Even NPR Can’t Resist the “Kids in Danger!” Script

Readers tfidsnizab
— Remember, even a feel-good story could always use a frisson of fear! M
arie, author of the blog HandbasketNotes, explains:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I heard a story on NPR tonight about how kids spent the night at school during the recent Atlanta snow and ice storm and I thought of you.

Audie Cornish interviews a teacher who stayed at the school with the kids. The teacher described how the teachers and administrators baked chocolate chip cookies and served them with milk. She told about the kids had a big sleepover, with the girls on gymnastic mats in one area and the boys on wrestling mats in another area. They even had sheets and blankets available at the school.

Audie said, “It sounds fun, frankly, between the cookies and the sleepover and the texting and the movies. At a certain point, did you get the sense from the students about the gravity of the situation?”

Gravity? It was fun! How the heck does the reporter go from “sounds like fun” to “gravity”? If she meant that the parents were in grave danger out on the ice, she doesn’t say that at all.

When she closed the story, the reporter identifies the teacher and says, “She helped to keep more than 250 students safe overnight in Atlanta.”

SAFE??? Of course they were safe! They were inside with movies and cookies and blankets having a blast. An adventure story most of them will enjoy telling for years to come. How many kids in ATLANTA can talk about being snowed in at school? I’d have given my eyeteeth to have something that unexpected happen to me. At school, with friends. Away from parents.

If there were kids who were homesick or worried or not having fun, they got through the night no worse for the wear.

I laughed at Audie Cornish’s attempts to turn an adventure into a grave situation because it was funny…but it also reflects the knee-jerk assumption that anything away from parents is rife with danger. And you know what? I would bet that even Audie Cornish doesn’t think there was any danger in a school sleepover. The habit of associating children-away-from-parents with danger is so ingrained that she couldn’t help herself. Somehow it feels responsible to remind us that there was danger…even if it was only imagined.

Thought you would get a kick out of both sides of the story: the adventure side, and the reporter’s side where she needs to make the story about safety. Too weird.

Lenore here: Most of all, I get a kick when someone documents the way our culture obsesses about children: All danger, all the time.  So this is just a perfect artifact from our twisted society. Many thanks, Marie!

Those poor kids had to eat cookies and milk!

Those poor stranded kids had to eat cookies and milk!

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74 Responses to Even NPR Can’t Resist the “Kids in Danger!” Script

  1. Leslie January 30, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    Here in Raleigh, NC we had a similar “Snowmageddon” event in 2005 to Atlantas recent weather issues. Kids stuck at school overnight, people stuck in cars for hours etc. etc. People were UP IN ARMS about their kids being stuck at school overnight (and it was a pretty small number of them overall). I get that some very small children (kindergarteners, for example)might have been nervous or scared. But, really, I imagine the vast majority of them thought it was fun. They were in familiar locations with familiar people. I always felt worse for the school staff that were there taking care of the kids and not able to go home to their own families.

  2. J.T. Wenting January 30, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    WHAT? Cookies, milk, chocolate?
    Aren’t milk and wheat products banned from schools because of lactose and gluten allergies?
    And chocolate? All those kids are instantly morbidly obese from just looking at those cookies…

    And it sounds like there were no screens between the boys and girls? Sexual abuse rampant…

    Can just wait for someone to start calculating how much they can squeeze out of the school by threatening a lawsuit for any or all of that.

  3. E January 30, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    I don’t see where this interview ever implies “kids in danger”. Sometimes these posts seem to parse out the worst possible interpretation of a simple interview, something the site is always railing against.

    Having experienced the same snow/ice/gridlock that Leslie mentions (and spending 6 hours on a 20 minute commute) I can’t even imagine the ordeal ATL had to manage.

    Perhaps the interviewer just meant to ask if the kids showed any signs of stress. They’ve all got cell phones so I doubt the teachers were the only sources of info.

  4. Rachel January 30, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Damn. Now I want cookies.

    A big school slumber sounds like a blast. For a lot of kids, this may be their first experience being away from their family overnight. I wonder how many will be begging their parents for more slumber parties in the coming weeks.

    I never got to do a “lock-in” but my friend who works in the teen section at the library has done them a few times and they sound awesome. This was just an unplanned lock-in.

  5. CJW January 30, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    I’ve got to agree with “E” here. I’m not sure about any “kids in danger” subtext in the interview. I think by “gravity of the situation” she was just talking about what a huge mess was going on outside, with stranded commuters, abandoned cars, etc. As for keeping the kids safe, I’d assume she simply meant: safe from being stranded out in the cold, unable to get home as so many people were.

    There are countless examples of people over-worrying about child safety. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, and not assume everyone is so paranoid, lest we become paranoid ourselves.

  6. Coasterfreak January 30, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Well, here in central Texas on Tuesday, some school districts didn’t call school off soon enough (I mean, we had a light glazing of ice on the overpasses, so you know, it was an icepocalypse) and elementary schools had already started for the day. Some of those kids and teachers were stuck there until almost normal school release time! The horrors! From what I understand, they did mostly the same things as were detailed in the article. But MAN were some parents furious! I challenged a few people who had posted their outrage on Facebook to tell me why exactly they were outraged — after all, their kids spend the day at school 5 days a week anyway — and the best anybody could come up with was that it wasn’t fair the elementary school kids got stuck there while the middle and high school kids got to stay home. Hmmm…I guess that means that life…ISN’T fair? Shocking.

    I grew up in upstate NY. I got stuck at school overnight twice in elementary school when surprise ice storms blew in during the day (I guess in the 70’s storms took us more by surprise than they do now). Kids who could walk home, did so. Kids that had to take the bus had to stay. We didn’t bake cookies, but we all went to the gym, played games, and had a great time. I don’t think anybody was scarred for life.

  7. Michelle January 30, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Well, they *were* keeping the kids safe. Not safe from a sleepover at school, but safe from the big snow storm outside. You know, the one that was considered a big enough deal to keep all those kids from going home? Storms can be dangerous, especially in places that aren’t prepared to deal with the particular kind of weather (like Atlanta, or Houston, where I live).

  8. EB January 30, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Had to laugh. My grandmother, a teacher in one-room school houses across Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana, must have had numerous experiences like this. Only with no cell phones or even regular phones. If it’s snowing hard at 3 PM, you’re not going to send kids out in it.

  9. E January 30, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    @CJW, yes – I took the interview as much about what the teachers/staff dealt with and improvised as opposed to any sort of worry about the kids. The teachers presumably have loved ones and/or children themselves. It’s worth featuring their extra efforts.

  10. Michael F January 30, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    I heard the same interview and came away more with Audie trying to get an idea of what they thought about the storm stopping life as they knew it outside. This seems more of an overreaction and finding what you want in the story than any real NPR is pumping up the fear to me.

  11. Martin January 30, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    While there was no danger for the children in the schools, many of their parents were in actual danger trapped on highways in freezing temperature. A friend spent over 8 hours trying to reach her son who was trapped on a school bus, only to get to him and then wind up in a car accident trying to get him home. Most of us who were lucky enough to get home early didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until we started hearing desperate pleas from those who were stuck on icy roads miles from home without enough gas to keep warm or any access to food or restrooms.

  12. Emily January 30, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I think the only “gravity of the situation” would be that the parents didn’t know that the kids were okay……but, in a situation like that, I think you just have to trust the adults who are in charge of caring for your children. For the bus students (who seem to make up the majority of those who ended up staying), it’s the school’s responsibility to get them safely to school, keep them safe, happy, and hopefully teach them some things during the day, and then get them home. Lather, rinse, and repeat, Monday through Friday, September through June, excluding Christmas and spring break. Anyway, on that particular day, the snowstorm made it impossible for the school to deliver on the “get them home” part, so they took the kids back to school, showed them a movie, fed them dinner, showed them a movie, and put them to bed. That’s how it should be–I remember from my high school handbook *mumblemumble* years ago, that it mentioned that the school acted “in loco parentis,” meaning that, when the situation called for it, they’d endeavour to take the same course of action as a “kind, firm, and judicious parent.” So, this would naturally fall into that category. What did the parents think would happen? Did they think the school would just leave the kids alone to walk the rest of the way home in the snow? Of course not. Maybe the solution the school came up with wasn’t ideal–maybe little Madison missed her gymnastics class, and little Timmy missed his hockey practice, and maybe Mikaela’s parents weren’t happy with the junk food and the sleeping situation, but honestly? Life isn’t perfect. Snowstorms happen, and in that case, the important thing is that the teachers at the school found SOMETHING to feed the kids, and SOME way to entertain the kids, and SOME place for the kids to sleep, even if it wasn’t optimal. So, I agree with previous posters–this wasn’t a crisis; it was just an unplanned sleepover. I also agree that this might have been the event that “broke the ice” on overnights for a lot of kids–now they won’t be scared to go to a sleepover with friends, or to summer camp, because they were fine when they got snowed in overnight at school.

  13. RJ Lavallee January 30, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I love your promotion of what is essentially bucking cultural need to find the danger in everything. Work by danah boyd (NYU Media Culture & Communications) during her PhD work at Berkeley and USC uncovered work by a UK researcher that three generations ago children traveled an average of a seven mile radius from their homes. Seven miles! Today that radius is down to mere meters. And the dangers are no greater today — statistically — than they were then. Parents just hear about everything bad that happens across the globe miliseconds after it actually occurs.

    I just wish the social and cultural pressures were not so great to conform to the continued coddling of our children. I know, I know. It’s my responsibility to shed that cloak. Just need to grow some bigger stones and make a greater stand against the cultural trends.

  14. Donna January 30, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    “You know, the one that was considered a big enough deal to keep all those kids from going home?”

    Ummm, the “storm” wasn’t the problem. The “storm” was a grand total of 2 inches of snow. Atlanta has handled worse. Traffic was the problem.

    And a school slumber party sounds fun to me. Several of my friends freaked out about the whole thing on Facebook which made me wonder – if you trust the school with your children from 7:30 to 2:30, why would you worry after 2:30? The schools did the right thing. Buses were not moving in all the traffic so they were called back to school before they ran out of gas or the kids got too cold (our buses in Athens don’t have heat so I would be surprised if those in Atlanta do). I can see complaining about decisions that led up to the traffic issues, but I don’t understand the tragedy of kids being stuck overnight in school with the same people that you trust to care for them 180 days a year.

  15. Edward January 30, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Had an opportunity to watch some of the Atlanta tv reports about this situation Wed evening. The hosts introduced the story as if we were about to see kids in a Syrian refugee camp and then went to the video – showing kids OUTSIDE running around and laughing in the snow! I’m sure when they were first told they would not be going home their were some anxious feelings but it looks to me like the staff as well as the kids made the best of a bad situation. Would be interesting to hear from some of those teachers AND some of those kids on this blog.

  16. Brooks January 30, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Well, fortunately here in Birmingham,AL, most all of the coverage was positive. The kids are fine, don’t worry about getting them if you can’t. Teachers and principals were interviewed via Skype or phone and just made it a big party. The real danger was properly represented – trying to get out and get them. Bumper cars might take over football as the #1 sport down here….

  17. E January 30, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    @Donna — I’m not sure if you’ve ever lived in the south, but it’s not as simple as saying it was “traffic”. Every storm that brings winter precip is different. It depends on how cold it’s been, how cold the ground is, what form the precip arrives in. There are times snow falls and it melts as soon as it hits pavement. So sure, ATL had seen more precip and not had this issue. And yes, the timing made it worse, but unless schools/govt/businesses closed, this was going to happen. These southern regions have NO ability to pre-treat and manage all the roads as compared to other places. Schools are still closed here in NC because they don’t have the equipment to clear the secondary and neighborhood roads to make it safe for buses (we only got a few inches too).

    Raleigh (Wake County) learned that lesson in 2005 (as mentioned) and kept kids home on Tuesday, and as it turned out, not a flake fell until very late in the afternoon. There have been very very minimal complaints because the memory of 2005 is strong and we see what happened to ATL.

    I find it funny to hear the mayor talking about how they should have staggered the “release” of citizens. I somehow doubt that would have made any difference. Parents would have to leave to meet children at home or pick kids up from school. Employees aren’t held captive by employers (in most cases).

    Anyway — this NPR interview features a teacher who was part of a staff that went above and beyond (and unpaid) to take care of the kids. That’s it.

  18. liz January 30, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    I agree–the whole time I was listening to the NPR story, I thought: what fun those kids are having! What a memory they’re building! What great teachers! And thank heaven for cell phones, so they can rest assured that their parents are okay, too.

  19. Donna January 30, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    E – I live about an hour from downtown ATL and have for much of my 43 years. I do actually know what I am talking about.

    This was a traffic issue. Pure and simple. In an area that has the worse traffic congestion in the country, the city closed the schools and government offices at the same time. Businesses closed then as well. Way too many cars, trucks and buses hit the highways at one time, causing unmanageable congestion MANY HOURS before the roads became unsafe. Yes, eventually the roads did ice and become dangerous with many cars still on them, but the fact still remains that had everyone been able to get home within a reasonable time (say 10 hours) of starting out, none of this would have happened.

    Atlanta has suffered much worse storms and this did not happen. Nor did this happen in any of the areas surrounding Atlanta, including my own, that closed schools at the exact same time and got the exact same amount of snow from the exact same storm, but didn’t have to contend with the traffic issues.

  20. pentamom January 30, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    I agree with those who say the safety and danger talk were about what was going on outside, not any danger or lack of safety for the kids in the school. But it is still an over-dramatization — though there was an increase in danger due to the bad road conditions and the city’s unpreparedness for it (which is to be expected that far south) it’s not like a Weasley clock set at “moral peril.” It is not like Dr. Ellie Sattler shrieking, “People are dying out there!” The kids were kept in the school because that was judged the best way to keep them safe. So it did. They were safe, and warm, and had fun. There wasn’t any real “gravity” to the situation unless you were one of the very few people or close to one of the very few people who actually got into an accident or whose access to medical care was actually compromised by the conditions, just a big mess and a lot of inconvenience. Weather happens, even in Atlanta. For the kids, it was a treat and an adventure, and they didn’t need to know about any “gravity” because chances are, there wasn’t any “gravity” that would affect them.

  21. Carl January 30, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    And the dad who walked 6 or 7 miles through the snow to spend the night with his daughter at that school is lauded as a hero who rescued her from this awful danger. I wonder what she learned from that.

  22. lollipoplover January 30, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    “I understand you had upwards of 500 kids still there after school let out.”

    These were the parent pick-up kids. I imagine the traffic nightmares involved parents trying to drive to schools when they should have been off the roads. It’s the driving these kids door to door everywhere that makes inclement weather even more ridiculous. When you have virtual gridlock for a fart of a snowstorm Atlanta drivers need to take a serious look at their driving habits.

    Did anyone think that some of these kids could actually walk home? Or walk to a friend’s house near the school?
    We have been slammed with snow (and ice) storms here in the Northeast but have only had 1 full snow day- late starts and early dismissals during storms(when they really shouldn’t have had school that day). My kids walk the 1 and 1/2 miles, even in snow, is faster than driving to pick them up. And a lot less stressful when the highway is a parking lot.

  23. Emily January 30, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    I meant to say, “they took the kids back to school, showed them a movie, fed them dinner, played games with them, and put them to bed.” I didn’t meant to type the movie part twice.

  24. BL January 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    “…work by a UK researcher that three generations ago children traveled an average of a seven mile radius from their homes. Seven miles!”

    Reminded me of a story my father (no longer with us) used to tell:

    When he was (I think) seven years old, his parents took him to his grandparents for his birthday party, about seven miles away (city streets with sidewalks the whole way).

    His present was a new set of roller skates. My father insisted on roller-skating home instead of riding in the car, and they let him.

    So he roller-skated home. Mostly backwards.

  25. E January 30, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    @Donna – I guess we’ll just disagree on part of the issue then. I admitted that the timing and the traffic made things worse. From the timeline at AJC, snow began falling at 12:30pm.

    If this happened overnight or on a weekend would it have been better? Of course. But this type of issue, road wise, would have been very similar (as it was/is here in the RTP area of NC).

    Maybe we’re saying the same thing, dunno.

    In any event, there are plenty of other stories from neighboring areas/states were kids got stuck at school. Over 10,000 in AL.

  26. Baffled in Boston January 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I have to disagree with this one. I took her “gravity of the situation” comment to mean the OVERALL situation in Atlanta, not the fact that some kids were stuck at school. And in all honestly, it was a very bad situation for people in a broad swath of the country.

    And while I”m sure there were helicopter parents who were freaking out about their kids being stuck in school, they made very clear in every news report I saw or read that the kids who were scared or upset (mostly younger kids – K&1) were brought to the office to call their parents and talk to them, which put everyone at ease.

  27. SJH January 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    I have to admit, I’m with the “this blog post is overblown.” As Free Rangers, we need to avoid doing what we accuse others of doing– seeing danger (in our case, paranoia) in every little thing. It’s possible that some of the language in the NPR story was overdone, but I would contest that the teachers DID keep kids safe: safe from the weather, from the disorganization that could’ve resulted with all those young people stuck inside after hours, and also “safe” from feeling anxious themselves.
    I love this site, but posts like this disappoint me a bit.

  28. lollipoplover January 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    What I wish was focused on with this weather mishap (instead of these pull-at-your-heartstrings kids had to sleep at a school for a night)is how to better prepare citizens and local leaders so this type of gridlock doesn’t happen again.
    Don’t drive on ice. Get off roads.
    Emergency vehicles and road crews only. Ice sucks. Accidents are expensive and you risk injury.
    But kids and schools and snowstorms is like a news story homerun.

    The kids were better off in the warm school than out driving in thousand pound bumper cars. Focus on how to keep idiots who think 4-wheel drive will work on ice off roads and come up with a better emergency plan. There are active shooter plans but no alternative dismissal plans? Maybe budgets need to shift to prepare for the most likely emergencies.

  29. E January 30, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    @lolliplover, what makes you believe the focus has been on school kids? I had various news/weather channels on yesterday as I worked and while they did discuss the issue of kids on school buses or at schools, they spent considerable time talking about road conditions and safe driving. I’ve lived in the SE for 40 years and they ALWAYS focus on avoiding driving, what to keep in your car (similar to what to have at home during hurricane season) and other general safety tips.

    That doesn’t stop people from doing dangerous things either thru arrogance or ignorance, but they do spend a lot of time on general safety. At least from what I’ve seen.

    I believe every school system has alternate school dismissal plans; late arrival, early dismissal, etc. But the schools can’t do anything until the system allows them to. It was too late.

  30. Backroads January 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    These surprise school sleepovers have happened a few times in the state of Utah, and I always felt so envious of those kids!

    Even when I was teaching, I sometimes secretly hoped a snowstorm would be so bad that they couldn’t get kids home and I would volunteer to stay at the school with them.

  31. Ben January 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    With metal detectors, fences and an entire staff looking out for their welfare, how could kids not be safe at school? Frankly, if there was every such a snowstorm where I live, school would’ve been a place I’d enjoy spending time while snowed in — especially if it involved, milk and cookies, a film and tonnes of games.

  32. Matt in GA January 30, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Donna, your perspective is spot on! It wasn’t a “snowpocalypse” in Atlanta, it was CARmeggedon.

    Btw, I live in Athens, too. You couldn’t pay me enough to live in Atlanta.

  33. Havva January 30, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    What sort of complains have other people been seeing about the schools keeping the kids?

    The only person I saw freaking out about the kids having a slumber-party at school (among other rants against adults who felt the need to seek shelter) said:

    “Or could the tender feet of a healthy 5th grader not be relied upon to transport the unfortunate youngster home in time for dinner?”

    I pretty much flipped on the guy. Ice storms suck, parents were missing. I wouldn’t blithely send an elementary age kid who’s parents are MIA or inaccessible out to fend for themselves. I wouldn’t send a teacher out into that without letting them know they were welcome to come back.

  34. John January 30, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    Because American society believes that ALL children are made out of porcelain and balsa wood, even the most minute conditions will put them in danger. Just like a snowflake on a 60 degree day!

  35. E January 30, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    @Hawa — that’s just a stupid comment. My kids went to schools that yes, it is possible to cover that distance as a 5th grader. But they would have had to travel on busy roads that have no sidewalks.

    But sure, the middle of a very cold, completely gridlock transportation situation be the time the schools say “hey, why don’t you walk home kids!” for the first time. LOL.

  36. Arianne January 30, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Ugh! This kid can’t play basketball because, “The state high school organization made the tough call that Bailey’s prosthetic legs complicate safety for himself and the competition.” 🙁


  37. Emily January 30, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    @Arianne–I just watched that video, and it made me angry too, especially the one guy who said, “I’m sad that Bailey can’t play basketball, because he’s such a feel-good story.” Umm, how about being sad that Bailey can’t play basketball, because he’s a human being who wants to play with his friends, and be included and treated as an equal for that, instead of being constantly treated differently because he’s missing some limbs?

  38. SOA January 31, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    I live in Chattanooga, TN which also had kids trapped at schools unable to get home. A lot of the local rednecks got on their 4 wheelers or 4WDs and tried to go rescue some of them and take them home. I live within a quick walk to the school and I posted on facebook if any kids were still left at the school I would go get them by foot and bring them home to stay at my house if they wanted instead of the school. I got several people thinking that was nice of me. I am sure they would be fine at the school too but my house is probably more comfortable.

  39. SOA January 31, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Now some kids were in danger. There were school buses stranded in various places like on the side of the road or stuck on the interstate. That is way worse. The kids had no food or water. I heard one case of police bringing out food and water to a stranded bus of kids.

    That would worry me to death but as long as they were safely at the school it would be okay. One Dad in Atlanta walked six miles in the snow to get his daughter and just stay there with her at the school so she was not alone. Which was really sweet. He did not want to take her back out in the cold to go home.

    I would probably have to walk to get my kids too if they were little. My son with special needs would not do well.

  40. SOA January 31, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    Wrong Lollipop Lover

    The kids stuck at school were a lot of bus kids. I was in the thick of it in my city. I got several automated calls about “If your kid rides Bus 20 the bus is not coming you have to come get them yourself” so parents that were waiting for the kids to get bussed home never got bussed home and by then it was too late to go get them because of the traffic and snow getting worse. So these parents were caught off guard. As far as I know most of the car rider kids made it home.

  41. AJ January 31, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    From Buffalo, NY here. I got stuck at my school during that storm around Thanksgiving in 2001. I can verify, it WAS fun! My teacher set up a projector in the cafeteria (I went to a small private school) to watch movies on. The pre-k/kindergarten teachers opened up their classrooms for kids who wanted to play with toys. Another teacher lived right around the corner, so, after going home to check on his dog, he came back and brought us over there for sleep. Then, the next day, we got to have free play in the gym til our parents picked us up.

  42. Tristam January 31, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    It’s called a lock in people and kids all over the country do it all the time. Hey they even pay for the privilege. So move along there is nothing to see here.

  43. Donna January 31, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    “One Dad in Atlanta walked six miles in the snow to get his daughter and just stay there with her at the school so she was not alone. Which was really sweet.”

    That wasn’t sweet. That was a great example of how we absolutely cannot evaluate risk anymore.

    The girl was not alone. She was with teachers and more than 100 classmates. She was warm and perfectly safe for the night.

    The dad, on the other hand, was at risk. He was at risk of hypothermia if inappropriately dressed, which is highly likely since Atlantans generally don’t invest a lot of money in good outwear that we only need a handful of days every few years. He was at risk of injuring himself on the icy walkways. He was at risk of getting hit by one of the cars careening out of control on the roads by that time. 13 people who were out and about did die in this “storm.” None of the kids stuck in schools died.

    Obviously none of this happened so the risks were not astronomical, but they were still risks compared to the child who was at absolutely zero risk of danger.

  44. SOA January 31, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Donna: I assume the guy has enough sense to know how to properly dress to go outside in Winter. I am from the same area and I know how to dress for Winter. I have thermals and scarves and winter boots and coats and gloves and hats, etc.

  45. E January 31, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    @Donna – I don’t know anything about the child or the Dad. Maybe he thought he’d be able to help the teachers. Maybe his daughter has issues/concerns/personality that made him prefer to be with her. The article I read said he brought a blanket.

    Maybe he just felt like it.

  46. Donna January 31, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    SOA – I live in Atlanta (or within spitting distance anyway). I know how Atlantans dress in the winter. I don’t know a single person who has thermals. I haven’t owned a pair since we left NJ when I was 12. I can’t recall ever even seeing any in a store to buy. Maybe REI or some other outdoor store, but you’d have to look for them. I do, however, know a large number of people who don’t own winter coats, scarves, hats or gloves. My own brother bought his first winter coat in his life when he moved to Colorado – he was 25 years old. About half the kids and parents at my daughter’s school come to school in hoodies every day. There is even one oddball who wears shorts and t-shirts, never a coat, darn near 365 days a year.

    It is much more likely that this man did not have the appropriate clothes than that he did.

  47. Donna January 31, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    E – I don’t care what his thoughts were. The child was at zero risk. She may have been uncomfortable spending her first night away from home. So? The father put himself at physical risk to get to a child who 100% physically safe and in the care of the same people who he trusts with her 8 hours a day. That is certainly not something that should be touted as some great story from the storm that made many news reports, apparently new reports even outside the area.

    You want sweet and heart-warming go to the people who handed out food and drinks to people stuck in traffic all night. The people who offered up their homes to strangers stuck in traffic all night. Who let them use their bathroom. Or the many people who pushed cars out of ditches and off ice. People who helped the injured when EMS couldn’t get through the traffic. The cop who delivered a baby on the side of the road. Not some guy who put himself at risk to get to his child who was not at risk. That should be for the “kids don’t try this at home” reel.

  48. E January 31, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    @Donna – I’ve seen and read all those stories you mention, not just the Dad.

    I went running in our snow/icy roads on Wednesday evening in a neighborhood with no sidewalks. I made sure to give every single car that passed a wide berth and stopped running and went way WAY up into yards to avoid any issue. I evaluated the risk and decided I wanted to take advantage of running in our snowy neighborhood while it was here and adjusted my own behavior (also wore the largest brightest reflective vest we have).

    I an adult and I have the ability to evaluate risks/wants/needs and make my own decisions. Something this site is trying to empower kids to do all the time.

  49. Donna January 31, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    E – I know those other stories are out there. I simply see no point in the dad story at all. It didn’t need telling. It wasn’t remarkable. It wasn’t notable. It wasn’t noble.

    I don’t really care what he chose to do with his time or what risk he chose to put himself in. He’s a big boy and can make his own decisions. I just don’t find it a remotely news worthy, heart-warming or sweet. If you want feel-good storm stories, focus on people who did things for people who actually needed help, not some guy who did something totally unnecessary and solely for his own self-interest.

  50. lollipoplover January 31, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    @E- Our local news coverage of your storm the past few days has featured the kids stuck at school and the Weather Channel guy who blocked the kid charging him in he groin.

    There’s not much on it today- just a blurb from Gov. Nathan Deal taking responsibility for poor storm preparations.
    “We did not make preparations early enough,” Deal said, apologizing to drivers who were stranded and to parents of children forced to sleep at their school or on school buses. “I’m not going to look for a scapegoat…The buck stops at me.”

    So, again, these kids at school who were safe and warm and eating cookies get painted in as “forced” to do this like they were walking the plank on a pirate ship. Schools are great, safe places for kids(and adults) to stay in emergencies. Doesn’t the Red Cross use them during disasters?

  51. E January 31, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Ok, I’m not going to convince anyone that the stories aren’t just focused on the kids at school. I disagree. Then again, there are 24 hour news/weather channels and I presume the locals were going wall-to-wall with this. Thing do get repetitive (and that goes for every single “news worthy” event).

    Anyway – it’s my opinion that the “kids stuck at school” is way of illustrating that they need to change their policies/process when storms like this are possible. They did it here in NC (again, no school on Wednesday, despite the reality that no snow fell at all until 5pm).

    Sure, the kids at schools were safe. They had fun. But the schools don’t want that responsibility, the teachers/staff would rather be home with their own families/dependents and there’s the issue of kids on buses, particularly when it could have been avoided entirely.

    As someone who experienced it in 2005 and an observer of this one, seeing the little girl hug her Dad made me smile. And I just thought ‘that’s a nice Dad, I’m sure the school staff welcomed another hand’. A nice story amid all the other stuff.

    Oh well.

  52. E January 31, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    This is the AJC article that’s focused on school kids. It briefly mentions “the Dad” but basically chronicles some of the situations. A school for kids with special needs included teachers who walked to a nearby pharmacy to get meds the child needed. Some kids didn’t get home until 4:15pm on Wednesday.

    Maybe some people don’t think that’s newsworthy, but it is.


  53. Dave January 31, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    What a great story. When my oldest son was in High School in Far Rockaway a hurricane cased the kids to have to spend the night in school. My son was upset because at the time I had a van that was high enough to get through the water and he had to come home rather then spending the night in school.

  54. kate January 31, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    E- Living in the Northeast we are used to watching storms develop and wondering if school will be canceled. There is even a website made by a Middleschooler that will predict the possibility of a snow day (Snowdaycalculator.com) Even then the superintendent has made dumb calls. In an area where snow falls twice a decade, it is not easy to make the decision to close the schools, especially since the evening forecast was for a dusting of snow south of the city. If school were closed and the weather held, the superintendent would certainly hear it from working parents.

    This was an unexpected ice storm and while I feel bad for those stuck in traffic, get a grip people. Things happen and kids stuck at school is not that big a deal.

  55. SOA January 31, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    yeah I can’t believe people on this site are criticizing a man for doing something free range values going for a walk and going out into nature. My father lives in Atlanta and I live 2 hours from Atlanta and I can assure you MANY people have winter gear. Maybe not Alaska tested winter gear but good enough to handle how the weather was here. Not everyone but why are you just assuming this guy didn’t. Since he made it there safe and sound and frost bite free it would be assumed he did have proper winter gear.

    I know lots of people with proper winter gear because they like to go out and play in the snow when we happen to get some with their kids. Everyone in our family has winter boots, mittens or gloves, a winter hat, a winter coat, thermals, and scarves. Even though some years they never get used. We still buy them just in case.

    My Father and his husband live in the thick of downtown Atlanta and they have winter gear too. We are not all idiots around here. That is worst first thinking to say that the man could not handle a walk to the school. Why couldn’t he?

    You know nothing about that man or his daughter. My son would not be okay at school over night unless one of his special education teachers or his classroom teacher was also there with him. They are the only ones who actually know how to handle him. I trust him with them, but the other teachers who have no experience with him and may not fare as well. Thus why if his teacher is out sick they have to send him in the special ed room all day because even the other 1st grade teachers don’t know what to do with him.

    I thought the whole point of free range was empowering people to be able to do the things they want to do? I mean I get people acting like I am some kind of super hero because we walk a block to school. This man is a good example of hey walking is good for you and won’t kill you if you dress properly for the weather.

  56. E January 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    @kate — Yes, I understand that the SE does not have the corner on the market for weather impacts. However, I live in an area that had the exact same thing happen (it’s mentioned in the very first post) in 2005. Everyone (individuals, weather, school, govt) learned something from that and decided that being OVERLY cautious is worth it. As I mentioned, we rec’d the same storm that ATL did. The school systems announced their closures on Monday night. No one went to school yet no precip arrived until 5pm on Tuesday. Everyone understands now — just as they will in ATL from now on. It’s okay to say that the school system, teachers, and parents do not want to repeat this, regardless of how safe or happy the kids were. I still haven’t read stories about how parents or kids were riddled with fear (although being stuck on a bus with no food/water or bathroom facilities is a valid reason to be unhappy).

    Stranding kids at school or on buses should be avoided. If for no other reason than it’s a burden to those that have to manage it. This isn’t a tornado that drops from the sky, this is a weather system.

    It wasn’t an “ice storm” btw, it was snow and it WAS expected. The fact that the city/state can’t treat and clear the roads + a million commuters is the whole reason they need to err on the side of caution. I’m sure they will now.

    Again, I got the same storm. Schools were closed, preparations were made, yet this is DAY4 of no school because they STILL can’t clear the roads fast enough.

  57. Donna January 31, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    “I thought the whole point of free range was empowering people to be able to do the things they want to do?”

    Nobody said that he shouldn’t do what he wanted to do. The point of free range PARENTING is to understand that our children can survive one night in a safe environment without us. It is not to say that adults can do whatever idiotic things they want to do and the news should report them as heroic feats.

    Put it this way, my daughter forgot her lunch today. I could walk 6 miles in snow and ice to take her the lunch. I could let her eat school lunch. She would most definitely prefer the lunch I packed than the lunch they are serving at school (hence the reason I packed the lunch to start with). She isn’t going to starve either way. It might not be her most perfect day, but she will survive eating a less than ideal lunch today.

    I guarantee you that only helicopter parents would think it necessary for me to walk 6 miles to take my daughter her homemade lunch. Just about everyone here would think that totally ridiculous. In fact, most non-free range but also non-helicopter parents that I know would think it totally ridiculous to walk 6 miles to deliver a lunch to school to a child who was going to get food. Something more convenient, maybe, but not a 6 mile walk in snow and ice.

    THIS story is exactly the same. The kid was fine. We know the kid was fine because MANY articles have been written about this story and they never once mention the child being anything other than fine!!! As much press as this story has had, SOMEONE would have reported if the child was in serious distress before dad arrived or had some special needs or medical condition or something to make this a rational decision. Walking to spend the night with her was as ridiculous and anti-free range as me walking 6 miles to take my child a lunch. People absolutely can do ridiculous things if they want to do ridiculous things, but the news should not report on people doing ridiculous things as if they are some great feat.

  58. Virginia January 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    My kid watched the news piece about kids having to spend the night at school and said “Lucky, I’d like to do that.”

  59. Donna January 31, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    “It wasn’t an “ice storm” btw, it was snow and it WAS expected.”

    No it wasn’t expected for ATLANTA. Atlanta was outside the storm-zone in every single solitary forecast through Tuesday morning. The first mention of Atlanta possibly getting more than a light dusting came at about 4am on Tuesday after a solid week of forecasts that it would receive no snow whatsoever.

    My own school system did not close school that day. Nor did any of the other schools in what is considered the extended Atlanta-area. As the reports changed, all schools in the area responded differently. A couple, like ours, made the decision before school started to close early; some, like downtown Atlanta, closed schools early as the snow started to fall and several others went for the full day. Not a single one closed all day. None of those schools – even schools within the city limits of Atlanta that released much later than downtown Atlanta – had any problems getting kids home because they didn’t have the traffic issues.

    I think my school handled the situation fine. I would have been fine with school going the full day as well. The roads were perfectly safe to drive on as late as 7pm when I was last on them so sending kids home at 2:30 would have been no problem. I would have been very annoyed if school had been cancelled all day.

    Now Atlanta can choose to hide its head in the sand and blame this all on southerners and snow like you want to and start cancelling school willy nilly whenever snow is predicted anywhere in the state. Or Atlanta can deal with its very real infrastructure issues that truly caused the problems. My guess is that the result will be the former and this will happen again when some other issue arises.

  60. Arianne January 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    @ Emily
    “I just watched that video, and it made me angry too, especially the one guy who said, “I’m sad that Bailey can’t play basketball, because he’s such a feel-good story.” Umm, how about being sad that Bailey can’t play basketball, because he’s a human being who wants to play with his friends, and be included and treated as an equal for that, instead of being constantly treated differently because he’s missing some limbs?”

    I know, right?

  61. E January 31, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    @Donna – I’m not really interested in arguing about it, but the NWS issued a winter storm watch that included the ATL area on Monday morning. They issued a winter storm warning for parts of ATL at 9:30pm on Monday night. Yes, at 4am they issued the storm warning for all of ATL saying it would begin mid morning. Is that not enough time to cancel school for the day?

    If they’d canceled school, that keeps kids, buses and student drivers home — and with that, lots of parents. That alone would have changed the landscape of what happened.

    I haven’t blamed anything on southerners, and I don’t think the school system needs to “willy nilly” do anything.

    I guess you could say counties in NC canceled school “willy nilly” on Tuesday, but very very few people are complaining. That’s because we actually experienced this unpleasant situation and don’t wish to repeat it (despite how “fun” it might be for kids). They thought snow would fall here by noon, but they were wrong. Oh well. Better than thinking it wouldn’t fall — as apparently the leadership did in ATL, even though they were told otherwise.

  62. E January 31, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Storm timeline:

  63. Emily January 31, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Back to the issue at hand, I agree that the schools should have been closed if people knew in advance that the weather was going to be a problem. It doesn’t matter if schools in other places stay open unless the snow is waist deep, or it’s on the colder side of the -20 C’s, or whatever. If a light dusting of snow is enough to shut down Atlanta, well, that’s legitimate for them, because snow is such a rare occurrence, that they aren’t prepared to deal with it as a matter of course. I know that, when I was living in Australia, a small amount of snow would have been a huge problem, because snow tires, shovels, snow blowers, snowplows, block heaters, and winter clothing aren’t part of the daily landscape there. By the same token, in Nunavut, they apparently send the kids out for recess as long as the temperature is warmer than -45 C. Where I am (just north of Toronto), schools would almost certainly be closed at -30 C. None of those decisions are wrong, when taken in context, because, for people in warmer climates, keeping school open when there’s snow on the ground, would be just as insane to them, as sending kids outside to play when the temperature is in the -40’s would be to someone who lives in my area. However, a little advance preparation would have prevented all of this inconvenience (whatever rates as an inconvenience/emergency/crisis/Snowmageddon for the people involved), even if the unplanned school sleepover was fun for the kids.

  64. SOA January 31, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    See I don’t see walking six miles as dangerous. And again I live in that same area. My father lives in Downtown Atlanta and him and his husband walk places all the time. They love to walk places. Yes, even six miles. Or more. My husband used to do little challenges to himself to see how far he could walk and walked up to 12 miles sometimes. It was fun to him.

    So it is kinda ridiculous to assume the guy was like “OMG GOTTA GET TO MY DD!” Maybe he was just bored and thought “Hey maybe I will go walk to her and keep her company and help the other teachers out.” Which is exactly the type of thing me or my husband would do. Atlanta has sidewalks in a lot of areas. So it might not have been “dangerous” or “Stupid” at all.

    Actually you are sounding like some of those helicopter parents that act like its the end of the world if you have to walk anywhere. Our family loves to walk and would think nothing of this even in the snow. Because we have proper Winter gear. I played outside in the snow for an hour with my kids when this was going on and did not even get cold except for when my scarf fell down off my nose and I just pulled it back up. The rest of me was toasty warm.

  65. SOA January 31, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    and FYI my husband walked down to the corner store during the snow to get beer. During this so called snowpaclyspe. He did take the longer route to avoid having to go on the road because we don’t have sidewalks and was afraid some crazy person would slide into him. But still he bundled up and walked and came back with beer for him and chocolate for me. I guess we are crazy people.

    Or maybe we don’t see walking as such huge ordeal. He almost always chooses to walk rather than drive down to that corner store. Even though in this area people walking is kinda something you don’t see much.

  66. Dana Dunn January 31, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    I live in Atlanta and not only was the coverage insane on the kids stuck at school, they diverted needed police resources to the schools because there were reports that the schools were allowing people in to get warm and everyone freaked out about the danger of having strangers in a school. I finally had to turn off the news!!

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  68. Emily February 2, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    @Dana Dunn–That’s really sad. You’d think that being stuck at school could be a positive lesson for children, along the lines of “life isn’t perfect, but when something goes wrong, we can make it work anyway, and sometimes, it can be fun.” Also, giving unknown people shelter from the weather conditions could be a really positive example for those same children about helping others in need, even strangers. But, when everything is viewed through a lens of “ZOMG, the children are in DANGER!!!”; then those lessons don’t happen, because every bump and twist, that could be a positive life lesson, gets turned into a crisis. The real danger with that is having children grow up being afraid of the “dangers” that abound when life isn’t perfect.

  69. Emily February 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Also, about the “strangers” issue, everyone is a stranger until you meet them and get to know them. Under non-paranoid circumstances, having “strangers” seek shelter in the school might be a positive thing. Maybe one of those people will entertain the kids by telling stories or doing SpongeBob impressions, and maybe one of them will be grateful for the school’s kindness, and repay it by volunteering to come in and read with the kids, or do yoga or African dance or tie-dyeing or something with them, and maybe another will make a special trip to Costco and pick up some paper and crayons, or chalk, or dry erase markers, or something of that nature, to donate to the school. Most schools that don’t use chalk anymore would probably really appreciate the latter gesture. Even when I was in university, there seemed to be a perpetual paucity of dry-erase markers with adequate ink, which annoyed my first-year theory prof to no end. Anyway, my point is, all of these “strangers” are members of the wider community, and they might have something positive to contribute or share with the members of the school community, if the school is willing to let them in instead of shutting them out, or background-checking them within an inch of their lives.

  70. Emily February 2, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    Okay, here’s the clip I was looking for:


  71. SOA February 2, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    There was a story in Alabama I think about a doctor that walked six miles in the snow this week to get to an emergency surgery where he was needed. So was he making the right decision? Should have stayed at home just like the father that walked six miles to hang out at school with his daughter?

    Again walking for a reasonably healthy adult with proper weather clothing is not dangerous or risky or nuts. It is something we should advocate to cut down on emissions, promote exercise and promote being in nature and in the community.

  72. Emily February 3, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    About the father who walked six miles in the snow to be with his daughter, well, for all we know, there might have been a good reason why he felt that this is necessary. The daughter could have had problems with nightmares, or sleepwalking, or bedwetting, or needed medication before bedtime that was left at home, because nobody was expecting her to have to stay overnight at school. So, if the father made the trek in to the school to deliver meds, or Pull-Ups, or to stay with his daughter to make sure she didn’t wake up screaming or sleepwalk out into the snow, then we can’t really judge him for that. If the daughter had no such problems, though, then that’s where it gets a bit bubble-wrappish.

  73. E February 3, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    I know this issue has run its course, but it’s interesting to think about the school/shelter aspect as it pertained to other people seeking a place to crash/rest. Obviously, the teachers aren’t the Red Cross and their first (already unpaid) priority was the kids. Today’s society put them between a rock and a hard place in regard to what they can/should do.