when your community gets scared and goes crazy you abandon it for greener pastures? Relationships take work, and communities are worth fighting for.

  55. Donald October 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I don’t think insurance companies are blameless. Perhaps they think they are being helpful by saying:

    ‘If you run a church normally then insurance will cost this much. However we can save you money if you run it like a prison, treat anyone over 11 as potential pedophiles, and treat younger children like objects that need to be checked in like baggage. You can save money if you don’t mind discriminating and insulting people while you teach them about Gods love.’

  56. Mommy with Commuter Husband October 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Unbelievable. And Sad. Really.

  57. Jay October 7, 2012 at 1:18 am #


    Your analysis may be correct, but it simply means that the church has set a budget for human dignity, and has decided they don’t want to exceed it.

    It’s not a seller’s fault if a customer can’t/won’t pay their price. A BMW M6 sports car is very expensive to insure. If we can’t afford our dream cars, are we all to blame insurance companies?

  58. Donna October 7, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    “Relationships take work, and communities are worth fighting for.”

    I agree. I don’t think they should leave the church when it appears that they have been a part of it for many years. I think that they should fight to change the rules. However, there is no way in hell that my son would step foot in a program that treats him as such a pedophile threat that he cannot be alone with a younger child in the bathroom even with a chaperon. Until the rules changed, they would be out of the program. Not the church. Not the community, but a single program within the community that treats young men in such an emotionally negative fashion.

    I view it this way. If my mother started abusing prescription pills, I would maintain a relationship with my mother. I would work to convince my mother to get help. I would allow my daughter, who adores my mother, to visit when I was present and my mother was clean. I would not send my daughter there unsupervised on the basis that relationships take work. At some point, part of the relationship is too destructive to continue until it changes.

  59. Nanci October 7, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    I think I would really have to think twice about continuing to attend a church like this! That sounds absolutely insane to not allow people into the restrooms! We have a smallish church (about 250 total). My kids are 9 & 10 and I don’t even see them until it’s time to leave! We arrive and they take off for their own Sunday school classes while I head to mine. No checking in required. After church is over they are allowed to just leave, by themselves, no one checking them out. They run outside and play with their friends. After I’m done talking with others I round them up and we head home. If I were you I would find a new church!

  60. Donald October 7, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    @ Jay

    Perhaps you’re right. It could have been the choice of the church to save money


    they may have been ‘under the gun’ from insurance profiteering. We don’t know. We can only guess.

    Hmmmm Let’s see. Which one has the worst reputation for morals?

  61. Noah October 7, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    I would simply find another church/VBS to attend, but then again I’m in the bible belt where there is a church on every corner. The check in/out policy would be enough for me to leave, but the bathroom policy is over the top and ridiculous. If you do decide to start looking I would suggest a smaller church. They generally have a community atmosphere where everyone knows everyone and their family.

  62. Andy October 7, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    @BL So they sue, the church settle (it is cheaper than lawsuit anyway), they get money and the church makes the same policy for girls too.

    Big win.

    What’s happening here is happening because organizations are already too afraid of being found liable in case of unpredictable events. It is happening also because they are afraid of having statues unrelated to original problem being used against them.

    There was lawsuits and threats of lawsuits pushing organizations one way. What you are suggesting is to put equally strong pressure on them to push them in opposite direction. Overall money and effort going to lawsuits are just going to go up, there will be more elaborate policies and the whole thing will cost even more time, effort and stress.

    The solution is to remove original pressure, not to put them into “be sued whatever you do” situation.

    “But we’ve seen similar policies are driving men out of the teaching profession.”

    You just want to make a huge example of one church in order to make a point about large policy. First, it will not address the root problem, second they will settle and extend the policy to girls too.

    “If we never appeal to the law, then we’re easy prey and the only alternative is taking the law into our own hands. Is that what you prefer?”

    Never appealing to law is a problem and appealing to law all the time is a problem too. I do not understand what do you mean by “taking the law into our own hands”. Are you suggesting taking some vigilant action against the church?

  63. Maria October 7, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    How utterly ridiculous. I agree with the poster who suggested that you first talk to the eldest about it, and then together tell the younger kids you are removing them from the program. Write letters to the church leadership, church higher governing body (if there is one), local newspapers and whoever else you can think of…

    OT, but I must just get this off my chest. We live a 5 minute walk away from my daughter’s great grandparents. Yesterday she wanted to visit them (she doesn’t see them that often, it’s complicated) so we said she could walk there. She called them to check that they’re home and mentioned that she will be walking. She was barely 100m down the street when great grandfather pulled up in his car and picked her up “because there are people who would grab her”. Uhmmm… no there aren’t. Not in our quiet suburb. And even if there is one, what are the chances he/she would be hanging around on the route between our house and theirs on the off chance that a kid in the target gender and age group would be walking on her own. Aaaaarrrrggggghhhhh!!!! I find this incredibly disrespectful of us as parents, never mind of the 10 year old involved, and we will communicate this to the great grandparents in future.

  64. Jay October 7, 2012 at 10:57 am #


    I agree completely. If churches didn’t have the reputation they have, then they could probably get a better deal on insurance.

  65. Taradlion October 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Funny when I first started reading the tag line…I jumped to the conclusion it was going to be about boys in the women’s bathroom. I wonder if men parishioners are allowed in the bathroom while boys under 11 (or over 11) are in there.

  66. Jenn October 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I know it is a decision that you struggle with, to pull the kids out or not, but I think you should first voice your concerns to whoever is in charge and made this protocol. I would also talk to other parents and see how they view this protocol and hopefully there will be some who agree with you. Even if you did pull your kids out, it may not change things but if a large group of parents are voicing their concerns with the threat of all of these kids leaving, then perhaps change will occur.

  67. Yan Seiner October 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Is it kids or just boys? If it’s just boys, I think there’s a valid argument that this violates all sorts of laws…

    If it’s kids, then there’s all sorts of issues with what message this sends.

    I would never, ever send my kids to a place like that. I don’t even like nametags. Let the kids play.

    My concern is that kids brought up this was are trained to expect all sorts of authoritarian and invasive procedues “in the name of security”. As adults they will be very accomodating to more police presence in their lives and more government control. (And yes, I’m a long-time liberal, not an anti-government zealot.)

  68. Jayme Bruce October 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Wow, these people would be shocked at the security measures at my church. The kids and I walk in for Sunday services together, because we attend the first meeting together. After that, I send all 3 of them (ages 11, almost 9 and 6) on their way to the children’s classes without me, while I go on my way to my adult classes. After those classes are over, sometimes we meet up in the hallways, but more often than not, we meet up OUTSIDE at the car! And for any activities they go to outside of those regular Sunday church hours, I drop them off at the door. I usually wait to make sure I see one of their leader’s cars, but after that, I leave them and don’t even get out of my own car. Sometimes, I even let my boys ride their bikes there. Alone! And my kids don’t haven’t had anyone escorting them to the restroom since they were 4… See the thing is, I know almost everyone at that church. My kids know them. And they know us. I TRUST them. I also feel confident that we live in a safe neighborhood. And the people that go to church with us live in our neighborhood.

  69. Denny October 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    When I worked in a church nursery, we often let children leave with older siblings. Not sure if we were allowed to, but if we knew the sibling, it seemed fine.

  70. Denny October 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    After reviewing the comments, the consensus seems to be that you should find a new church. However, at your kids’ ages, they have friends there and know people, and it seems that you are mostly happy with the place. Any other church will be more conservative, or more liberal, or bigger, or smaller, or interpret the Bible too literally, or be too far from home, or just plain not have many people you know. There can be some benefits to finding another church, but it seems to be a better idea to talk to people there that you trust first and try to change things. The idea of changing churches reminds me of all the people that don’t like politics and so say to move to another country – that’s not so easy! Better to fix things than leave, I think.

  71. AW13 October 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    This makes me so sad. This is no way to treat boys. If I were you, I would make a big stink, talking to my friends in the church, talking to those in charge, and if that didn’t work, I’d go to the next higher up. And if that didn’t change things, I’d contact the media. And if that didn’t work, I’d leave that church. As someone above said, kids are resilient, but as their parents, we shouldn’t place them in situations that are detrimental to their emotional well-being.

    But that’s me: I *would* leave a particular congregation over something like this. Something to consider: if no one else sees a problem with this, you may want to examine closely what this congregation is really promoting. It may turn out that their values don’t align with yours as much as you previously thought.

  72. John October 8, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    This “child predator hysteria” in America today is getting waaaay out of hand. I most recently toured the newly built YMCA we have here in town and I was surprised, or perhaps not surprised, to find out that this new state-of-the-art YMCA had not two or not three, but FIVE dressing rooms. It was equipped with a mens dressing room, a womens dressing room, a boys dressing room, a girls dressing room and a family dressing room. What a waste of space! Then there was a large sign above the mens dressing room that read, “No one under 18 allowed in this dressing room”. Perhaps the womens dressing room had the same sign above it but I didn’t notice. Either way, is this ridiculous or what?!

    Goodness gracious sakes, back in the 1960s, the city swimming pool I just about lived at as a youngster, had a large OPEN area in each dressing room where both children and adults got dressed. So boys could be naked and men could be naked in front of each other….eeegads! Same with the showers. It was the same setup in the women/girls locker room. Let me emphasize here folks that no kid was molested nor was any kid scarred for life from seeing a grown man’s genitals! That type of concern was unimaginable back then. The men minded their own business and got dressed as did the boys. No one cared or was shocked at who they saw with their clothes completely off because it was a DRESSING room for crying out loud!

    Now I can understand the family dressing room concept because a 5-year-old girl, for example, who is accompanied by only her father might be too young to be on her own in the girls dressing room BUT might be a bit too old for the boys dressing room so a family dressing room, where nobody is completely disrobed, solves that dilemma. But separate dressing rooms for all children under 18, and adults, is taking paranoia to a new level in MY opinion.

    One more thing, back in the summer of 1965, when I went to Cub Scout camp with my dad, the camp site we were at was reserved only for us Cub Scouts and dads. So no females were in sight for miles and that was the whole point of the camp (The Brownies went to a similar camp with their moms). With that being the case, many of the dads who were too tall to stand upright in the tents, got dressed and undressed in front of their tent, OUTSIDE! Sometimes us kids did too! Today, those same dads would be arrested for child sexual assault only because they were completely undressed in front of minors even if they were of the same sex!!!

    So when did we Americans become so prudish and paranoid when it comes to children and sex???

  73. hineata October 8, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    Didn’t have time to read through all the above, so hope I’m not repeating anything, but I wonder what these people would make of the Japanese, who very often take their baths at public baths, separate facilities for males and females, but otherwise ‘all in together’. I did find it a little disconcerting when I went with my sister-in-law, as we were the only ‘white’ chicks, and she’s a Nordic blonde, but no one pays any attention to one another, because it’s all normal. For that matter, don’t the actual Nordic types bathe publicly in stuff-all? I think it’s ony we descendents of the Brits that get too concerned about public nudity etc…..

  74. Donald October 8, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    @ Jay

    You got me there and you’re correct. Many years ago the church had a terrible reputation of molesting young boys. They don’t run very many orphanages anymore but they are still haunted by their past. Today, one child is rarely alone with an adult. This means that the opportunity for a pedophile to strike has been decreased by perhaps 1000 times. It has been this way for a long time and without the prison security as described. I’m not saying that the problem is no longer there.

    However I’d weigh it up against the reputation of insurance profiteering.

    The question still remains

    Is the church simply trying to save money by insulting people while they teach them about Gods love or are they being backed into a corner financially?

  75. Donald October 8, 2012 at 7:44 am #


    I meant to say

    One child is rarely alone with ONE adult.

    This means that the opportunity for a pedophile to strike has been decreased,,,,,,

  76. Yan Seiner October 8, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    If you look at the Middle Ages we had a terrible problem with witchcraft. The way we handled that was using a lightweight and ad hoc system of roving prosecutors, ie Witchfinders General.

    Now we have a problem with paedophilia. I think we need some sort of Paedofinder General.

  77. CrazyCatLady October 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Hineata, you are so right. My kids’ favorite movie is “My Neighbor Totoro”. The two girls, ages about 3 and tweenish, take a bath in the movie with their father. Girls doing that in the US, would be a big no-no unless they were in a hot tub with bathing suits.

    But you know what gets me, is an adult friend who just started dating again. She went out with a man, who is very involved with his church. She had asked that he not push the physical side of things, but he did so, claiming that she was so pretty that he “just couldn’t control himself.” I think he is a total cad. She took his line that men can’t control themselves as truth, and I had to convince her that the majority of men are good and can control themselves or take measures ahead of time so that they can do so. (Can’t remember the name of that movie, but, there you go!)

    Anyhow, it shocked me that this adult man, feeding a line or not, was falling into this stupid mindset that is feeding things like this church that say that men can’t control themselves so measures need to be taken. (He told her they needed a chaperone. He forgets, chaperones were to prevent consenting adults from doing what they wanted!)

  78. Brian October 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    I would say part of the problem is scaling. Mega churches and their ilk introduce two problems that exacerbate these “safety” issues:

    1) When you have thousands of people attending a church, you cannot know everyone. If it is a small church/synagogue or mosque with 50-100 families then you can create community.

    2) When the church/synagogue/mosque has real assets there is a need for insurance to protect those assets. If you have a local parish that owns the building it is in then what is there to insure? So the church goes bankrupt. The pastor/rabbi /imam opens another and the parishioners follow.

    Smaller and local builds community and promotes safety organically.

  79. Diane S. October 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Is this one of those extremely large churches? And yes, it could be “fear of liability”. We’ve been hit with that lately at our church, to where suddenly things that have been done for years, suddenly are ‘verboten’ because “someone might sue”. Makes me sad, actually, as this is a small church, we run vans to pick up kids whose parents are sitting outside, and still sitting outside when the kids are dropped off again.

    We were going to have one of those huge inflatable slip & slides at the 4th of July party, but was overruled by those who said “wet kids inside the church? no way!”.. even though we’ve had wet kids in there before, suddenly it’s a horrible thing to actually have *children* that *dirty things* about.

  80. AW13 October 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    @Yan: Your comment made me laugh. Then it gave me a chill. That’s horrifying. And probably has been suggested somewhere. Long live the 4th amendment!

  81. EricS October 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Personally, I would pull my kids from that program. For one, all those procedures sound like they are in some sort of Nazi camp, waiting to be tagged and bagged. This militant type behavior of the program DOES have a mental impact on the kids. Is this really how children should learn to be growing up. Whether anyone wants it to happen or not, they learn that this is what is normal in today’s society. And that’s just plain wrong. Unless of course, that is the whole intent of these programs and procedures. To brain wash the kids now, and control them in the future. Hmmmm. And second, that washroom thing is simply ridiculous. There is NO reason. No sane, logical, and pertinent reason that is. Pure paranoia. Again, this is what children are learning, to be fearful. Whether they realize it or not, care or not, it will mess up the kids, as well as the parents. It becomes an epidemic, like so much of what is going on now with over protective parents and fearful institutions. A me, me, me world. In which children aren’t really the main issue, but they are the ones most affected in a negative way.

  82. EricS October 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    @Diane S: That’s the sad thing, for church goers/religious folk to want to sue each other, or the very church they go to, is not only complete hypocrisy, but so anti-Christ. Like wolves in sheeps clothing. Have people really gotten that litigious, or are churches just becoming overly cautious and being proactive in implementing rules to cover their ass-ets.

  83. Selby October 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    So what are the rules for priests using the bathrooms when children are in there, hm?

  84. Earth.W October 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    I would remove my children as I would not allow them to treat my children like that. They may like the program but is it worth having your children treated as pedophiles?

    Speaking for myself, my children would not return.

  85. Diane S. October 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    @EricS, I think it’s FEAR of being sued – esp. in a smaller church, without rich members, I guess could (in theory) do away with the church. We WERE going to have a sign about our church coming into town on each direction, however, because some idiot MAY run through a ditch, fence, half a field, and hit the sign, we’d be somehow liable for his accident? our church doesn’t have signs. All I could think of when told this was “how (bleeping) stupid is this? Are we really afraid of such a thing (remotely) happening? But then I’m in the “let kids be kids, who cares if they track in mud, we can always mop and clean the carpet up after the fun” type. What’s funny, is the swingset out back of the church has wooden seats, instead of the ‘safer’ plastic seats. I have lost count of the kids that have been thunked solidly in the head with these from jumping off the swings while going high.

  86. Rich Wilson October 8, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Camp Quest

  87. wellcraftedtoo October 9, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    This is a church? A community of faith, healing, and support?

    Sounds like there is less trust in this ‘community’ than in a prison.

    I might start there…

  88. wellcraftedtoo October 9, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    Another thought: there are organizations that exist to help congregations work their way through major conflicts…Perhaps some group like this could help.

    But, first, there really needs to be some dialogue. I’d start by talking with the minister(s), the various governing committees/boards, and the sunday school head.

    If they aren’t of help, or open to discussion, I’d start calling/talking with other parents and approach the higher-ups as a group.

    Churches of Protestant denomination are all members of larger denomination organizations. The boards and officers of the group that your church is a member of could be helpful.

    Perhaps the very first place to start is by looking over the material you might have received when you joined this church that describes its organization, and its various heads/committees/boards/officers. Most churches worth belonging to have very clear–at least on paper–“chains of decision-making”.

    First question on the agenda at any of these levels:

    Why the paranoia?

  89. Kelly October 9, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    My blood pressure just spiked reading this and a few comments. That. is. ridiculous. You really ought to say something to the church! They’re paranoid.

  90. BMS October 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    LOL, these people would have a heart attack if they saw my son go to the bathroom at church. Our church is smack dab in the middle of a downtown urban area. There are the double main doors, and then a smaller door a little ways down the building. The double doors lead to the sanctuary, the smaller door leads to a hallway to the elevator and stairs (as well as a second door to the sanctuary). If my sons need to go to the bathroom during mass, they will often go out the main doors, cut down the building on the sidewalk, then dash back in the small door, because it is faster and less disruptive than going all the way around the back of the sanctuary to the side door. The first time one of them did that I was surprised, and some of the other community members were alarmed, but I truly don’t think that he’s in danger for the 1.5 seconds he is outside the door, even in (gasp) a downtown area. So not only do I not accompany them, they sometimes leave the building for a moment to get to the bathroom. And they have somehow survived so far.

  91. Maegan October 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    This is heart-wrenching to me. If one or both of my unborn twins is a boy, I wonder how to navigate a world that will think he is a criminal, out to get people in every way, before he is even a teenager! I’d like to think that my 12-year-old son could assist a younger boy in the restroom if needed, rather than standing outside in shame. I guess explaining why I think such practices are wrong would be my first step. Hopefully he will understand that I trust him, and think he is good, so that he actually will be.

  92. Andrew October 14, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    If a Church can’t trust children at a VBS, how can the church trust them to have faith, learn about ultimate truths, understand God’s way of salvation and will for their lives?

    This is a good way to push children away from relying on God.

    If they have enough hall monitors in their life they may never need any relationship with God.

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  94. Margaret November 12, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    Yes yes about how stupid it is. But just as a practical matter, what I don’t understand is why can’t the bathroom guard BE the bathroom chaperone? I mean, even if you are a woman, you can stand in the doorway and listen to make sure no one is horsing around — I mean, assaulting someone because obviously that is the most likely thing to happen when multiple kids are in the bathroom alone.

  95. Suzanne February 1, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    I cannot possible put it any better than Elizabeth
    “While I don’t really agree that this is “borderline abuse”, I have to say that under these circumstances I do think you should pull them out of the program. But do not go quietly into the night! Make sure that everyone with any authority to change this knows exactly why you are leaving. Be polite, but be vocal.

    As difficult as it will be for your children to lose something that they love doing, think of the benefits of teaching them that their dignity and worth as human beings is valuable enough to take a stand and say “No, I do not deserve this treatment, and I will not tolerate it.” I think the value of that lesson far outweighs any disappointment they will feel, in the long run.”

    Those are my thoughts exactly. Having been involved in the children’s ministry at my church for a long time I can say in all honesty, until parents start to complain about the extreme security measures in place they will only increase. I believe the leaders really do think they are doing what parents want and will be impressed by. Some simple security measures are neccessary to prevent non-custodial parent issues but anything beyond the basics is too much in my opinion.

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