Free-Range Kids has the Constitution On Our Side!

Great piece fhfkbttbna
in today’s Washington Post
by Ilya Somin, “How the Constitution Protects Free-Range Parents.”  He helps make the case for the Meitivs with these arguments:

In two landmark cases in the 1920s, Meyer v. Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects parents’ and guardians “to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”

…In the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granville, the Court reaffirmed the “fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children,” which it called “perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” The plurality opinion by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (joined by three other members of the Court) emphasized that state officials must apply a strong presumption that parents’ decisions about the upbringing of their children are correct, and cannot abridge parental control over child-raising based on “mere disagreement” with the parents’ choices. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argued for even stronger protection of parental autonomy, noting that laws that infringe on “fundamental” constitutional rights are usually subject to “strict scrutiny” – the highest standard of judicial review.

Not too shabby! And then —

II. Why this Should be a Relatively Easy Case.

The Supreme Court has always indicated that parental rights are not absolute. The state can intervene to protect children against serious threats to their health and safety, and to ensure that all children get at least a basic education. But, as Troxel makes clear, the state can’t infringe on parental control over child-raising unless they have real evidence showing that there is a genuinely significant threat to the childrens’ safety and well-being….

Forcibly detaining elementary school-aged kids for walking by themselves in a safe, middle-class neighborhood doesn’t even come close to meeting the necessary standard. Statistically, such walking is extremely safe, and probably less dangerous than police officers’ actions in forcibly detaining the children and driving them to a CPS office. According to the Center for Disease Control, car accidents are a leading cause of death among small children; riding in a car as a passenger is far more dangerous for kids than walking in most neighborhoods. Far from “protecting” the two children, the police and the CPS probably put them at greater risk than they were exposed to before (though the risk was still very low in an absolute sense). The Meitivs’ parenting practices are also much safer than numerous typical childhood activities, such as participating in contact sports like basketball and hockey, or going downhill skiing. If the CPS can force parents to stop letting their children walk home from the park, it can similarly target every other comparably risky activity, including numerous sports, and even driving the children in a car.

Wow! Nicely put and not an unfamiliar argument to folks at this blog! And so, we are off to the races! (Or…maybe Supreme Court?) – L.

We proudly ... er ... PROBABLY  support Free-Range Kids!

We proudly…er…PROBABLY support Free-Range Kids!




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33 Responses to Free-Range Kids has the Constitution On Our Side!

  1. Warren April 16, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    I have seen people talking about this. They are already trying to shoot it down, that this was written for religious beliefs to be respected. And that playing in the park is not part of someone’s religion.

    Might be time to start a cult, with Lenore as our Grand Mother Superiority.

  2. Kimberly April 16, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    A list of SCOTUS rulings regarding parental rights:

    Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923)
    Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)
    Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944)
    Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629 (1968)
    Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)
    Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)
    Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977)
    Smith v. Organization of Foster Families, 431 U.S. 816 (1977)
    Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978)
    Parham v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979)
    Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982)
    Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993)
    Washington v. Glucksburg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997)
    Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000)

  3. Jen (P.) April 16, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    I was just about to send you a link to this, Lenore. Sound analysis, as usual in my opinion, by Prof. Somin.

  4. heather April 16, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Did anyone see this?

  5. Wendy W April 16, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    Only 3 on the list appear to have potential to have a direct influence on this situation. Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Ginsberg v. New York could work against the Meitivs as they both decide that kids do not automatically enjoy the same rights as children, because children require special protection.

    Santosky v. Kramer has potential in the Meitivs favor as it relates to how much evidence is required before a state can take children away due to neglect, but it seems to be concerned with how much evidence is present, not what actually constitutes “neglect”.

    I hope this does go to court, because the CPS needs to be taken down a few pegs, but I wouldn’t count on the SCOTUS to uphold the right to be Free Range.

  6. Edward Hafner April 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    Professional, Rational, Positive – I never thought I would use those words to describe a Washington Post comment board but this piece published on the 16th about the Meitiv incident has actually accomplished that. I’m absolutely blown away by what I’ve just read there in favor of FRK, in support of the Meitiv’s. Congratulations, Lenore and a prayfull wish of bravery and courage to the amazing Meitiv family. May I suggest a new rallying cry – CHALLENGE AND VICTORY….CHALLENGE AND VICTORY….CHALLENGE AND VICTORY!!!

  7. Colin Summers April 16, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    I couldn’t read all the comments on the previous post, so maybe this was mentioned already, but weren’t the rights of the children violated? They were held without charge, without access to representation, and without free communication to people not in custody.

    And if, somehow, their rights were not *technically* violated, doesn’t the local police department have a policy for detaining minors? They knew their identity and they were questioned (at the very least about where they were headed) without their parent present?

  8. Kimberly April 17, 2015 at 1:13 am #

    @ Wendy

    While I agree that not all of cases deal directly with this case, I still think they are important in regards to this case because they do illustrate just how far SCOTUS is willing to go in terms of restricting a parent’s right to raise their child in a manner they see fit as well as in what ways SCOTUS deems children to be subjected to a different set of laws than adults. In both Ginsberg and Prince, the Court made rulings that restricted rights, but they were careful to clarify that the restrictions placed were in the best interests of all children — not just a select few. And that has been the foundation in all of their decisions.

    Also, on an almost unrelated subject (unrelated to Supreme Court decisions, but related to the FR idea) that I can’t believe I had forgotten until just a few minutes ago:

    So much discourse on what kids are/are not capable of doing on their own. Yet it was only last year that twin 9-year-old boys in New Hampshire absolutely showed the world what children are able to do on their own when their uncle — who was supposed to watch them while their parents were in Africa — decided that he only needed to stop by their house a couple times a week, if that, to drop off some food. Those kids managed to get themselves up and dressed, fed, and to school every day for the 6 months their parents were gone. It wasn’t until they went to school one day in a pair of flip-flops and no jacket in November that a teacher asked what was going on. Even the neighbors didn’t know they were left unattended.

  9. Donald April 17, 2015 at 3:23 am #

    If someone took away a child right to learn math, spelling, or history, there would be a huge outcry. I know it’s not the same thing but people are trying to take away the child’s right to learn self reliance.

    As a telephone councilor that worked for a crises hotline, I can assure you that self reliance/self esteem has a HUGE impact on a persons mental health. More accurately, a lack of confidence and self reliance is greatly linked to self worth!

    These are real dangers and need to be weighed up against the perceived dangers of worst first thinking.

  10. Mike in Sweden April 17, 2015 at 3:26 am #

    Unfortunately, it seems like both of these cases are like comparing apples and oranges for the Meitivs.

    Warren already noted that the Meyers and Pierce cases deal with religious freedom issues. But the Troxel case appears to be irrelevant because it wasn’t an issue of parents like the Meitivs challenging the state over a (wrongly decided, in my view) determination of “fitness.” It was a child custody case in which the state had ruled in favor of the parent, and a third party (the grandparents) was challenging that decision.

    It seems like we’re in truly uncharted waters here. And given the unpredictability of the current Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be too excited if the case made it that far.

  11. Donna April 17, 2015 at 7:30 am #

    I haven’t had a chance to read the cases, but the fact that they deal with religious freedom and whatnot doesn’t preclude them from being important. If there was a case exactly on point, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. We have to look at previous cases dealing with parental rights and argue that the rulings and even dicta apply to this case.

    However, it is not a sure shot either. Since the decision would be so wide open, there is really nothing to bind them. It is really going to come down to what THIS court wants and how they feel about kids wandering and CPS and neglect. While they all free ranged, they are mostly old and people tend to get more paranoid as they age.

    Honestly, I think that the most likely result is that SCOTUS would deny to hear the case at all. They only hear a very small number of cases presented to them and I don’t see this rising to any level of interest. These cases hinge on the specific facts of each situation and that is not where SCOTUS’ interest lies. Hopefully the attorneys will draft some arguments that change my mind if it needs to go that far, but right now I don’t see this going to SCOTUS.

    I think the most likely thing for SCOTUS to address is this unsubstantiated neglect classification. I don’t see how that is constitutionally valid. There is either proof at whatever burden is required of neglect or there isn’t. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.

  12. Kristen April 17, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    Hm…. not sure why this just popped into my head…. was the 6 year old properly belted into a booster seat in the back of that police car? I believe Maryland’s current law requires that children under 8 to ride in an appropriate child restraint, unless the child is 4’9″ or taller (not sure how tall the daughter is).

  13. Jen (P.) April 17, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    I agree with Donna that this is case is unlikely to reach the Supreme Court (just as a statistical matter and because if it got that far it’s unlikely the Court would take it up, particularly since it would presumably be the first case on this subject; trying to predict what cases it will accept is kind of a crap shoot though).

    Anyway, the decisions the professor discussed in his blog post and the other ones mentioned here are still relevant. And, in my opinion at least, the law is on the Meitivs’ side. It’s hard to imagine a court that considers all the facts could find that the Meitivs unreasonably risked their children’s health or safety to such an extent that this state intrusion into their private lives is justified.

    It’s also encouraging that most of the public reaction I’ve seen favors the Meitivs. Maybe we’re reaching a turning point.

  14. Jen (P.) April 17, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    @Heather – Thanks for the link to the WSJ article about A Wrinkle in Time. I can’t wait to read the whole passage.

  15. Kenny April 17, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    All Parents and Guardians should be informed of there parenting rights. In my life this has never been an issue. That is not the case anymore. I am the Guardian of my 3 niece’s age 7,9,10. Recently the girls brought home a notice from school stating they are considered truant. The girls have missed 3 days that the school considers unexcused absences. The notice reads This letter is being sent to inform you that Amanda is considered truant. Education code section 48260 Any pupil subject to full- time education who is absent from school without a valid excuse mare than three days or tardy in excess of 30 minutes on each of more than three days in one school year is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor of the superintendent of the school district. The student may be subject to arrest under education code section 48264. The 3 day the girls were absences I called the school and reported the girls absences due to being out of town on vacation. After calling the principal about the notice, She told me the only excused absences is doctors apt or if they are sick. On vacation is not excused and they are considered truant… Outrageous

  16. Kimberly April 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    While it is extremely unlikely that SCOTUS would choose to hear this case as it stands right now, we can’t forget that there is a process for cases being submitted to the Supreme Court for consideration. The Meitiv’s have only begun the 1st step in what could potentially be an extremely long process. No matter what this first court decides, I’m sure that there will be years of appeals as this case (and others that may come up behind it) winds its way through the appellate courts. It could be ten years before a case is even submitted to the Supreme Court for consideration. In that time, this could become a much more widespread issue as more families fight to enforce their rights.

    The other thing to remember is that while these are decisions made by SCOTUS, the lower courts can and do use these cases to forge their own opinions regarding the cases before them. There may not be a need for this case to ever be submitted to SCOTUS (wouldn’t that be awesome?).

    Of course, during that time we might also find that the states have finally gained some sense and start making changes to their laws on their own. After all, thirty states have no guidelines or laws on record that dictate/suggest at what age a child can be left on their own and nine have nothing on record that could be found. Nine states have guidelines with recommendations. Only five states have an actual law on record. Illinois is the most concerning, honestly, because they state that children under 14 can’t be left alone. On the flip side of Illinois, Kansas recommends that children younger of 6 not be left alone.

  17. Nicole April 17, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Kenny – This is only because your school depends on funding from the state and the states made it so only when your child is actually in their seat does the school get funding. When the schools send truancy letters they get $12 or something like that per letter. The letters are considered a mandated cost.
    They only get funding for the first letter so unless your kid misses a ton of school you probably will never get another one.

    In my state of California if you are gone less than 5 days it is unexcused but over you can get work and the absences are excused – how is that for crazy! The reason is most people take one or two days off and so this costs your school a lot more money.

    My current school is a basic aid school meaning we get all our money from property tax and so it doesn’t matter if your kid is in school or not the school still gets funding.

  18. Diana Green April 17, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    We love this story! Why do we love this story? We were all ten once. We were all six once.

    The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund had a motto:
    “There is one child in the world and his name is all children.”
    We are all that child. We need to protect that child’s right to grow up in a natural world that includes adventure and even risk, and which respects his (and her) autonomy.

    The archetypes of those children are Hansel and Gretel. They went out in nature, had fun, adventure, and thrills. Then as night fell they were “captured”. They were clever, plucky, patient and resilient.
    We love THAT story because it is the journey of every child into adulthood. Each of us made that dangerous trek.

    Let’s all honor our kids by letting them grow up!

  19. j April 17, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Good questions: why is cps exempt from following due process of law as guaranteed to us in our Constitution? Why are we now guilty until proven acceptable? Why must we worry more about police/CPS intervention/abduction while actual abductions are incredibly rare? Why do people feel the need to hassle and report those with different parenting styles? Thank you Meitivs for standing up to the bullying!!

  20. BL April 17, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    “Good questions: why is cps exempt from following due process of law as guaranteed to us in our Constitution?”

    So it really is a religious issue: is the CPS God or not? (I think not.)

  21. Eric S April 17, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    More and more, especially with information like this, that it’s not so much the “safety” of children, but the control the State has over people/parents. Keyword…CONTROL. A Police State if you will, where citizens’ liberties are being attacked and forcibly changed, with little regard for the Constitution. Which America supposedly base their lives around. I guess for the ones in “charge”, it’s what suits THEM best, and will try to get away with bullying people into submission and complacency.

  22. Steve April 17, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    I’ve posted this before, but I figured it was time for new visitors to see it:

    David Farragut, the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the United States Navy, began his naval career as a midshipman when he was 9 years old. That’s right – Nine years old.

    “Farragut was 12 years old when, during the War of 1812, he was given the assignment to bring a ship captured by the Essex safely to port.”

  23. BL April 17, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    “Farragut was 12 years old when, during the War of 1812, he was given the assignment to bring a ship captured by the Essex safely to port.”

    Farragut at 12 didn’t need adult supervision. He WAS adult supervision!

  24. April April 17, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    I agree every one talks about how much they want there to be good old days kids playing basketball on the end of the dead end street. Out enjoying the sunshine but then when we allow our children the freedom to play we are poor parents. I know my son and a the fact that most parents would agree there is a very clear line between Free Range Parenting and just neglect. If you wanted to hold parents accountable for there children’s actions then you have to allow them to teach there children the best way possible for that child.

  25. Adam Selene April 17, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    I’m freely sharing the info on the Human Right Self Defense that allows all Natural Americans to defend self from Rapists/Americans which are violations of self.

    It was lost/misunderstood.

  26. RE Hall April 17, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    It just occured to me – was it mentioned anywhere regarding whether the younger child was in a child safety seat when transported by police?

    jus sayin is all

  27. JKP April 17, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    In order to go all the way to the Supreme Court, wouldn’t the lower courts have to all rule against the Meitivs and they appeal it all the way to SCOTUS? I can’t believe the lower courts would support such government overreach.

    And if the lower courts did rule in favor of the Meitivs, then the State itself would have to appeal that decision up the chain of courts. Would the State continue to throw money away on appeals if they lost the initial court battle?

  28. BL April 17, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    “Would the State continue to throw money away on appeals if they lost the initial court battle?”

    Why not? The money comes out of our paychecks, not theirs.

  29. Puzzled April 18, 2015 at 12:54 am #

    >Why not? The money comes out of our paychecks, not theirs.

    Probably because acquittals can’t be appealed.

  30. BL April 18, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    “Probably because acquittals can’t be appealed.”

    True enough, for a criminal trial resulting in a verdict.

    But every “court battle” is not a criminal trial resulting in a verdict. Especially when we’re dealing with an agency that makes up “guidelines” rather than legislation by elected officials.

  31. Beth April 18, 2015 at 8:25 am #

    “It’s hard to imagine a court that considers all the facts could find that the Meitivs unreasonably risked their children’s health or safety to such an extent that this state intrusion into their private lives is justified.”

    But…but…the children were near an accounting firm!! Oh, the humanity.

  32. Caroline April 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    Very interesting. Wondering if same cases would apply to the bill in California which wants to force parents to immunize.

  33. Doug April 19, 2015 at 4:31 am #

    I hope a legal fund is created for the Meitivs, if they decide to sue over this. I would definitely contribute.