Outrage of the Week: Mom Ticketed for Letting Boy Walk to School

Readers — I think I need a Valium. Read this. A mom is ticketed for letting her 5.5 year old son walk home from school. Even though she BEGGED the school to let him take the bus. Even though she went to city council meetings and BEGGED the town to put in crossing guards. Even though she makes her son wear an ORANGE VEST AND HELMET so as to be as visible as possible along the route she taught him — the SAFEST one possible. Even though she has a younger child at home AND an older child with cerebral palsy. Nah, none of that matters, She was charged with negligence.

She really sounds negligent, doesn’t she? — L.

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130 Responses to Outrage of the Week: Mom Ticketed for Letting Boy Walk to School

  1. Vinny December 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    On one hand, 5.5 seems young to be walking to school alone. On the other hand, every kid matures differently and it’s not up to society to figure out how someone raises their kids.

    I’d say, in this case and cases like it, you err on the side of parental responsibility rather than societal intervention.

  2. Anna December 17, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    When I went to school back in the 70’s, I was 12 and taking the city bus to get to school. A 5 yr old would get on the bus at the same bus stop as I, and we would all make sure she got off at her stop and watched for her as she entered her school yard.

  3. bequi December 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm #


    Here’s a little follow up on it. I’m so ticketed at that neighbor for being anonymous. If you’re going to bad mouth a neighbor, at least be up front about it. Clearly she knows this mom, or she wouldn’t care if people knew her name.

    I say kudos to her for making her son walk back and be late. It’s teaching him responsibilty for his actions. If she drove him instead, that teaches him he’ll get a ride if he fights with his brother.

    This is just ridiculous. I live in Utah and while I see some helicoptering, and people are usually surprised that I let my 2 year-old play in my fenced yard alone with my big, loud dog, I thought we at least had law enforcement with some common sense. This better not be a sign of a trend.

  4. bequi December 17, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    Ticked, not ticketed. Hahaha!

  5. April December 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    This is so ridiculous! I am getting worried about what I might get in trouble for as a parent when my daughter gets older! Heaven’s to Betsy!

  6. Sky December 17, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    5.5 seems young to be walking one mile completely alone across two busy intersections without crossing lights or crossing guards. I don’t ultimately think it’s the government’s business or rises to the level of neglect, but I personally would not allow my kid to do that. I’d drive him to school. She said she’s home and can do it. We all walked to school one mile as kids, but we all walked TOGETHER, and there were crossing guards. The real problem is that schools have made it almost mandatory to bus or drive and have thereby destroyed the culture of walking, so there are no safe groups anymore. Until that changes, it really isn’t safe for a young kid (say, under 8) to walk alone across busy intersections with no crossing guards. And I don’t know how we change that. Organize walking groups? Hard to get other parents on board…Get them to assign crossing guards? The schools won’t do it. It’s a sad mess, but the culture has changed to driving and busing, and I just don’t see it changing back.

    I used to walk with my Kindergartener to and from school a couple times a week while everyone else bussed. She roder the bus the other days. I just wanted her to walk occasionally. But it was so sad – the very same route I walked as a child, and not a single kid on it but mine until we were within two blocks of the school. You just can’t turn back time. You can’t get other parents to have their kids walk to school when the bus now comes, or when everyone else drives.

  7. Jessica December 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Yes, I read that, it’s infuriating. That child was more likely to be injured by another parent driving their child to school than injured walking to and from school.

  8. anonymousmagic December 17, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    This is ridiculous. This mum did everything she could to not have her kid walk to school, but when she finally did so (vest and all), she’s ticketed because the school doesn’t bother to set up crossing guards or a bus.

    What is she supposed to do? Gather all the kids every morning just to drive the one kid to school? I would say that driving your kids around brings a much bigger risk than the perceived negligence here. You know, the chance of getting hurt in a motor vehicle accident being a lot higher than being kidnapped and all.

    I’d sue the school for negligence.

  9. WendyPinNJ December 17, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Insanity. That’s what it is. Insanity.

  10. LEA December 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    I’m angry at the officer for even considering she was neglectful much less giving her a ticket for it. It’s a twenty minute walk maybe thirty if he drags his feet. She’s taken all kinds of safety precautions including teaching him a safe route and going with him until she was sure he could handle it on his own. The school apparently finds that he lives close enough to walk and since they were very aware of his walking they obviously had no issue with it. This is a parenting decision not a state one.

    I walked home from preschool at age four, often alone. This was eons ago and crime was higher than it is now. I wasn’t the only kid walking either. People don’t give kids enough credit for being able to become self reliant and independent when told they have to.

  11. Sandra December 17, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    5.5 is not too young to be walking to school alone. So far three of my children – and soon the fourth will too – have all “survived” the absolutely normal childhood event of walking to school starting in kindergarten, at age BARELY 5. This is pathetic and indeed an outrage.

  12. Alice Kime December 17, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    Honestly, my kids walked to school until they were in 7th grade. Crossing railroad tracks and all. They made it just fine. They are now 41 and 42. No harm ever came to them. The world is just plain crazy. Every child getting picked up at the front door. Maybe there wouldn’t be such an obesity problem if the kids walked a little. The school needs to apologize to this poor woman. She, at least, is teaching her child responsibility.

  13. dmd December 17, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    This just points to the fact that we need to “complete the streets.” If there were sidewalks on the side the school wants them to use, it sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem. We built so many neighborhoods for decades without sidewalks because we were so in love with our car culture. http://www.completestreets.org.

  14. Valerie December 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    If she feels it’s necessary to put an orange vest and helmet on the child, it is not a safe walking route. She isn’t a pro-walker. Her kids rode the bus when it was offered. This is more complicated than many commenters are making it. The town changed the rules on her. They used to offer busing on “dangerous” routes and now don’t. She could drive the child. Is she making a point? If so, maybe the cop helped her by publicizing the situation. This is not the utopian walk to school. It’s walking along a busy road with no sidewalks.

  15. Josh December 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    I’ve been following this blog for a little while and keep having the same thought over and over: I would happily donate to a legal defense fund to help parents defend against things like this. Even knowing something like that is out there may help fight the tide of fear parents feel of reprisal when pushing their young ones out of the next. The fund could help others as well, like teachers afraid to let kids walk out to the parking lot on their own, etc.

    Lenore – I don’t know the feasibility of this idea, or how things like this work, or even if it’s counter to your philosophy, but you are in a singularly unique position to rally people behind an idea like this and start the ball rolling.

  16. bequi December 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    By the way, the “Busy” street only has 2 lanes. In the link I shared, you see video of it. I walked home from school alone in kindergarten on much busier streets.

  17. lemontree December 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    If the school won’t bus any children within 1.5 miles of the school, then they deem it safe for ALL the children within that distance to walk to school. If there were a safety problem, the school would be sending buses around. It’s called “safety busing”. Since the school doesn’t deem it a problem, the police should not either.

  18. Christine Jonard December 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    This article made it onto my mom’s forum, and the opinions there are surprising. Many of the moms stated that they would *never* let their child walk to school because of all the “dangers” out there.
    Seriously? Our parents (well, and myself, actually) walked to school daily…3 miles, uphill both ways, in five feet of snow, barefoot….and etc. 😛
    She rode the bike to school with her son for two weeks to make sure that he handles the intersections. She put him in an ORANGE vest. She has SIX kids, one with cerebral palsy. And he walked to school with his brother in the morning. This one instance he got into an argument with brother and I think the mother was spot on by making him take responsibility for his actions.
    I am rambling here, but I think this is so awful for the poor mama.

  19. lemontree December 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    My children walk a mile to school. I like them to walk together. When the next child is in kindergarten, she will walk with her sisters. EVERYBODY around us drives their children to school. Mine are the only ones who walk. I would be so happy– and my children would be too, if some of their friends walked with them.

  20. enyawface December 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Why don’t we just end childhood and then there is no more problem………

  21. Matt L. December 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    Like I said to the original comment the only thing wrong here is the orange vest and HELMET. I would have died of embarrassment if my parents did that to me… Even more so if it were a publicity stunt.

  22. Rachael December 17, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    It’s this type of incident that makes me a paranoid parent. Not because of all the “scary” what-if’s, but because of how the surrounding population and law enforcement will judge my actions. It makes me sad to think that my parenting style might be influenced by others’ perceptions, but I fear it will!

  23. Daria December 17, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    What I found most interesting about that article (btw – TY for bringing it to my attn) were the comments.

    When exactly did we get to be so fearful as a society? And when did we start to feel it was our right to judge how other people raise their children?

    I am not one to shelter my kids, but on the other hand, if my child were Elizabeth Smart, I would never forgive myself for the “freedoms” I allow my children. I know I can’t keep them from living and growing in an effort to protect them from the “maybe”, but if it were MY child that was that 1% statistic, it wouldn’ t really matter to me that 99% of the time it is fine.

    So – are you as confused on where I stand as I am?
    It was interesting to me to see the comments because they were so incredibly divisive. And that frankly reflects how I feel internally too. I have chosen to err on the side of teaching them to be independent, but hope I never have reason to regret that decision.

  24. Jen C. December 17, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    I agree with Vinny. My oldest was ready to walk home from school alone at 5.5, but I know her younger sister probably won’t be able to. Some children develop the competency and capability to have that kind of independence earlier than others. It’s up to the parent(s) and the child to decide when that time comes. I’m sure if that mother felt her son wasn’t safe making the walk alone, then she would not allow him to do it.

    What’s most infuriating is that we, as parents, are held up to sitcom-family standards. Not every family can have a stay-at-home parent to take care of the children every moment of every day, yet we’re expected to. And if we fail to live up to those ridiculously unrealistic standards, then we have somehow failed in the eyes of society. We become “bad” or “neglectful” parents. If we raise our children outside those impossible parameters, then there is something wrong with us. And if we dare challenge convention and defend our choices, then we don’t care about our children. It’s unfair and an absolutely disgusting way of thinking.

    Sometimes, life and circumstance force us to make difficult decisions that we may not want to make. Instead of condemning this mother, her community should be supporting her. She is taking care of her family the best way she can given the hardships she has been faced with. Instead of throwing more complications into her life with a laughable charge of child neglect, they should be extending a helping hand.

    Okay, I think I’ll get down from my soapbox now.

  25. Jen December 17, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Matt L.- The mother asked the police and at least one other organizations about safety issues while walking to school before her son started walking. It seems to me the orange vest and helmet were suggestions of these organizations and, trying to do the right thing, the mother obeyed.

    As for me, I walked to school 1.5 miles each way starting in kindergarten until we moved to a different state where the school was not so close. My mother walked with me for the first few weeks to make sure I knew the way etc. and then after that, I was by myself or with a friend. I don’t see an issue with this boy walking to school.

  26. Marcy December 17, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    I suspect, having read some of the stories about this mom, that having gone through hoops to try to a) keep the busing, b) get crossing guards, c) teaching her children the safest way to get to school, and d) ensuring that they wear all safety equipment possible, that when a police officer showed up with her son, very probably she was less than tactful about dealing with the officer’s interference in her parenting.
    The sad part is that this lady, who by most accounts (anonymous busy-body neighbour notwithstanding) is an excellent mother caring for 6 children including one special needs child, will now be unable to volunteer at the school, be a scout leader, or work with kids at all. This is why she needs the media to get worked up over it and get her case out there. It MIGHT increase her chance of getting the charge expunged.
    I feel so frustrated for her. I second the motion for setting up a legal defense fund, although it would be awfully difficult to keep up with the need it seems!

  27. Uly December 17, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    I am not one to shelter my kids, but on the other hand, if my child were Elizabeth Smart, I would never forgive myself for the “freedoms” I allow my children.

    Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bedroom. It had nothing to do with how free range her parents were or weren’t. (And that was a very strange case. Your kids are safe in their own bedrooms.)

  28. Roberta December 17, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    I remember a few times walking or biking to school when I was in Grade 2 – so 7ish. It was about a mile, and I crossed a MAJOR HIGHWAY that at the time ran through our town. (Back in the 70s in Edmonton of course that meant maybe 4 lanes of traffic; there may have been a painted crosswalk but I don’t remember). My mom had 2 other little ones at home at the time so my younger brother (6) and I would go together.
    Oddly enough, by the time we were all in high school, Mom drove us every day, including a lunch pickup. She’s not around not for me to ask why she changed her philosophy.

  29. SKL December 17, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    Now I’m not a big “it takes a village” kind of person, but this is a case where the community should have offered this woman some support, not a ticket. She has a special needs kid and probably a lot of other reasons why driving a kid home at midday is not practical. They should have gotten her bus service or facilitated some kind of car pool.

    I also grew up in a family with 6 kids, and often the attitude was, well, you shouldn’t have had so many kids – what are you, an animal? Having a large family automatically meant being a questionable parent. Add on any additional issue – a working mom, poverty, behaviors – and it is just assumed a mom is not caring. Makes me sick.

    I would be very nervous to let my kid walk that route at 5.5, but I would probably do it once I’d walked it with him enough times to be sure he could do it safely. Sounds like that’s what this mom did. If that’s too uncomfortable for the community, let the community come up with a reasonable alternative.

  30. Nicole December 17, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    Honestly? It sounds like she had other options- having parents drive him home, and driving him in the car. 5.5 is young to walk that far alone, especially when navigating a semi busy street. Apparently she also had him walk home in preschool- at 4 years old by himself? That’s a bit extreme.

    The whole story is bizarre. She wanted to fight them over busing, but doesn’t want another parent to drive him home because she thinks the exercise is important? She straps a bright orange helmet on him? I’ve walked home from school in freezing rain, and it is miserable- I would definitely pick up a child from school, even an older child, if possible in that situation.

    It comes off sounding like she’s in this for the attention, honestly.

  31. B.S.H. December 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    I agree with the other poster who would b willing to donate money to some kind of defense fund for those who need it. This story and the story about the pictures on the phone make me crazy with frustration and maybe if parents could afford to stand up and take action, the fear tide would turn.

  32. Matt L. December 18, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Jen – I can imagine that these would be likely suggestions. Sadly, if you get hit by a car the helmet isn’t going to help much. It is more effective in protecting against falls or situations where the head is taking the brunt of the impact. I would guess that the most likely cause of death is blunt force trauma to the abdomen seeing as how a 5.5 yr old would be at that level. If he were wearing something like a motorcycle helmet the protection would be greater but it didn’t look that way in the pics. I just feel bad for the kid, at some point you really have to ask yourself if dressing in entirely reflective gear is worth it just to make a point.

    And I do feel that this scenario was pushed further by the mother trying to make a point. Or, I’m just really soft. I think that the majority of days kids should walk to school but if there is inclement weather and the plan has gone off the rails with one kid coming home without the other – I might just get in the car or walk over to get things back on course. Still nothing about this warrants neglect or anything legal. It is wrong to involve the legal system here – I am just asserting a different point of view about how I handle my child rearing.

  33. Matt L. December 18, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    I think her endgame is to bring back the bus or at least get a sidewalk on the other side of the road.

  34. Melissa December 18, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    The woman’s story is so inconsistent. She fights for a bus, but claims she wants him to get exercise. I personally don’t have a problem with kids walking home from school at all (my kids do) but I don’t think they should ever walk home alone. She should’ve taken up her neighbor’s offers for rides or arranged for a group of kids to walk home together. I think she was making a statement about the bus situation and it backfired on her. She already got a warning, she should’ve taken it serious.

  35. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    @Nicole Obviously 5.5 is NOT too young to walk that far alone, seeing as how he’s done it, without incident, up until now. Yes, she MIGHT have had other options, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she felt they were right for her child. Let’s not forget that particular point either – it’s HER child.

    It’s the mentality of “I know what’s best for your kid” that causes so much unnecessary problems with being a parent today. Unless a child is truly being abused and/or neglected, we have no right telling another parent how to raise their child.

    It’s so easy to stand on the outside and tell someone what they should or should not be doing. But until you have to raise six children (one of which has a seriously debilitating condition) you are in no position to tell her what’s best for her family. What works for one family does not work for another. Every family, parent, and child have their own unique struggles to work through. As I said earlier, instead of saying “shame on you,” her community should be saying “how can we help?” Think of what could be achieved if we would all do that for one another.

    Ah, but I am a dreamer…..

  36. Library Diva December 18, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    My favorite comment on the original story was along those ‘it takes a village’ lines. Seriously, NO ONE in her son’s class or neighborhood could have stepped up and helped out? It sounds like a scary stretch of road for a 5-year-old to navigate. The district’s thinking doesn’t make sense to me either: the first place they cut is bus routes in dangerous areas? Shouldn’t they be the last place to be cut?
    The whole story is screwy. And another illustration of why people need to become more conscious of one another and of the fact that they live in a society. Tomorrow it could be you that needs the help. Will a neighbor, co-worker or fellow parent be there for you?

  37. Melissa December 18, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    People did offer to help her, she turned them down!

  38. Cheryl W December 18, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    The busybody neighbor should step up and offer to be a crossing guard.

    I agree with others, that the mom is doing the vest, helmet and all to force the issue of a crossing guard or buses. In the future, she should have her son cross at he the place the school says, and see if she gets another ticket. She would be completely following the school recommendations and in compliance with the state regulations.

    After that, she may want to consider homeschooling to be rid of all these idiots. Because you know, if she drives her child, and she is late too many times because of unforeseen issues with the other daughter then she will get in trouble for that. Catch 22.

  39. EricS December 18, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    Another ‘Wow!” moment. Bunch of idiot adults. Including the South Jordan police. Too much paranoia. Child neglect. lol Bunch of yahoos. If anything, it sounds like that mother is Supermom. 3 kids, with one being a baby and the other with CP. Let’s see how these other mothers deal, put in her situation. That’s one of my biggest beef. It’s always a problem for some people when it’s someone else. But as soon as they are put in the same situation, they are the first to complain about how they are being ill treated. Hypocrites.

  40. Larry Harrison December 18, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    Jen C is absolutely right. Unless a child is truly being abused and/or neglected, we have no right telling another parent how to raise their child. It is HER child, not the police officer’s, or that nosy neighbor who, frankly, if it were up to me, would be thrown into a canyon full of hungry lions for sticking their nose into someone else’s business.

    Yes, I mean it, I think meddling busy-body types are committing a wrong that high on the outrage meter, they deserve it.

    I don’t care that people offered to help & the mother turned them down, that’s her prerogative. If she thinks her child needs the exercise so he doesn’t turn into a pudding-eating lard-ass always glued to the Wii, good for her–and that’s her f’ing business and prerogative.

    I don’t think she’s doing this as an attention-grabbing “look at me” kind of deal, she’s trying to parent her child without a bunch of outsiders meddling in on her & her child’s territory. Good for her. If I were a billionaire, I’d contribute to her legal defense fund, I’d hire a free-range type of bodyguard to accompany her child on his walk–no offers to drive myself, she doesn’t want that & that’s her prerogative. I’d offer to have funds for sidewalks and even publicly encourage other parents to let their kids do likewise, if THEY feel okay doing so.

    But I’d do more than that. I’d use my influence to raise a real stink on the issue of society’s meddling in a paren’t business, I’d “go JR Ewing” and use my connections to find out who it was that called, and I’d goof up their life something awful in retaliation–and let them know I was the one that did it, and why. People who meddle in another’s parenting business would rue the day they did so to someone I took an interest in, they’d get it back in double-measure big-time.


  41. Brian December 18, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    Just be glad the family isn’t “brown.” It AZ, the police could have then demanded ID and arrested the whole family if they didn’t show papers.

    It sounds like this woman is trying to prove a point regarding her community’s lack of side walks, crossing guards and bus cuts. But then so were the students in Brown v. Board of Education. Being a test case doesn’t make her wrong.

  42. Brian December 18, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    I walked to and from school in kindergarten but so did other kids who were on the route to and from school. It was about a mile and there was 1 mildly busy street with crossing guard.

    I was once nearly ticketed for jay walking in High School because I didn’t wait for the crossing guard who would always let cars go first. I was outraged since pedestrians should get the right of way. Our Principal got a really good laugh out of it and told me to stop annoying the crossing guard.

  43. Renee P December 18, 2010 at 1:37 am #

    The one thing I wonder about is that there was a follow-up article in which a neighbor mom asserts that she and others have offered to drive the kid. Further, it sounds like mom REALLY fought about the bus issue, and I wonder if prior to that, she let the kids ride the bus. In short, I wonder if that anony-mom didn’t maybe have a little tiny point – that this mom is too busy trying to make a point to mitigate what does sound like a rather challenging walk (busy roads, no sidewalks for stretches, and so forth).

    All that said, I don’t think that a ticket is the way to go. If the government feels that the walk is too dangerous, they ought to be providing buses. They may have to charge for the service for those who can afford it, but they should be available. If they cannot do that, it becomes no longer their business. On the other hand, if mom feels that the route is too dangerous, it would be appropriate to either accept a neighbor’s generous offer of a ride.

    I don’t think a 5-year-old is too young to walk home from school – provided the route is not too busy. The only problem with busy routes and small kids as far as I’m concerned is that a driver might not see the kid. I also think a child that young sometimes doesn’t understand that just because he has seen the car, that doesn’t mean the car has seen him. Since the child is not even tall enough to be seen over the hood of many SUVs, I personally would not want him walking. If mom really does worry about this, I think she ought to accept a ride from a neighbor. However, I think the government waived their right for a say when they took out the bus service.

  44. Aprill December 18, 2010 at 2:20 am #

    I think it’s irrelevant that a neighbor offered a ride. I wouldn’t want to feel obligated to reciprocate when my child could walk just fine. I would feel like I owed her a big favor all the time.

    A legal defense fund? I’d contribute!

  45. Nicole December 18, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    @Jen I said it was young, not too young. 5 IS young to walk close to a mile without anyone else. It depends on the child and the situation if it’s actually TOO soon or not.

  46. Kimberly December 18, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    I live in Utah and having read this blog for awhile, seemed to think Utah was a little more forward thinking in this area. I would read so many of the posts here and be glad I hadn’t seen anything that crazy locally, until now. I see quite a few kids walking to and from my children’s elementary school, even though it sits at a corner of two moderately busy streets. I’d like to see more walking, but some is better than none. Stories like this are only going to make people drive their kids instead.

    My 6th grader walks by himself every morning and walks home with his 5 year old sister.

    I do walk my 5 yr old to school because the school does not provide a crossing guard at the mid-day K drop-off time. (Also, I can use the excercise myself.) She also just turned 5 a few months ago and despite daily reminders on our walk, she does not always remember to watch for cars as she crosses the various side streets. It’s traffic that scares me more than any miniscule threat of abduction.

    However, I have no problem with this mom letting her son walk one way home by himself after making sure he felt comfortable doing it himself. She’s the one who lives with him and knows what he can and can not handle. If I were the cop I’d be more likely to cite the van for stalking the kid. I mean, if you think he’s lost, just ask him for pete’s sake. Don’t follow him creepily down the street.

  47. Sirpeacock December 18, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    Lazy, crazy mom. Looks like she could use some walking herself. And it is just offensive to have six children.

  48. m December 18, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    If the school removed the bus stop, they made a decision that the route was walkable. I would take that citation over to the school and LOUDLY request bus service. I would also possibly sue.

  49. Renee P December 18, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    @April, there are a lot of ways to reciprocate a neighborly favor, and honestly, putting yourself in a position to feel beholden is actually a good step in bonding with a neighbor, too – unless they are the sort of person who’ll hold it over you. A lot of that happens in our neighborhood, and while I won’t say I like a lot of my neighbors on a personal level, we DO know we can all depend on each other, and we do socialize with them at block parties and such.

    If I needed to take a ride for my kid from another parent every day, I’d probably offer to babysit now and again, or bring over some baked goods, or maybe mow their lawn if someone’s had a baby or had surgery, and couldn’t do it themselves. I’d give them a nice “thank you” present or something. There are tons of ways of repaying favors – it doesn’t have to be “in kind”.

  50. EricS December 18, 2010 at 3:04 am #

    @Renee: Who deems what is “dangerous” and what is not? The government, the police, the school, your neighbor? I think most adults know what is imminently dangerous. A parent is also more qualified than anyone else, to understand her own child. But this doesn’t mean being paranoid (like many people) means your parenting is beneficial to your child. Anything that is negatively introduced is never good for a child. Letting a 5 year old, who the mother believes is more than capable (and has proven time and again) that he can walk home with no issues, isn’t a bad thing. Just because some other people say it’s “wrong” or “dangerous” doesn’t make it so.

    There’s years of experience and stories, and quite a number of people here, as well as around the world, that can vouch for being independent enough by the age of 5 or 6. Independent enough to walk to school (sometimes further than a mile away), cooking, cleaning, with some even having “jobs” after school before they hit the age of 8. And this is in a time where crime was higher than it is today. I would bet that almost all of these people are still alive and kicking today. Strong and healthy with a family of their own, maybe even grand kids. If they haven’t already succumb to unforeseeable deaths (car collisions, falling while rock climbing, etc…), health issues, or age.

  51. Stephanie - Home with the Kids December 18, 2010 at 3:05 am #

    I don’t think a child that young is too young to walk home alone that distance. I was walking about that far in preschool, in the 70s. Sometimes with a group of kids, but they weren’t all that good about all sticking together.

    My own son doesn’t walk home from kindergarten alone, but that’s because the school requires someone pick him up, and they must be on the list we gave them at registration, or whenever we last updated it. He doesn’t want to walk home alone, but I suspect that if any of his friends walked our way on their own, he’d gladly do it. But there are few walkers, and none come our way.

  52. EricS December 18, 2010 at 3:09 am #

    @Renee: that comment was towards your “government comment”, not most of what you said. 😉

  53. Larry Harrison December 18, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    Sirpeacock On what basis do you call the subject of this post a “lazy, crazy mom?” And on what basis do you find having 6 children offensive?

    You remind me of someone I know who was griping about how people have too many children, even going so far as to say that what China does is how WE ought to do it. I then pointed out that she was the 4th child of 8, so by her own logic, she shouldn’t have been born, nor her 4 younger brothers & sisters.

    Still I ask once again–on what basis do you judge the mother as lazy & crazy?


  54. anonymousmagic December 18, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    Valerie, if the school considers the road dangerous, it really doesn’t matter what this mother is doing with helmet and orange vest.

    If that road is dangerous, the school should provide the services she asked for — in the places she wanted. No matter how you cut it, the school is the negligent one.

  55. SKL December 18, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    One thing about the neighbors who say they offered drives – who should decide whether it’s safer / more healthy for the child to (a) walk home along a familiar route vs. (b) take a ride from someone the mom isn’t thrilled with? I mean, if a “good neighbor” offered a ride and she said no, maybe there’s a reason why she said no? (Aren’t there people in your neighborhood whom you wouldn’t want driving your kids?) And if said “good neighbor” then writes in to cast stones at this mom, then is she really a “good neighbor” or is she a busybody? Who says she’s the kid’s best alternative for getting home? It seems to me the mom is the only person with a right to make that call.

  56. Deborah December 18, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    OMG. 5 is not too young to walk to and from school. FP made me mad from jump and the ticket thing makes me see red.

    Our children are not helpless unless we make them that way.

  57. anonymousmagic December 18, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    [i]Honestly? It sounds like she had other options- having parents drive him home, and driving him in the car. 5.5 is young to walk that far alone, especially when navigating a semi busy street.[/i]

    @ Nicole: And who are you to judge them? You have never seen this child, so you can’t know if he’s capable and responsible enough to walk to school.

  58. anonymousmagic December 18, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    I don’t think the mom had to accept an offer to drive her kid if it came along. I see it along the same lines as playdates. You don’t drop your kid off with a family if you don’t know and trust them to look after him.

    With all this busybody meddling going on, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the mom and the neighbour don’t really know eachother well enough.

  59. Melissa December 18, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    Schools had to make a cut because residents there won’t pay higher taxes and are very vocal about it. So they had to cut the “hazardous routes”. They are not under any law to provide those routes, as they are close enough for kids to walk. In the past they have provided them, but when times are hard you got to cut something and this was it. I don’t think it’s the schools responsibility to get the kids to school period.

  60. Scott December 18, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    I walked a mille to school in kindergarten, crossing three streets, including a 6 lane with extremely heavy traffic. So did lots of other people. It’s criminal abuse of authority for the police to be harassing this woman. The so-called officer who issued this ticket is not fit for duty, should be removed from his position, banned from future service, put on the child sex offender list because he illegally abducted someone’s child, and made to pay a large settlement to the mother for harassment.

    Yes, I am completely serious. We have to push back at these bullies.

  61. Donna H December 18, 2010 at 4:46 am #

    I’m another Utah person. I am constantly amazed at the busy-bodies around here. Utah is one of the safest states in the nation. And I know that area – its NOT DANGEROUS.

    All I can think of is that perhaps the cop had nothing better to do.

  62. Scott December 18, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    However, the city is negligent for not having sidewalks. That is just ridiculous.

  63. Scott December 18, 2010 at 4:49 am #

    By the way, “Can’t afford a school bus” is absurd. My grandmother drove a school bus in an impoverished rural community all through the Great Depression. And guess what, somehow the kids that graduated ended up knowing how to read and write, something we can’t say for 30-70% of adults who have been through public school nowadays, depending on the district.

  64. Marty December 18, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    govt schools are not here to serve us… they’re ramming DARE programs down our kids’ throats (even advising kids to spy on their parents!), implementing ‘zero tolerance’ programs so they don’t have to think or work out solutions, our kids are being searched for no reason, police dogs are common in schools, and then the education… is anyone pleased with what our kids are being taught?
    a neighborhood charter school, a parochial school (work out carpools or pay another parent for gas), or homeschooling would serve the child much better. The more I see and read, the more I think we should be charged with child abuse for subjecting our kids to this nonsense.

  65. BrianJ December 18, 2010 at 5:46 am #

    @Marty – sounds like you live in a school district that does not meet your needs. I feel for you.

    My district meets my needs, and those of my children, just fine. And I very much like the communal nature of public education.

  66. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    Children under ten have tunnel vision. Their peripheral vision has not yet fuly developed. A 5.5 year old child crossing the street by him/herself is in danger of getting hit by a car. While I feel for her with a disabled child and understand the difficulties in picking him up from school, the fact remains that any child under ten lacks the visual acuity to cross the road by themselves.

    However in the land of common sense, this woman would not have received a ticket but a warning and perhaps some education on seeing the world through a 5.5 year olds eyes.

  67. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Yes, Marty, because EVERYONE has the option/money/opportunity to place their children in private schools or homeschooling! How realistic is that?

  68. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    Also, I’m going to call B.S. on AussieMum’s assertion that a child’s peripheral vision isn’t fully developed under the age of ten. It’s one of the things that are tested at the required eye exam before the child enters school.

  69. Sarah December 18, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    This happened near where I live. I thought of you when it made the news. Neighbors claim that they had offered to take her son to and from school FOR her, but that she declined their offers. Did you mention that this was in Utah- one of the most family “friendly” states? Great.

  70. Cheryl W December 18, 2010 at 8:10 am #

    The kids are more likely to get to school on time if they walk. And walking home midday when traffic is not so high?

    When my neighbor decided to send her daughter back to school (after homeschooling for a few years) a friend offered to pick the girl up. The friend would whip into MY driveway, not looking for animals, my kids, toys, cars, etc. Then she would whip around, pull up in front of the house and honk the horn. The girl was usually ready to go. (The driver did not turn in the girl’s driveway because there were bushes that would rub up against her nice new SUV.) Invariably, they were late for school. The whole point of picking up the girl was to help the mom who had a newborn, but the mom ended up finding out after two months that the girl had only been on time to school about twice. The mom switched to the bus even though it meant the girl had to get up a little earlier. Had the bus not been available, I am sure that the girl could have easily walked the mile to and from school. The mom did not have a car, she had a newborn and a bad back that prevented her from walking with her daughter.

    In CA, about two years ago King City school district they cut ALL the buses for the district. This was a very rural and poor district. I have to wonder how many kids ended up dropping out, and how high the tardy and truant levels went up. A lot of kids can get themselves ready for school and be on time if they have the means to get there. If there is no means, then there is a problem.

    The mom in the article had a means, and it was going fine until the police stepped in – it would be different if a driver reported the kid darting out into traffic or other wise behaving in a dangerous manner.

  71. Diane December 18, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    What I don’t like is a police officer believing he/she can just go to some one’s home and cite them as if the person was a criminal when NO law was broken. A child who grows up in a house with parents who smoke is in a lot more danger than a child who walks home from school alone, yet no one would think a police officer was doing the right thing if they ticketed a parent for smoking in the same home around their child. People should not get in trouble where no law has been broken. I really do think this sort of thing should be fought.

  72. cat December 18, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    Our school district in KS cut the bus routes to “save money” which I find amusing because, well, I paid them a seperate bill for the use of the school. They decided that it was ok for my 5 year old to walk across the deadliest intersection in the city. Parents asked for a crossing guard at the bad intersection, town responded the intersection was “too dangerous” for a guard. Yes, safe enough for my 5 year old, but too dangerous for an adult guard. Luckily, the PTA stepped in and hired a bus on their own….they contracted the bus for the same cost as the city. my rate didnt go up at all. with 4 kids, only 2 in school, and school to attend myself, I was glad to pay the $100 per year for the bus.

  73. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    Dear Jen C. I suggest you do a bit of internet research on peripheral vision in under ten year olds. I did not pull that information out from under my hat.

  74. Marty December 18, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Jen C-

    I didn’t mean to sound judgemental, just outraged. I get not ‘EVERYONE’ has all the options. I wish I had more options. What I’m trying to point out is that (for many) public schools are the worst options. I was horrified by the propaganda, the searches, etc and we live in a middle/upper middle class area. I think many of the public school issues would be corrected if parents had readily available options. I can’t help but imagine if the tax money was attached to the kid and the parent had choices, the schools would compete for the choices. Nonsense like the principal in this article would cost them business, because parents could reasonably opt out.

    My kids have gone through private schools, public schools and homeschooling. There are benefits and trade-offs with each. We have been very fortunate. The Montessori school was amazing for 2 of our kids. Our local Catholic school was just ok. Homeschooling is amazing for 1. We have 1 that enjoys (and is doing well in) public schools. I’m waiting for her to come home with a nonsense story like we’ve been reading.

    Our educational system sounds convoluted, but it’s really not- we’re a blended family with 3 kids- 2 teenagers and a 10 year old.

  75. bmj2k December 18, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    I’m torn, because I really don’t think the mother was negligent. On the other hand, I really do think that, in this particular situatuion, a child of not even six is too young to walk that route. Not that I’m worried about danger from strangers or criminals, but because no matter how mature, no 5 year old had the judgement or experience to deal with all the nuttiness and danger that does happen (real dangers, not imnagined or paranoid) at busy intersections.

  76. bmj2k December 18, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    I’m more interested in the people who followed him in the van.

    If that story is true, what were they thinking? They obviously weren;t helping the kid. They didn’t call a cop or at least ask him if he were lost. What were they doing? SCARING the kid. I hope the cop that spoke to them told them they looked like predators themselves and were doing more harm than good.

  77. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    I agree mostly with what this free range website is all about. This is the first issue I will strongly disagree on. There is a difference between common sense free range parenting and fundamentalist hard line free range parenting. For me this is simply a case of the child being too young to cross a busy road because in terms of biological development he is not mature enough to handle a busy road by himself.

  78. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    Marty – you’re right. In some areas, public schools are terrible. Where I live, our public schools are pretty good, but if I was able, I would put my oldest in a private school, simply because I believe that she needs to be challenged more. Believe me, I have many of my own complaints about the public school system in this country. But as you’ve stated, it depends on the family and the school. For me growing up, public school was fantastic! Private school would have been a nightmare (I was a bit of a rebel 🙂 ). And I apologize for jumping on you. Issues like this just get me fired up. You, unfortunately were in the line of fire. Truce? 🙂

    And AussieMum – I did research, and cannot find anything to support your claim about underdeveloped peripheral vision in children under 10 years of age. If you have a link to support that, I would be more than happy to check it out. That issue aside, there is nothing that prevents the child from turning his head left and right to check for traffic. And the fact that he has been walking this route for a while now without being hit by a car is not an anomaly. He has shown that he is capable of making the trip safely. I just don’t see what the problem is!

  79. SKL December 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Aussiemom, I call BS on your claim that kids under 10 cannot cross the road safely. Most kids are able to learn how by age 5. They turn their heads to look both ways. The challenge is to get them to remember to do that every time they step into the road. However, this is certainly do-able.

    The issue with a busy intersection is not that the kids might not see the cars, but the other way around – the cars may not notice a small kid, even if the kid is acting in accordance with the law. And the kid may not have the foresight to avoid getting hurt in such a case. Without seeing the intersection myself, I can’t say whether this was too dangerous for a 5-year-old or not. I can say that I and my siblings certainly crossed busy streets when we were well under 10. Certainly we were very good at it by age 7, if not younger.

  80. Sirpeacock December 18, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Watch the video in the news link. You see the actual route, as well as the fat mom who ought to walk to school herself to get the kid and walk home with him. But I guess she can’t do that because she keeps popping out babies. If you can’t take care of them, stop having them.

  81. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    Congratulations, Sirpeacock. You have efficiently and completely removed all credibility from any argument you could ever make on this forum.

  82. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    “From five to nine years of age
    Supervise your child at all times near traffic:”


    Most of the academic research is on 7-9 year olds. I cannot find one on 5 year olds. Which isn’t to say there isn’t any, just that I haven’t found one. I suggest you make your own conclusions from that.

    Is it really worth risking a five year old crossing the road just to make a point. Sorry, I call BS on your claims it is safe.

    I am not a helicopter mother, my kids played in the park, biked around the streets and also walked to school, but only at the more sensible minimum age of 8 years old. A five year by themseld needs protection from their own impulsivity.

  83. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Dear Jen C,

    Here is a research article from the Medical Journal of Australia.


    “Pedestrians aged under 10 years are particularly vulnerable because of their small physical size and underdeveloped abilities for dealing with traffic situations, both cognitive (attention focus, interpreting traffic signs) and perceptual (locating sounds, judging speed, peripheral vision).6 Given these limitations, children under the age of 10 do not have the ability to cross roads without adult help.”

  84. Linda December 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    I have a kindergartner who attends a K-8 school 1.5 miles away, across several busy roads, and under the freeway. There is no. way. in. effin’. hell. that he’d be safe walking that route all by himself. He is able to walk to school because his brother (5th grade) and sister (8th grade) walk with him. Midday, when he gets out, I either pick him up in the car or I walk to school and we walk home together.My area (suburb of Seattle, WA) is very safe and unusually free-range in character and I’m completely on board with giving children aprropriate freedoms. This absolutely does not qualify. I actually haven’t posted here for some time because I find the zealotry of some free rangers almost as insane as the that of the helicopter parents. It’s a known fact that 5 eyar olds don’t have a lot of impulse control. Do any of you even currently HAVE a kindergartner (not a memory of when you last had one or a memory of your own childhood)? Would you throw a ball in a busy road and have confidence your child wouldn’t unthinkingly go after it? I sure as hell wouldn’t have with any of my kids at that age and from what I’ve observed and been told by other parents and their teachers, they’re certainly ahead of the curve in their social, emotional, and academic development. People, please! Every single time a parent makes an error in judgement and you support them without question, you make all the sensible free rangers look negligent by association. Particularly in this case, the mom’s actions made it really clear that she didn’t have a real desire for her kids to walk to school. She fought against it tooth and nail. The very fact that the five year walked away from his brother and back home is proof he doesn’t follow directions well enough be reliable near a busy road.

  85. Larry Harrison December 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Linda You & the other person arguing that most 5 year olds probably aren’t qualified to do this, you MAY be right, and I stress MAY be right.

    But the issue, to me, is this–the mother’s right to make that decision herself.

    This right of parents to make their own decisions may not be absolute–who would advocate a parent having the right to leave their 3 month old outdoors in 40’F windy weather wearing nothing but a diaper because the parent states “well I think they’re just fine that way”–but short of something extreme like that, I always am going to lean towards the right of the parent to make their own choice vs others making that choice for them, even if there are many others who disagree.

    I didn’t walk to school as a 5 year old, but we lived miles and miles from the school, and were picked up by a bus (a van, actually). And yes I do recall that my mother left me with someone who would watch us while my mother headed to work, she didn’t trust us to wait for the bus at home alone.

    But that doesn’t mean this particular child can’t handle independence. It’s so common that parents, and outsiders especially, underestimate what kids can do. My family swears that our 3 nieces-nephews, ages 4-7, are in the danger of their life if allowed to even splash at the edge of the lake with adults there. However, when we’ve taken them ourselves, we let them swim all over the lake–in the deep end where it’s over OUR heads–and they did just fine (they had lifejackets), totally contrary to what the other family members were saying. (All of us can swim in the event something still was to go wrong.)

    But to me, the real issue is this–the right, short of something VERY extreme–of a parent to decide for themselves, as opposed to society deciding for them. Further, even if this arrangement was unsafe, the mother didn’t need a ticket written, at the absolute MOST, and this is assuming this is an unsafe situation (which I doubt), she should’ve been merely given a verbal warning and that been the end of it, and it should’ve generated a lot more heat on the school to do their part vs people criticizing the mother for daring to try & teach her child independence, even IF (and I stress IF) a little early.


  86. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    AussieMum – thank you for the info. Very interesting, I had never heard of that before. I appreciate you taking the time to post it for everyone to see. I stand corrected. 🙂

    That being said, I still believe that it should be left up to the parent(s) and the child to determine the safety of walking alone. We have to trust that parents are doing what they feel is best and right for their families. As I’ve said, I have one daughter that began walking home alone (about 3/4 of a mile) halfway through her kindergarten year, yet her sister will probably not be allowed to do so. My oldest is very intelligent, mature, competent, and advanced for her age. My youngest is a bit more flighty and doesn’t follow direction very well. It’s a situation where the family should be allowed to assess the risks, determine their child’s ability to handle the risks, and make a decision based on that without interference from the outside world.

    As Larry has said, unless there is a blatant and immediate danger to the child, this is a decision that is best left to the parents and no one else.

  87. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Dear Linda, I could not have said it better myself. The anti-helicopter brigade are just as fanatical as the helicopter brigade and will argue the point beyond common sense.

  88. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    Thank you Jen C for the Socratic debate. I remember reading that under ten year olds should not cross the road by themselves, when the kids were little.

    I have one son who would look left and right and left again and have the ability to measure distance spatially and the other who would run across the road without looking if he saw a ball on the other side.

    Yes, we do have the right to parent our kids as we see fit but I feel physically ill at the thought of any of my three kids crossing any road by themselves at that age.

    Two of them have their licences now and believe me that is when you have sleepless nights wondering where they are, how much they have had to drink and who is in the car with them.

  89. stephammo December 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    Pure madness! That is the problem these days that people only tend to see one viewpoint and don’t bother to get the full details before charging ahead with what they believe to be best. I used to walk to school when I was 5, without a vest or helmet. Should my mother have been charged with negligence? I think not…..

  90. AussieMum December 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Dear Stephammo,

    Five year old kids used to sweep chimneys in Charles Dickens day, does that make it right. There is no shortage of studies and surveys on road safety confirming that kids are at risk. Just google a few relevant terms and you will be astounded by the pure madness of road safety councils trying to save kids from their kamikaze parents.

    I used to walk to school when I was five, but not across busy roads.

  91. owen59 December 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    There is just something very stupid about providing an individual (eg a police officer) the responsibility and authority to decide on what constitutes negligence. If police officers can’t be trained to communicate to children and parents about their specific situation and help problem solve that situation, then police officers can’t be provided the higher responsibility and authority. Another sign we are just not coping with the brave new world and are trying to control it. We end up controlling unimportant things as a response to our feelings of powerlessness around the increasing chaos around important things like economic disparity, war, refugees, environmental destruction. We need to constantly tell each other, don’t look there at your feet, it’s only a little mud and its good for you, look there at the smoke in the sky, people need help, let’s go give them help.

  92. Mrs Embers December 18, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    I can’t believe she got a ticket. I can see the police around here making sure the kid got home safely and maybe talking to the mom (especially because the police have to watch their asses on these things- if something ever happened to the kid and someone found out that a cop had known about it and DIDN’T talk to the mom… I cant even imagine how the sh*t would fly!), but a ticket?

    My older son is almost 5.5 years old, and there’s no way I’d let him walk to school alone- not because I’m scared of abductions or anything, but because he has such a tendency to get lost in his own thoughts that I can’t trust him to remember to look for cars before he crosses the one busy street. I also don’t trust that drivers would see him- I see too many people driving around yakking on their cellphones and distracted by their own kids.

    I applaud any police officer who gives someone a ticket for using a cellphone while driving… but not for letting a kid walk to school.

  93. Heather December 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    Why are they not charging the teacher. Here they won’t release the child that age unless there is someone to pick them up that the teacher recognizes. If there is no one there they take them into the office.

  94. N December 18, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    I wouldn’t have been comfortable with my daughter crossing a busy road with no crossing guard at 5.5, but certainly I would if there were an intersection with a sign telling her when it was safe to cross before 10. She’s 8 now and I’m sure she’d be able to handle it. I guess I’m in the middle. 5.5 seems to young, but 10 seems past when it would be OK.

    I walked by myself to kindergarten in the 70s and had to walk two blocks, cross only one road that was nowhere near busy, and make no turns, and I still got lost. I’d be worried about kids getting lost as much as anything at that age. It’s easy for kids that young to get confused.

    Having said that, I don’t think she should have gotten a ticket. It sounds like she put a lot of effort into making this work, much more than most parents put into something like this. And parents know their particular children best and what they can handle. Just because I wasn’t ready at 5, and my daughter wasn’t ready at 5, doesnt’ mean this child wasn’t ready. I am, like others, concerned about apparent contradictions in what she said, though. I think she just wants to force a bus to come again or something like that.

  95. N December 18, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    Also, I was reading the book Betsy-Tacy to my daughter that was set in the 30s, and Betsy, at 5, walked a LONG way to school on her own and back, and talked to strangers along the way and everything.

  96. Jen C. December 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    It’s not like this is the kid’s first time walking home. I don’t understand all the comments that worry about the kid not looking when crosses the street or getting lost and things like that. He has been doing this for a while now, and has proven that he’s perfectly able to get home, safely, without getting lost, without darting into the street……what is the big deal? Everyone is voicing hypothetical concerns and worrying about the “what ifs” instead of acknowledging the fact that he can do it and HAS done it numerous times without a problem.

  97. RachaelS December 19, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    This mom did make one mistake… she tried to do the right thing. It was not a mistake to teach her son about walking home from school, her only mistake was drawing attention to herself. Like speaking out at meetings and making him wear an orange vest. (Both of which are good ideas). But a little boy who people are already watching because his mom has made comments at the meetings is a lot more conspicuous wearing an orange vest. Kudos to her for trying to do the right thing, shame on those who are judging her for a choice she made for the good of her family.
    I remember walking to school, about a half mile, since I was in kindergarten. The only days my mom drove us was when we were running really late or it was a blizzard. Living in Wyoming we thought nothing of walking home through a snow storm or wind so strong it could litterally blow you over. These days my mom would probably have been ticketed, too.

  98. Library Diva December 19, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    Jen C, I’d be more worried about the other driver than the kid. I’m picturing his neighborhood looking like ones I’m afraid to walk in too: lots of traffic moving at a high speed, no sidewalks so pedestrians are forced to walk in the shoulder. Drivers aren’t looking for pedestrians on those roads, and it’s easy for a 5 year old to be in the blind spot of an SUV.

    It’s not so much that I think the kid would be irresponsible. Traffic ‘what-ifs’ are more likely to happen: someone blowing out a tire or skidding on wet pavement and losing control, someone pulling over into the shoulder to take a phone call or adjust something in the car without looking, someone swerving to avoid some random piece of junk in the road, all these things happen every single day.

    That being said, I’m not judging the mom and I don’t think she should have gotten a ticket. But I dont’ think this one is as clear-cut as a lot of things we read on here.

  99. kcs December 19, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    My guess is that a lot of people who remember walking to school at a young age walked with an older sibling or older neighbors. Also, back in the day, lots of kids walked to school and drivers were more on the alert for young pedestrians.

    I witnessed an awful traffic fatality a few years back involving an octagenerian pedestrian. My completely unscientific estimation would be that an 86 year old and a 5 year old would have about equivalent capabilities to deal with busy traffic. I wouldn’t have a five year old walk to school alone in a high traffic zone. Alone on quiet streets, maybe. Through traffic with a capable older sibling or neighbor, probably. But not alone. Even so, I don’t think a ticket and neglect charges are approriate.

  100. Uly December 19, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    N, Ramona Quimby walked to school alone (or with her friend Howie) in kindergarten too.

    Once her mother even left her alone in the house for 15 minutes, telling her to make her way to school on her own. (She was late – she thought a quarter hour was 25 minutes, because a quarter is 25 cents.) That was in the 50s – in the previous book, her older sister left her, at four, unattended in the playground while she (Beezus) went to an art class.

  101. kcs December 19, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    @Uly, I used to work in the neighborhood in Portland where the Romona books are based. It is still very pedestrian friendly and was even more so in the 50’s and 60’s when the early Romona books were written. So that may not be an equivalent situation to the one in this post.

  102. Jim P. December 19, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    “Even though she makes her son wear an ORANGE VEST AND HELMET so as to be as visible as possible ”

    Boy is *he* going to need therapy when he grows up.

    One heck of a lot of people are going to assume he is retarded and of the class that falls down and hurts himself a lot and will treat him accordingly.

    When I was 5 I walked from “nursery school” as they called it then to kindergarten and I am legally blind.

    Sans helmet and warning vest etc.

    I hope she gets a good lawyer and wins, be interesting to see what case law is used on both sides in this.

  103. Sky December 19, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    “5.5 is not too young to be walking to school alone”

    It’s not if the streets are safe. But if the routes are labeled “hazardous”, if it’s so dangerous that the mother feels it necessary to put a vest and orange helmet on the kid, and if it involves two very busy intersections that don’t have any crossing lights, then it’s really not a safe walking route and I certainly would not allow my 5.5 year old to walk alone. That’s all I’m saying. I might let my 5.5 year old walk a mile alone – but not THAT mile. And I might let him walk that route with older siblings, but not alone.

    That said, I don’t think that the government should feel they have a right to tell a parent what to do or not do with regard to their own children. Unless they are abusing the kid – beating him, not feeding him, not clothing him, etc. – parenting choices are not the government’s business.

  104. Lola December 19, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    What really nags me about all this is the assumption that, as the street is busy, then certain citizens (too young, too old, too slow or too small) shouldn’t be allowed to cross it alone.
    It does surprise me the young age this kid is expected to cross the street properly. I know my kids are just not up to it. Then again, I don’t have six kids, one of them with cerebral palsy. I don’t even live in the same continent, so I can’t really relate.
    Anyway, what I find really frustrating is that speeding cars and distracted drivers are considered inevitable, almost a fact of nature. I know this is really out of topic, but driving lessons should start by making drivers aware that they are riding a 1 ton projectile through populated areas.

  105. escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw December 19, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    Five is NOT to young to walk to school. I walked to school at this age, and it required crossing a main road, and walking by an empty lot from an old gas station, full of rocks and stuff that attracts kids like flies. it was a mile or so,no crossing guards and I didn’t wear orange.

    Let me remind everyone that says five is too young that kids this age WORK in other countries, to provide for themselves or their families. In other countries these 5-7yr olds kids FIGHT WARS, and even though this is a disgusting, terrible thing, it shows that kids are only as helpless as you treat them. Even in the USA, kids had real responsibilities at this age, until maybe 50 years ago.

    I do think kids should be in school and not working or warring, but people need to remember these things to put “danger” and kids abilities in perspective.

    Whomever wrote the ticket should be ashamed of themselves. Walking is not dangerous, and it seems to be the ONLY option. what is she suppose to do, drive him? NLot everyone can do this.

    And CPS needs to find something better to do with their time if they are involved. There are REAL abused kids that desperately need those services, stay the hell away from kids with loving families that just parent differently than you do. JERKS!

    Where can I write a letter? Can we collect money for the ticket?

  106. escaped to Mexico aka staceyjw December 19, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    finally read the comments:
    @LRH- I almost always agree with you, your comments today we ere hilarious. I would pay for the lions to eat the nosy busy bodies myself, lol.

    @sirpeacock- You are a rude troll. who the hell are you to judge her for having what’s not even that large of a family by many peoples standards. I bet you love the Duggars…. are you perfectly fit and handsome? if not, why not? JERK.

    @Legalfund-great idea.I would donate. we should it up. email me, I will help: staceyjwsolarATgmail

    @MARTY- Yes, you are 100% right on this- many schools are nothing but mini jails.Even ones with no problems are doing insane things like having drug sniffing dogs and cops around. When they find nothing, it does not stop them! I don’t care what anyone says, this is WRONG and trains kids to find these actions acceptable when they are not OK at all. The US is turning into a police state, ini many places, thanks to overzealous police, racist policing and enforcement, nine laws, zero tolerance, and a much lower bar for what’s “abnormal”- combine this with societies disdain for personal responsibility and you have a MESS. I live in Mexico, and am not too far from where the real drug war is raging- and kids are not treated this way, even though some ARE in gangs.
    Where I grew up in Ohio, it was a free range paradise,and kids could be kids without worry of prison time, unlike my DHs school in TX. of course, Im white and middle/upper class. if I was black, it would have been miserable, as Ohio is very racist with policing.

    The woman doesn’t have to let another parent drive.,I wouldn’t. I think this is more dangerous than walking, and she would always be dependent on, and indebted to, the neighbor.

    I HATE nosy, busybody people who think that we should all act like the Cleavers, with no regard for reality.

  107. Kimberly December 19, 2010 at 5:08 am #

    Why was the school allowed to cut the bus service? I’m in Texas and school bus service is mandated by law, if the student lives more than 2 miles from the school, has to cross a 4 lane road, or a road over ?MPH (I think 40).

    There 650 – 700 kids at my school. Most ride the bus because the school has two 4 lane roads with 45 MPH limits bordering it.

  108. JLM December 19, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    I have an 11 year old sister that is in the 5th grade. the other day my mom had to drop her off at school 5 minutes before the school the doors opened. We live in south florida it was about 45 degrees outside and the wind made it feel colder which for us is pretty cold but she was bundled up. well my mom got a call from the principal a few minutes later saying how concerned he was that she had been dropped off and made to stand in front of the school in that weather and that she should have taken her to the before school care which would have charged her $10 for the day since she is not pre registered. My mom was so she wanted to tell the guy that she has 3 other kids that have survived till adult hood just fine. When i was in kindergarten the school bus let us off at school before the doors were open and we had to walk to the outside door that led to our hall way and line up outside until school started at nine

  109. Cheryl W December 19, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    If, as many are saying, the road is so dangerous, why are the cops not policing it? It is near a school, if people are distracted, due to cell phone, kids, radio, life, then they are the ones who need the ticket.

    Again, no one said that the kid was behaving dangerously. Someone else was following the kid, probably creating a traffic hazard themselves (and they should have gotten the ticket.) If they were not creating a traffic hazard then the road is slow enough at that time of day that a visible and well trained child could navigate it. And by all accounts, this seems to be a well trained child, and was highly visible.

    Unfortunately, this is also the consequence of budget cuts. When one agency steps back on safety stuff, then others must step up. In this case it is the police who need to step up and ensure that the roads are safe for the school children who no longer have access to busing.

  110. Melissa December 19, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    @ Kimberly…. the district could cut the route because by law it was under the mileage required to provide a bus. It was a “hazardous route” and only bussed because I’m sure of the non-sidewalks, but it was less then the required mileage for busing by law.

  111. julie December 19, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    we would have all been taken into foster care had we been being raised today,,,
    one day my day was watching the three of us age 7,5,3 while my mother was at work …when the police pull up and knock on the door there they were with my little sister! “Sir are you missing a kid?” my dad said “Oh she was on the back porch riding her trike I can hear it squeaking” they go back there and my three year old sister had told the neighbor kid ride her trike while she took off to 7 -11 to buy an Icee.. lucky the guy at the counter recognized her and the cop that was in there said “Ill take her home”. Three Saturdays later They bring Debbie back again!!! “Stan ya got keep an eye on this one” So My dad learned to keep a closer eye on “the runner” and everyone in the neighborhood knew that she liked to escape…And would send Debbie home when she showed up .

  112. Nickie December 19, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    I would like my children to become more independent, and as such I allow my Y2 child (same as 2nd grade I think, aged 7/8) to walk halfway home. Soon he will be able to walk all the way home – some of the roads are very busy, so I am approaching it slowly and teaching him to read the dangers. We don’t give our children enough chances nowadays to be independent and become streetwise. There is a culture of paranoia which is stifling a generation of children! We need to relax and let our children live and enjoy their childhood!

  113. Jen C. December 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Julie – same thing happened to me as a kid. I was four, and wandered off across a field behind our house and to the Burger King. The workers gave me some food while they waited for the police, who just took me home. They didn’t reprimand my mom or anything. The gate had been accidentally left unlocked. It was simple oversight, the thing that happens with parents all the time. Nowadays, they would have called CPS and taken me and my brother away while my parents were being investigated. My, how times have changed!!

  114. SKL December 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Yes, my sister walked out of the house early one morning when she was just over a year old. Everyone else was asleep, and she had figured out how to work the lock. Made some cereal, pulled on some extra jammies for warmth, and set off down the street. The cops found her and took her to a neighbor who knows everyone around, who pointed them to our house. Cops delivered her to our door. No threats or admonitions. It was sufficiently clear what had happened and what needed to happen in the future.

    I do shudder when I think of how that incident would end up if it happened today.

  115. North of 49 December 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    I think she should turn around and counter sue the school district for canceling the bus service. If she’s negligent for “making” her son walk, then the school board is just as negligent to all the kids who have to find alternative transportation since they canceled the routes.
    As for the kid’s vest etc… I think its a bit much, but, then again, drivers are blind and don’t even see construction workers with their vests, lights and machines, a small child with a vest and helmet would be unnoticeable by a speed freak.

  116. Kimberly December 20, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    @SKL about 3 years ago a young relative did the same thing – except we think she might have been sleep walling. It was 3 am, and a neighbor at first thought it was a doll in the front yard. He decided to pick it up and put in on the porch because it was going to rain.

    It was 3yo relative – fast asleep on the lawn. He picked her up and went to the door – which was open. So he stood there ringing the door bell till he heard an adult in the family moving around (probably cursing at the door bell at 3 am). Then the neighbor called out that he had found their daughter outside asleep.

    To answer the question why not just go inside if the door was open – This is Texas.

    No-one called the cops or CPS. Relatives did get an alarm system. They debated a keyed deadbolt first, but the wife vetoed it because of a childhood kitchen fire she remembers.

  117. m December 20, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Marty, that’s a pretty baseless accusation. Public schools, private schools, and homeschooling are all very good options depending on the student. The public schools here are top notch, and I received a wonderful education from Kindergarten through grad school. Public schools manage to teach children from all socioeconomic classes, needs and abilities. As usual, a public school can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse-they have to deal with all sorts of students.

  118. Dean December 20, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Both Linda’s and Larry’s comments made great sense. I agree with Linda – I believe 5.5 is way too young for this route as explained. But I also see Larry’s point as to where the line is – does a parent get to make the decision?

    Here’s what I took away from the article: this mom clearly didn’t want her kid walking at all (preferred bus). If no bus, she clearly had issues with the route – not safe, etc. So my question is, why is the default “well, okay, it’s not safe but I’ll just roll with it anyway?” I have a child this age, as well as multiple nieces/nephews, and of course i know a lot of kids that age. None of them have any business in that kind of situation – NOT because I think they’ll be abducted, but because I don’t think MOST if ANY 5.5 yr olds can be rational, careful, and appropriate in that kind of situation.

  119. SKL December 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    About the mom’s willingness to “roll with it” even after fighting for a bus / safer route. Shortly after my youngest’s 3rd birthday, her teacher started sending home a pretty significant amount of homework (considering the age). At first, I flipped out. I cribbed about it on various Web forums. I wrote a page-long letter to the teacher basically saying that she was nuts. But after giving it some thought, I figured out a way to work it in without offending any of my principles, and pretty soon I was looking forward to the next stack of homework. Thing is, sometimes when you’re pushed into something, you figure out that it’s not as bad as you thought it was going to be. Sounds like she took her son along the route several times and got comfortable that he could indeed manage it on his own.

    Frankly, it’s not that different from what we want more parents to do – let your kid go to the park / climb on the playground equipment / attend a birthday party without Mom hovering, even if that’s outside of mom’s comfort zone before she tries it.

  120. SKL December 21, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    I also think we have to beware of the temptation to base culpability on whether the person knew some risk existed before the incident. If you send your kid to school thinking “she’s so smart / big, nothing can happen to her” and something does, are you less culpable than if you thought, “I know there’s a small risk of her getting hurt, and some community-based safeguards would be helpful, yet I think the benefits outweigh the slight risk, so I’ll send her”?

  121. Marty December 21, 2010 at 1:37 am #

    M- Please help me out and tell me what I’ve said that’s a ‘baseless accusation’. Also, please explain your criteria for ‘the public schools here are top notch’. Comparing school spending to buying a car- you might have a nice sedan, but what could you have purchased for the price? Do your schools not participate in DARE? Do the schools in your district not have drug dogs search the schools? Are kids’ vehicles subject to searches without cause? How much is spent per pupil?

    In light of the articles brought up just on this site, I’m curious as to how anyone can conclude that my concerns are ‘baseless’. In this area, we’ve had a police department send undercover officers into schools posing as students, ‘just to look around’. An open-ended investigation in a school that the administration bragged, ‘Doesn’t have drug issues.’ How would you feel if your kids brought a new ‘friend’ home who happened to be a cop conducting an investigation? Recently, the supreme court ruled in favor of a girl who was strip searched because she was accused of having ibuprofen in her possession.

    The schools aren’t treating these students with respect- they’re trampling their (our) rights. In a few years, these students will be cops, prosecutors, and judges. Do you think they’ll think twice about trampling our rights? This is how they were raised. We already have DUI checkpoints, SWAT raids for poker games and routine warrant service, checkpoints inside our borders, passport requirements to travel to Canada and Mexico, etc.

    You say, ‘a public school can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse -they have to deal with all sorts of students.’ I think the schools are the sow’s ear.

  122. Linda December 21, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    Marty, any time you make sweeping generalizations, you end up looking ignorant and play up the fact that you lack any of sense of perspective. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that SOME public schools are substandard, but there are plenty of excellent public schools in this country and it’s idiotic to try and paint them with the same brush as the poor ones. OF COURSE people are going to call you out when their experiences with public school haven’t been even remotely like anything you attempt to portray. It sounds like you live in an area with poor public schools. Since it sounds like you have a certain passion for the issue, I’m wondering what you’re doing to change that? Let me guess, sitting in front of a computer complaing and telling everyone to homeschool. Schools often reflect the communities in which they exist. I think the public, alterntive K-8 my three kids go to is excellent, and I spend lots of time volunteering there and doing things that help and support the community, teachers, and administrator. and I’m certainly not alone. My children are excellent students, and for the older two, I chose this program above having them in the traditional school’s gifted program, because the alternative program was more in line with my beliefs about community service and fostering a love of learning.

  123. Linda December 21, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    “police dogs are common in schools” LOLOLOL. I missed this one the first time. Really? “Common.” You might want to avoid the hyperbole if you want to be taken seriously. 🙂

  124. Kimberly December 21, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Marty the district I work for does not use DARE for exactly the reasons people on this board have a problem with it. Instead we have a program developed between the school and the county. It focuses on living healthy and obeying the law.

    Children shouldn’t drink because it isn’t good for growing bodies and it is illegal. Adults can drink because our bodies can process it, but we shouldn’t drink to excess and shouldn’t drive impaired.

    Illegal drugs are illegal

    Legal medication should be used as prescribed/directed. If they make you feel weird tell your parents.

    What do you do if someone tries to make you keep a secret from a parent (not stranger danger hard to describe in a post but he makes it clear that he is talking about anyone adult, fellow child, family, friend. of family.

    What to do if you are out with friends and they shoplift or otherwise break the law.

    I’ve asked coach, who used to teach at the HS about drug dogs. They don’t do general sweeps, they are brought in if specific students are suspected of dealing.

    Good teachers and principals were outraged by the girl who was strip searched. It gives us all a black eye.

    How about instead of condemning all Public School Systems you try changing the one you live in.

  125. Matt L. December 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    I’m not sure if Chicago Public schools actually has buses. I see kids on the el all the time. Remember how all this started – public transit and kids?

  126. m December 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    M- Please help me out and tell me what I’ve said that’s a ‘baseless accusation’. The fact that you are unusually harsh on public schools while ignoring the very real negative aspects of both homeschooling and private schools.

    Also, please explain your criteria for ‘the public schools here are top notch’. Comparing school spending to buying a car- you might have a nice sedan, but what could you have purchased for the price?
    Actually, homeschooling is by far the most expensive option. My super expensive public school costs around 15,000 per pupil. A homeschooling mother (and it’s usually a mother) loses both pay and retirement to stay home teaching, as well as not contributing to society in his/her specialty field. This can cost between 35,000-150,000 per year in lost wages and benefits. Also, if everyone homeschooled someone would have to teach the kids whose parents have to work out of poverty. That would be either the govt. or another homeschooling parent who has the means to stay home.
    Do your schools not participate in DARE? Possibly. Do homeschooling parents utilize techniques that are not optimal?
    Do the schools in your district not have drug dogs search the schools? NO.
    Are kids’ vehicles subject to searches without cause? No, the school is “In Loco Parentis.” but they need some cause, just not at the same level as a cop.
    How much is spent per pupil?
    15,000. That includes special education students. Homeschooling would cost me about 70,000/year to stay home and school them.

    Also, how many people homeschool their kids to hide the fact that they are abusing them? You can point out the flaws of a public school, and I can very easily point out the HUGE flaws in homeschooling. Both have negative and positive effects.

  127. Marty December 22, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    M- If you choose to spend $70,000/yr on homeschooling, that would be your choice- we homeschool and I know quite a few homeschoolers and I’ve never heard of anyone spending $70,000. Of course, I’ve never heard of anyone only factoring in loss of salary and not the savings realized. A number of people have flexible employment or own their own businesses and realize no loss of income. It’s their choice, though. I understand it’s not perfect, but it’s a great option to limit govt intrusions into your life.

    In a previous life, I ran over 15,000 911 calls- I know what I’m talking about. Schools do safety ‘lock downs’ to practice drills in case intruders enter the school, while the classrooms are locked down, K9 units ‘clear’ the halls. On numerous occasions, marijuana has been found.

    The problem with DARE, is that it’s a propaganda machine that hasn’t had any positive impact on drug and alcohol abuse. It sells itself as ‘The DARE program is the most widely used substance abuse prevention and safety promotion curriculum in the world.’ But, it’s not held to any scientific standards-


    Let me be clear- I’m IN FAVOR of public schools. I want all of our kids to succeed. We need to figure out a way to compete with the rest of the world- our students are lagging behind everyone in the civilized world, despite our spending more than anyone in the world.

    If there was limited federal involvement in local schools and a voucher program available, we’d revisit public schools. We could shop for a school that wanted our business, instead of being trapped in our school district. We live in the most affluent county in our state- this is not an inner city issue.



  128. Daria December 22, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    I left a comment when you first published this article, but it also spurred me to write a post on my blog – I’d love your thoughts. I did refer back to this article and Free Range Kids.


  129. Ralphinjersey December 22, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    Makes perfect sense to me: Budget cuts force them to eliminate buses then fine parents who let their kids walk. Pretty soon they’ll collect enough in fines to restore the bus service!


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