Readers — Here’s a cautionary tale for parents whose kids sometimes do dumb things. But that can’t be many of us, right?
Dear Free-Range Kids: We are devout Free-Range parents and our 8-year-old son walks to and from school nearly every day alone. We gave him a pre-paid cell phone so he can check in with us if need be. Long story short, he had a playdate with a friend where they took silly 8-year-old pictures using the phone, one of them a picture of our son’s penis when he was on the potty.
A few days later our boy showed the picture to about six older boys on the playground after school. At home he told us what happened and we immediately had a very serious conversation about these kinds of pictures and considered the case closed.
The next day we got a call from the principal saying that our son had been expelled from school because she felt he was an “immediate and continuing danger.” She charged him with Lewd Conduct (a charge a good step above Sexual Harassment) and felt we should submit all of his physical/psychological records to the safety office at the school district. She also requested he undergo a mental evaluation before he would be allowed to return to school.
We appealed her actions, but the school district upheld her decision. We worked our way through the bureaucracy and finally found a higher-up to meet with our son, who immediately realized he’s just a regular kid. In the end he missed nearly two weeks of school.
Our son doesn’t understand pornography or even knows what sex is. There was no consideration given to the normal, natural fascinations of an 8-year-old boy. His principal didn’t call us or talk to any of his teachers before taking action. She was great in covering her back, but wasn’t able to distinguish an 8-year-old boy from a sex offender.
Just one week later, we witnessed another bit of school insanity, this one having nothing to do with the photo. It was this: our son’s Chess Club teacher escorted him to my car because he was afraid he would be “liable” if our son was kidnapped. This, even though every day at recess the kids have to travel much farther to get to the playground than they do to get to the drop-off zone in front of the school! It’s right there!
My husband is from Germany and we spent 1+ years travelling in Mexico and Central America. Free-Range is a given in these countries and we’ve happily let our kids take part. They ask us why so many people don’t let their kids do anything on their own here, and the only answer we can give them is, “Because it’s America.”
Isn’t there a better answer? What is happening to our country? — A&M