Parents Out to Get This Pre-K Teacher for “Endangering” Their Kid

Dear Readers — Take your chill pill FIRST. Then read on:

Dear rtbnttydak
Free-Range Kids: I’d like to tell you about a recent experience of mine and would love to get your feedback.
I am a mother of three children and a preschool teacher at a small, private preschool in my town.  About two weeks ago, my class of four-year-olds was marching in from the playground.  We routinely do this about five minutes before dismissal time.

The line leader on this particular day was a very bright, outgoing girl.  Unfortunately, I did not notice that, upon re-entering the building,  she did not turn into my classroom but marched right past it, rounded the corner and started walking down the main hallway of the school where parents were lined up to pick up their children.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, my assistant and I  had just seated ourselves on the rug with our other students to sing our good-bye song, when my missing line leader and her mother appeared in our doorway.  I am certain that the entire event could not have lasted more than two minutes.

The mother was visibly outraged with me for not noticing that one of my students was missing.  I have tried talking with her twice about this, her husband has complained to the director of the school, and they have threatened to send a letter to the school board.  The idea of her daughter being unsupervised in our school hall is absolutely unacceptable to this mother.  Instead of using this as an opportunity for her daughter to learn, she has refused to speak to her daughter about it.

My parent teacher conferences are tomorrow and would love to know your thoughts on how I should deal with this situation. Thanks — S.

I don’t suppose you could put those parents in a time capsule back to an era (perhaps 15 years ago) when two minutes in the school hallway by oneself in a secure location was not considered the end of the world? Or remind the parents that on a planet where something like a quarter of the population subsists on $2 a day, their child is safe and warm and fed and even getting an education, despite the fact she’s a girl! And she is not in a war zone, and not in a famine, and not eating dirt for dinner or being sold to the local warlord for a sack of rice and a skinny goat.  So to treat her tiny, nay, microscopic non-adventure as an outrage shows, if nothing else, a lack of perspective and gratitude so GET A GRIP!

I’m not sure that’s precisely the tack to take, so, readers, if you have any better ideas, I’m sure this teacher is eager to hear them. — Lenore

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78 Responses to Parents Out to Get This Pre-K Teacher for “Endangering” Their Kid

  1. Leila November 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    The fact is these parents pay a lot of money and that gives them entitlement. They are angry that things aren’t perfect (whatever perfection is, in their minds), and they will take that anger out on this poor lady.

    If she wants to keep her job, she needs to eat humble pie. Maybe she’s getting a message from the universe that there is a better life, away from angry people (at least away from being dependent on them), in store for her…

  2. shortylion November 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    I think this is another example of rampant narcissism in our society. How dare you not notice MY CHILD!!! is probably what this mother is thinking. Since I’m on my soapbox, I’d also wager there is a subconscious guilt going on in these parents head since they work and leave their kid in pre-school . So to make up for it everything in this child’s life has to be utter perfection.

    But what to do in a situation like this? Where I live in CA, there are job rights and if these parents decided to make a stink I would threaten to sue everyone around me. That would probably make people back off a touch. Other than that, would I eat crow? I’d like to think I wouldn’t but it’s hard to say if you’re not in the situation. I’m guessing appealing to their logical side will just make these parents madder. Or maybe you could come from a teacher angle? Say, hey parents, life is full of teachable moments and you are teaching your child to way overreact!

  3. Helen November 17, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    S. I’m very sory you’re being put through so much stress for such an insignificant incident. I hope it all works out well.

    On the practical side of how you can handle this I would say the mother is scared about what *might* have happened. I think the key is to remember that from her perspective her kid wandered out of school and nobody seemed to care. At first she’s just going to your protestations that it was only two minutes as bluster to cover yourself. I think the best way to reassure her is to focus on all the things you have in place at the school to stop bad things from happening even when she is out of direct sight of an adult, along with emphasizing all the things that a little freedom can do to benefit the child. Those leadership opportunities are priceless for the child – she’ll get a huge amount out of them. And if you can show that you have processes that would have highlighted that the girl was missing a few minutes later and let the mother know what you would have done she may calm down a bit.

    I certainly hope so, and I hope you have q good enough board that you’ll get apropriate support if she doesn’t.

  4. Karen November 17, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    My guess is that once you had sat down to sing your good-bye song, you WOULD have noticed that Miss Adventurer was missing. One of you would have gone to investigate and would have discovered her about 90 seconds later than her mother did. Non issue.

  5. Alexicographer November 18, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    For me, this would be a non-issue. But honestly? The parents of this little girl are paying for a service and have a right to have their expectations met, or to retract their business. So — was this your misunderstanding (you didn’t know that parents expect their kids never to be out of sight of a staff member), their misunderstanding (the parents didn’t understand that such oversight is not the approach of this particular preschool) or a mistake (you knew that their expectations and school philosophy expect oversight, but failed to accomplish it)? If the first or third, you need to apologize for the misunderstanding/mistake and to be able to articulate how/why you will prevent this from ever happening again; if the second, it may be worth discussing whether this is the right place for their DD to be enrolled — perhaps not a discussion to have with you, but with the school administration.

    It seems obvious to me that the child wasn’t ever in any danger, but I’m not sure that raising this point will be helpful in meeting with the parents.

  6. Bernadette November 18, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    I say sit there, let them vent, listen, mirror their feelings. Just like you would with a toddler having a tirade. Talking them out of it won’t do anything. Just mirror their feelings. And at the end say something like your points.

  7. Beth November 18, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    Here’s the thing. A teacher did that to my kid at preschool day camp when she was 3. My kid wandered outside. Granted, it’s not a dangerous town and is very suburban. But, the part that bothered me was the teacher was very vague about it. “I guess she just slipped right by me”–in a way that was not reassuring at all.

    The school is in a synagogue. It could have taken a long time to find her. (My son has caused me to search that place for over 30 minutes before–on my watch!) So, while I think the parents are overreacting about sending a letter to the school board (that’s going a little too far), I do think that part of a teacher’s job is not to lose track of the students. Especially where the teacher really didn’t know where she was at all (and seemed a little nervous).

    Some of the dangers at our school include: a disabled ramp with a cement wall/ledge that the kids like to walk on–it is actually dangerous. A sure-footed kid feels invincible, but a fall is straight down to a concrete parking lot. No kid has fallen that I know of, but typically someone is there to prevent the kids from walking out to the most dangerous part (about 15 feet high). And, that wall is always where my kid would head. She was not there yet. Nothing happened; she was just outside the door. I did appreciate the apology from the teacher who thereafter understood my kid’s strong desire for independence (whom we also told never to leave without being dismissed)…and we all moved on–no letters to the Board.

    Anyway, I think the teacher might be feeling attacked and defensive. Yes, the parents are overreacting–especially in not talking to the kid. But, I would overreact more if I thought I was getting brushed off with a defensive response. A simple apology, and I will do my best not to let it happen again, should defuse the situation.

  8. LauraL November 18, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    Perhaps I would be distressed with the teacher not knowing where my child was, but at the same time, I’d be having a teaching moment with my child about following rules and going to the classroom as she knew she was supposed to do. This is *SCHOOL* – she is supposed to be learning about and following rules, and she didn’t .

    Still – the teacher is not a machine with a scanner for a brain. She is a human and the child WAS NOT HARMED. Perspective, people.

  9. sonya November 18, 2009 at 12:27 am #

    Something similar happened to my daughter when she was in preschool. Because she stayed for the afterschool program, the kids would line up in the classroom at the end of the school day, and then either go out to the playground, or go downstairs to the playroom. She was at the front of the line, and went down to the playroom instead of going out to the playground with the other kids. Some time later one of the teachers cleaning up discovered her crying downstairs (she was only 3, and had only recently started preschool). The teachers were very apologetic, and changed their procedures to check off all kids against their list whenever they changed location. I didn’t make a fuss, I think they were horrified enough at what had happened, and they definitely blamed themselves and acted on it. It did take a few days for my daughter to get over it though.

  10. Kyle Mayhugh November 18, 2009 at 12:33 am #

    The issue here doesn’t seem to be that the child was unsupervised for two minutes. This wasn’t a planned, teaching moment in which the child is trusted to go into the hallway on their own. The issue is that the teacher lost track of the child and didn’t seem to notice.

    Sure, the child turned down the hallway in the school. She could have just as easily wandered out a door and into traffic. I’m all about free-ranging, but a four-year-old isn’t equipped to handle that.

    I’d probably deal with it better than the parent in question did, mistakes happen and I’m not going to try to get someone fired over an honest mistake. But I wouldn’t be particularly pleased, especially if the teacher brushed it off as no big deal.

  11. Joan L November 18, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    I think Helen hit it on the head. The parents are not looking at it from the teacherly perspective (“it was only for a moment, we would have noticed her missing as soon as we sat down,” etc.) — in their mind it’s all about what could have happened. When you, the teacher, try to explain that it was really “no big deal,” they will just hear that as making excuses and as you not caring about their child’s safety. Furthermore, if you try to lecture them on free-range kid issues, they’ll interpret that as you criticizing their parenting, which is NOT what they want to hear from you, especially when they already think that you’re in the wrong!

    So, unfortunately, I just don’t think this is the time to try to change these particular parents’ minds about free-range parenting. They aren’t going to be able to hear it right now, especially from you. I think your best bet is to suck it up and apologize and try to reassure them, and maybe reopen the conversation later after the emotions have faded.

  12. aliasmother November 18, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    The problem isn’t whether the teacher was right or wrong (she seems to indicate that she knows a mistake was made), the problem is that the parents are escalating the situation beyond what seems reasonable.

    I like the approach of Sonya’s preschool and it may work to diffuse these parents, who seem hellbent on being offended. Tell them that you are using the experience a chance to review your procedures regarding moving children from place to place –maybe instituting a head count upon re-entry to the room, or thinking about where the teacher stands when the kids walk back in in order to provide maximum view.

    I used to work in customer service and have vast amounts of experience dealing with people who are ready to march every minor wrong to a lawyer. I can only assume these folks have never made an error in their entire lives and are personally offended that some of us might not be so perfect. In those cases, the best solution that I have found is to make them feel that their [inappropriate, but whatever, you don’t have to say that] reaction has caused a change. It implies that they are right, even if nothing that you do indicates that you agree with them. It implies that action is being taken, even if that action is minor or ultimately non-existent. The key thing to remember is that they will never admit to being wrong or reactionary, so your job is to diffuse the situation and get out of it alive. I assure you that this kind of person will never, ever, in a million trillion years say, “You know, you were right. She’s safe and sound and that’s all that matters. Thanks for the perspective.”

  13. Krista November 18, 2009 at 1:04 am #

    I think the real question is, how does your school director expect you to handle it? Is the school on your side? If so, then stand your ground. But if the school is catering to the parents then you won’t help anything by angering them more.

  14. somekindofmuffin November 18, 2009 at 1:08 am #

    I honestly don’t think there is anything that can be done. These parents will stay angry. I would recommend that maybe you let them talk. Hear them out. The more the talk the more they will feel listened to and the more they will calm down. Don’t be too defensive. Seriously. Try not to talk a lot. They want to know their concerns are being heard.

    Plus remember, as Gretchen from FOX has told us-2 min in a school hallway and your kid could be abducted by a UPS guy.

  15. Heather November 18, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    Here is my take.

    Do I think the parents overreacted? yes

    Do I think that in this situation that is relevant? not really.

    Let me explain my reasoning. This is a private preschool, I am assuming that the parents are paying a good chunk of change for their child to go there. I believe that in this case because the parents are paying you to watch their children you need to do what the parents think is appropriate, not what you would do with your own children.

    I let my preschool aged children (2 and 4) out in our fenced in backyard all the time without me being out there with them. I know that they are safe and I check on them quite often. Would I do the same thing if I was watching another persons child. Never in a million years. it is not my child. I don’t think anything will happen to them, but the parents may not feel the same way.

    Like I said earlier. I do think the parents overreacted, but telling them that is only going to make the situation worse. In this case I would just apologize assure the parents that it won’t happen again and move on.

    I would also, when the parents are not present, go over with the whole class the rules about being a line leader again. Making sure that all the children understand that they go directly into the room and not to their parents so that you are sure a situation like this doesn’t happen again.

  16. Evan November 18, 2009 at 1:11 am #

    This would raise red flags for me. This one particular incident obviously isn’t a big deal… but I would expect a professionally-run preschool to do a head count when kids come inside from the playground, I would expect procedures to be in place for locating stragglers, and I would expect the fact that a kid was briefly unsupervised to be communicated to the parent at the end of the day. In point of fact, all of this happened to my own child once, and I was fine with it, because they way the school handled it showed me they were taking their jobs seriously.

    By contrast, the way this event was described suggests a lack of preparation for predictable variations in the routine that I as a parent would find off-putting. It’s not that I’d be worried about this particular thing happening to a kid; it’s that I’d be wondering what other routine precautions the school hadn’t bothered to take.

    I wouldn’t be trying to get the teacher fired, though, I’d be insisting on a procedural review, and if I didn’t get it, I’d looking for a different school and sending a report to the NAEYC. The director of the preschool sets the tone for the teachers, and I get the impression that the director of this preschool is doing a poor job.

  17. Brian November 18, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    The detail that is missing for me is if the child did wander out or even could have. The point is that if you are in a relatively secure school, then locating a missing kid is an issue of locating that kid *inside* the school. That’s a whole different issue from locating a kid who has left the building.

  18. Tobias November 18, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    There were two adults in this situation? Why couldn’t one have taken the front of the line and the other taken up the rear so all kids could be properly supervised? I find it a bit unsettling that two adults managed to lose track of a child during a short, routine walk from the playground.

    The child was safe, I understand that. The parents very likely over reacted. However, I would not be comfortable with a preschool where losing children — children walking in a line where they’re easily visible, no less — is considered acceptable. Lose track of my kid for a few minutes on the playground, fine. They run and can be hard to spot. This was a line. It’s rather difficult to lose a child while walking in a line unless you’re paying attention to something other than your job.

  19. Sky November 18, 2009 at 1:53 am #

    I do think the parent is overreacting, but I also think that in a preschool (where we are dealing with 3 and 4 year olds and student/teacher ratios that do not generally exceed 1:8), it is not good form not to notice that a child has wandered off while walking down the hall, and to still not notice it once one has entered in the classroom, and to still not notice it once one has sat down on the rug. As a previous poster has said, it’s not that I would be afraid that “something horrible could have happened”; it’s that I might be concerned that this was a sign of a more general lack of competence on the part of the teachers and/or school.

    But I don’t know. I’m not a preschool teacher. Perhaps a preschool teacher could tell us if this is common? It seems to me the preschool my kids went to had checks in place (i.e. head count at least) specifically to ensure this didn’t happen.

    I probably wouldn’t have said anything at all to the teacher myself, but in my head, I honestly might be thinking – really, you didn’t notice? There’s like 12 kids in this class and 2 teachers, and this is your job, and NEITHER of you noticed her running off down the hall to the wrong location, even after you got in the classroom and started to sit down? What else aren’t you noticing? I just might be thinking that. But unless it or something similar happened AGAIN, I probbaly wouldn’t say anything.

    On the other hand, I remember being left behind on the school playground many times after the whistle was blown in elementary school, and then doing that sneak of shame back into class…knowing full well I, as the delinquient student, would be the one in trouble, NOT the teacher. But there is a difference between 3 and 7 year olds when it comes to burden of responsibility.

  20. Taking a Chance on Baby November 18, 2009 at 1:57 am #

    I would wonder why we aren’t lecturing the preschooler on not following the rules?

  21. Meagan November 18, 2009 at 2:16 am #

    @sky First, a 1:8 ratio with 2-4 year olds is much more chaotic than it sounds, and second, I think when it gets down to actual ratios (as opposed to quoted ratios, which often include staff that rarely interact wih the children, to make it sound better) preschool ratios can be closer to 1:10 or even 1:15, depending on the school. I agree that it’s hard to imagine losing a child from a line, but kids are really good at vanishing.

    That said, I think the teacher’s best course is to apologize, and as the others have said, listen. Also really liked the suggestion of “we are reviewing the way we move children between classes,” though I’d avoid getting into specifics.

  22. Heather Q. November 18, 2009 at 2:19 am #

    I agree with many of those who have posted that I would be annoyed as a parent. If *I* make the decision to let my child be free range, it will be with parameters and at a time when I am aware of what is happening. This is not really free-range, it is a “lost track of” issue. And while losing track in my own yard IS fine, the parents who are paying have the expectation that their kid WON’T be wandering without their permission.

    The parents are overreacting, but the teacher needs to apologize, accept responsibility, do a head count as the kids go into the classroom, and talk to the kids about following directions.

  23. Socialwrkr24/7 November 18, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    It is so interesting that this is your story today -because a similar incident happened to my friend the other day. Her son (age 2) was actually left behind at a public park that the daycare he attends takes the kids to at recess. The teachers only got about halfway down the block when it was realized – but by the time the teacher ran back to the park, the police had been called.

    My friend was obviously upset that her child was left at the park – however, after meeting with the teacher and daycare director and hearing the circumstances, she decided that the teacher was not in any way negligent. Situations happen and my friend believes that her son is generally being well taken care of – thus there was no reason for it to go any further.

    In a daycare/preschool setting parents should be well aware that there are probably 5-10 kids per adult (depending on age). There is no way that a teacher can be watching YOUR CHILD every second of the day.

    Hence, the reason that teaching them everyday life and safety skills are so important!!

  24. Kara November 18, 2009 at 2:59 am #

    Maybe I’m in the minority here, but as a parent of pre-K child, but I expect stuff like this to happen to a reasonable extent. Meaning, not a daily basis or even a weekly basis, but once in a while. I also expect my kid to follow the teacher’s rules about staying with the group, and I expect my teacher to tell my kid those rules. And I expect the teacher to teach my kid what to do in case of an oversight. Go back to classroom, go to the main office, or find a teacher and ask for help—these are all reasonable plans for a four-year-old to commit to memory.

    I’d like to think the best of the overreacting parent, that their anger was really based in fear rather than indignation and self-entitlement. Maybe a reminder of what their child is capable of and the back-up plans in place would help the situation? And if the child broke a rule already in place, a request for reinforcement by discussing the rules at home may help the parent feel like they are in control again.

  25. Jen M November 18, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    I agree with many of the comments regarding this as a middle-of-the-road situation. As a parent, I would not have reacted the same way as these parents did. Brief moments of losing track of a kid are inevitable in situations like these, and I DEFINITELY think that teaching the child what to do if something like this happens is very important. However, I also agree that head-counts when changing locations with large groups of children are very important. I know at our day care they count heads coming in and out of classromss, playground, etc. That way if you lose one in transit, you know to go look for them. I know that it would be possible for my daughter to walk right out the front door of our day care in the right combination of circumstances. I doubt there’s a pre-school so secure that it couldn’t happen there as well.

    So, this teacher should think about how her classroom procedures could be changed to improve the chances of discovering a missing child sooner, or resolve to follow the procedures better if they’re already in place. She should appologize for the situation and suggest a remedy. The parents should also chill, but the teacher doesn’t have any control over that, so she should not dwell on it.

  26. K November 18, 2009 at 3:23 am #

    I happen to be married to the pre-k teacher above. The pre-k teacher did not mention all the details, but she did apologize to the mother and does care deeply for her students. The pre-k teacher did count heads when they lined up after playing on the playground and before they marched back into the school.

    At any rate and despite the details, can we trust that our society and culture is safer overall? While no one likes to hear it, especially parents; humans are human. What happens when our humanness shows up? What then?

    Also, to balance things out, our youngest child was let off at the wrong bus stop at the beginning of this school year. We had a new bus driver. Thankfully, a friend and his mother picked our son up and brought him home. The next day, the principal called and we assured him everything was alright. We weren’t upset and didn’t dramatize what happened. The principal informed us that the bus driver had been counseled about the situation. Throughout the situation we supported the school.

    Is anyone allowed to learn from his or her mistakes anymore? Are people allowed to be instructed by the natural consequences of a situation? I know my wife has learned a thing or two.

    I am thankful for Lenore and this blog.

  27. HappyNat November 18, 2009 at 3:26 am #

    The teacher screwed up. It is her job to watch the children and one got away from her and she didn’t notice. She should “try talking with them about this”, she should accept responsibility and apologize.

    The parents may be overreacting about the danger the child was in, but they have a good reason to raise a complaint.

  28. Peter Brülls November 18, 2009 at 3:38 am #

    To the “they paid good and could expect that their kids are not let out of sight for two minutes”-people: Sorry, you are wrong. If you expect that kind of supervision, you need extremely small groups and people would basically pay a nanny. With any a group it’s simply and literally impossible to keep a mental watch for all kids on such a scale.

    Yes, you can get this kind of devotian and concentration. Look at what people laying undersea cables get – including fully paid sick days if they only remark about a little headache.

    Point is, it was only two minutes within the building. Their kid will experience many much more dangerous periods w/out supervision back at home, whatever fantasies their parents harbor. Others already said it: It’s entitlement – which, in my experience isn’t at all connected to either the income of the payer or the height if the bill.

  29. Drew November 18, 2009 at 3:45 am #

    It would be a good opportunity to remind the parent of the partnership between school and parent.

    It’s quite logical to assume that the child never would have gotten out of line had there not been a parent waiting in the hallway. The girl would have marched back to the classroom as always. So you have a kid who is either going to be with the parent or with the teacher — hence, no endangerment. Gee, that was easy! : )

  30. Zie November 18, 2009 at 3:50 am #

    If I were in the situation, I would firstly apologize and sympathize with the parents. “I’m very sorry we had the unfortunate situation of __kid’s name___ being momentarily missed in the classroom. I can understand how this must be very upsetting and cause you to worry that supervision may not be meeting your expectations at all times.” or something like that.

    I’d continue by expressing what happened, how she would have been missed in the next few seconds except that, having wandered into the area with waiting parents, she was found by her mom first. Also explain any other security measures in place that would have assured her safety… “I understand your concern, but I know you must realize that small children can be very lively and also distracted and sometimes make mistakes, like forgetting to turn. Our procedure is ____ and sitting down for our good-bye song to check that every child is present. We would have seen in just moments that she was gone, but, of course, because of teh direction she took she found you instead. The school also has __(weighted doors, alarms, gates, etc) in place to prevent her from wandering far, and she was absolutely in no danger. ”

    Lastly I would say that you are reviewing your procedures for moving kids from place to place (even if the school isn’t doing it formally, I bet the teacher has already even in her own head!) and assure her that because 4 year old being distracted and missing a turn isn’t entirely unexpected, you have methods in place to compensate and this situation is rare and won’t happen again. Also emphasize that it’s important to reinforce rules at home, so while the child shouldn’t be punished, it’s good to review the rules and emphasize the importance of staying with her group and knowing where she can go if she gets separated, both to help her function at school and to make sure she learns these important skills to apply to the rest of her life.

    Take the parent’s concerns seriously and try to stay off the defensive, but also reassure them that the school is safe and that the parents have a big role to play in helping their daughter to follow rules.

    However, this is just being diplomatic. Obviously you didn’t do anything wrong, the only reason this is an issue is that she happened to march right to where her mom was before you had a chance to headcount and react.

  31. Renee November 18, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    My children’s school is Pre-K to 8. The ratio is 1:10 for Pre-K, if a teacher assistant is out, then 1:20. If a child disobeyed and instead went off, the child would be reprimanded not the teacher. It’s not the first month of school, the little girl knew the routine back to the classroom. If that was my daughter, she would of had a green smiley face turned to a yellow neutral face beside her name. Even if at dismissal time and I found my child wandering, I would be more upset at my child (not angry upset) not the teacher.

    I’m a mere volunteer librarian at my school, I do my best to count and keep kids in check. It’s hard when a five year old is doing a pee-pee dance and I can’t let them use the bathroom out of protocol. Sometimes I use one classmate as their buddy/hall monitor. Just was reprimanded by another volunteer for letting a 3rd grader go without a buddy. She threaten to report me. So I know I’m going to get lectured.

  32. clarkbeast November 18, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    On a couple of occasions, my wife and I have momentarily lost track of one (or both) our children, and we have a 1:1 supervisory ratio! These things happen from time to time. On a simple good/bad scale, this incident rates a “bad,” but a sincere apology should be enough. To accuse the teacher of negligence seems both unwarranted and (probably) hypocritical.

  33. jim November 18, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Kara, et al are right – kids are very good at wandering off. I was about 3, I guess when I disappeared in Macy’s because my mom was shopping (the reason we were in the store in the first place) and trying to watch a very active and curious little boy at the same time instead of giving me her complete, undivided attention. Within 30 seconds she was frantically searching for me; within 90 seconds a sales clerk noticed an untended toddler; within 2 minutes the PA boomed “Will the parent of the little boy in the red jacket please come to…” No big deal, no guilt trip, no cops – it happened all the time.

    Someone mentioned “private pre-school” and “entitlement” in the same breath. Exactly. Among the affluent in Houston – and I am sure everywhere else – the private school your kid goes to is as much a status symbol as house, neighborhood, and car. When you casually mention “St. Ralph’s” (made that one up) everyone in the conversation knows how much the tuition is just as they know to the dime how much your Porsche Cayenne cost. It’s not that St. Ralph’s will increase the kid’s chances of getting into Harvard (chances are, he or she is a legacy admission anyway); it’s being able to brag that you can afford St. Ralph’s.

  34. Nicole November 18, 2009 at 4:06 am #

    Unfortunately, I have no sage advice. I find those people so hard to deal with and that’s actually one of my biggest fears if I ever decide to go in to teaching.

    In fact, when I was interviewing for a teaching fellwoships, I was asked how I would handle a student who was disruptive (middle/high school). I said lots of things like redirecting, ignoring and the interviewer kept pushing me, ‘what if that didn’t work??? what would you do next?” Then I said, I might ask teh stduent to go for a walk (in the building), too cool off. She said, “That’s unsafe to have kids wandering the halls!!” I couldn’t believe my ears! We were talking about middle school/ high school kids. They get water, go to the bathroom, bring things to the office, ALL ALONE! But having a student take a 60 second walk to gather control over themselves was unsafe. Sheesh!!

  35. G November 18, 2009 at 4:11 am #

    Are we kidding here? This is an upscale town and this school is in a church ….. a teacher lines up the kids outside, marches them in…. if you could understand the parent pickup at this place, you would fully understand that there was no way that this kid would ever get lost, as they walk right into the parent pickup location where EVERYONE knows each other… this is THE lowest risk situation you could possibly imagine.
    Tell the parents to get a life, seek counseling, and be nice to one of the nicest and caring humans I have ever met….
    Again, if you knew the setup at this place, you would know how ridiculous this entire situation is….
    So my advice to you at the meeting would be to:
    1.) Say hello
    2.) Let the people vent at you
    3.) Talk to them about the child’s progress
    4.) Let the people vent at you more
    5.) Talk to them more about the child’s progress
    6.) And never ever think about these people again – but of course, pray for them, as this is the church-thing-to-do

  36. vonmises November 18, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    Be polite and be happy that you are NOT them. Imagine thinking there is a boogie man behind every water fountain.

    As Johnny Fever said, “If they are really out to get ya, paranoia is just right thinking.”


  37. Sarah November 18, 2009 at 5:20 am #

    I had a similar event recently. My 6 year old daughter, in grade 1, followed me out into the hallway after I had some business in her classroom in the morning. I said goodbye to her, as she was reluctant to have me leave. We were one classroom away, by the door, and I watched her happily head back down the hall way to her classroom and then I left.

    I didn’t wait to watch her walk in the classroom door.

    Well, about 15 minutes after that, I had a call on my cell phone from the school secretary, saying that the teacher was wondering if I had taken my daughter with me! About 2 minutes later she called back to say that they had found her hiding under the hung up coats in the hallway, apparently nervous about going back into the class room.

    I’m a pretty relaxed parent. I read this blog. I trust the school (it’s a great school). I even trust in my daughter’s abilities, in an age appropriate manner.

    But that two minutes was a very long time, and I was very much on edge for the rest of the day. It was a heart stopping kind of a moment.

    End result – I apologized to the teacher, her teacher apologized to me, we had a discussion with daughter, teacher also talked to daughter, and apparently it was educational for the whole classroom.

    As far as this situation goes, I think the teacher needs to apologize harder, and explain whatever safety procedures there are in place. “Your daughter probably would have been safe, even though we lost her for several minutes, and we probably would have noticed her missing soon” is not what this parent is looking for! The parent is looking for some recognition of this being a problem, of this being something that is being dealt with, and that safety is a concern to the school and the teacher.

    Something else – if the child was the line leader, why didn’t the rest of the line follow her? Didn’t they notice her going on? Did any of them think to mention this? This may make for another education opportunity – looking out for each other, and telling the teacher important information.

    Everyone can learn from this. Turn into education, not a battle. And tell the mother that she’s right, that it’s important that the teacher know where the children are. Acknowledge her fear, and celebrate that nothing happened (only after that is acknowledged, and celebrated, could one turn to how unlikely it is that something might happen).

  38. A November 18, 2009 at 5:27 am #

    I would like to say this was just a misunderstanding can happen to anyone

    have a nice day S

  39. Nicola November 18, 2009 at 6:35 am #

    I think, Sarah, the important thing is that you all sat down and talked. Communication is the absolute key here – something doesn’t doesn’t seem to be happening in the other situation. 🙁

  40. Sarah November 18, 2009 at 6:48 am #

    Nicola, you’re quite right, communication is important. There’s something about the teacher’s message, though, that’s striking me as possibly being the issue that the mother is having:
    “The idea of her daughter being unsupervised in our school hall is absolutely unacceptable to this mother. Instead of using this as an opportunity for her daughter to learn, she has refused to speak to her daughter about it.”

    The daughter is 4. I think that any learning opportunity isn’t going to be for the daughter, but, rather, the teacher should indicate to the mother that the teacher and the school is going to learn from this.

    If you google for how to apologize, there’s a wiki how link that comes up that says this:
    “Take full responsibility for the offense, without sharing the blame with anyone else and without presenting mitigating circumstances–an incomplete apology often feels more like an insult. An apology with an excuse is simply not an apology. It may very well be that other people or circumstances contributed to the situation, but you cannot apologize for them; you can only apologize for yourself, so leave them out of it.

    Realize that there are no excuses. Do not try to think of or offer one. An apology with an excuse is not an apology. Take full responsibility for what you did. And if the person you apologize to doesn’t accept it, then they do not deserve it, but do not take it back and still say ” i’m sorry.”

  41. Susan November 18, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    I know this is pre-k and all, but did the child not know better than to walk right by the classroom? Shouldn’t there be some responsibility placed on her? Was she not given the proper instruction as where to turn? Not like she needs to be severely punished or anything, but still….

  42. Renee November 18, 2009 at 7:21 am #


    Agree, I mentioned it was not the first week/month of school. At some point routines are expected. My children see me at school when I volunteer, they’re young (5 and 7). They know they just can’t disobey the rules to go to the library or the copy room, if they did, it would be age appropriately handled.

    Of course we have to handle the parents and how they perceive the situation, but hopefully the teacher may be able to discuss policy with her principal. Maybe in the beginning of the year, have a handout to parents of what is expected of one’s preschooler behavior. So everyone is on the same page.

  43. Brenda November 18, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    A similar thing happened to my 3 year old son at preschool and honestly it never even occurred to me to yell at the teacher and my instance was much worse. My son decided to come home and just left the school and he tried to walk 2000 feet down the side of a mountain on a snowy day to get there. The school noticed his absence at once but never thought he would leave the building. A member of the small community found him and returned him to the school. The same school now has child safe doors installed, and my son was chewed out by me, and the school.

  44. AnnMarie November 18, 2009 at 8:12 am #

    I’m the mother of a child who used to attend a private preschool. For starters, you don’t have to pay a lot–where I come from all preschools except Headstart are private, and we didn’t pay all that much (a few hundred a month for 3 mornings a week). But secondly, from the time she was in the 3 year old room, children went to at least one other area of the building completely on their own (or with another child). There was an art room that any kid could go to at any time that the art teacher was there. For one class, it was right next door, for others, down the hall or around corners and halls. By the time they were 4, they went to the bathroom by themselves, again down the hall and/or around corners on their own (2 & 3 year olds had a toilet off their room). They had to ask to leave the room, of course, but no one escorted them to these places.

    Parent totally over-reacted–it was a hallway, in the school, where lots of parents were! I’m sure the child would have returned to the classroom moments later herself. If my daughter had done this, I wouldn’t have even thought twice that it might have been the wrong thing to do.

    And boy do I wish we could find that same preschool out here where we moved. We miss them! But I guess their methods fit pretty well with ours–very laid back.

  45. Shakti November 18, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    There are sometimes customers whom you realize would be best for your business if they were complaining about someone else’s business, and since they will ALWAYS find something to complain about….

    I only hope this teacher’s supervisors have come to this same conclusion about this family.

  46. Sandy November 18, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    I like your answer, Lenore. I’d use that one.


  47. Judi H November 18, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    How do you lose THE LINE LEADER?

  48. Alana M November 18, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    I would point out that I wish you knew where my child was and then I;d get on with my life…

  49. Christopher Byrne November 18, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    The little girl very likely disobeyed the teacher, who was probably rounding up the stragglers to make sure they were all INSIDE the school, which is presumably safer than being outside.

    The reaction of the solipsistic parents is why my teaching days are long behind me.

    Had the parents not been waiting, her absence would have been noticed in a very short time. The assumption has to be that the school is a safe place. I know when a child wandered off from me, he was returned by a colleague with a “you lost this” as a joke. There were enough adults around whose job was the WELFARE AND EDUCATION of the kids that something like this was no big deal.

    It’s a natural “adventure” that a 4-year-old will go on, to push boundaries as 4-year-olds do. Particularly, when she feels safe in a school. However, I come from that prehistoric era where the teachers were respected first and foremost, and we were taught to respect teachers. As a kid prone to this kind of antics, my parents let me know in no uncertain terms that the teacher was in control, and I was out of bounds.

    (Still, I know my best friend David to this day because we were sent out to “think about” what we had done in a similar disobedient event. We sat outside the classroom plotting the overthrow of the school.)

    The bigger issue is that the child’s mother apparently put on a show of utter disrespect in front of the child. What does that model? And, there was never any assumption that the child might have willfully tested how far she could go.

    While the teacher should keep an eye on her charges, she is human. No harm was done, and a teaching moment about respect, following rules and understanding what it means to be part of, and responsible to, a group was lost.

    What have we taught this little girl in this? I shudder to think about that.

  50. Marcy November 18, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Goodness. From the time they started preschool at 3, when my sons know I’m waiting for them, they have more than once wandered down a hallway and out to where they know I’ll be. Usually, within a couple of minutes someone comes to get them and says “What are you doing here? Get back to the classroom”. It always happens in a similar circumstance, walking back to class — they catch a glimpse of me or just know it’s that time, and out they go. I have always viewed it as a humorous situation — “Don’t you need to go back to class!” and send them on back if I see them before the teacher does. Kids have minds of their own and are usually smart enough to know where their parents are.

  51. Cheryl November 18, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    Oh for pity’s sake. The administrator of that school should back up the teacher and tell those parents to take a long walk down a short, unsupervised hallway. And the administrator should also sit in on the parent conference.

  52. TJ Young November 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    I would like to start by telling how it once was a few years ago when I was in school and how we were sometimes disciplined when we didn’t behave in the classroom. I, on many occassions was put out in the hallway, with my desk to sit and think about what I was put there for. There were no cameras in the ceilings at the time, no police roaming the school, just me and my desk all alone out in the hallway unsupervised. I certainly wasn’t considered to be at risk.

    Now, after having shared that story, I’d like to propose a challenge to the perfect parents of this child. I challenge them to put cameras up in their home, to monitor and protect their child as they seem to want the school to do. In one respect, the cameras will be there to help ensure their child’s safety with continuous surveilance( no negative impact there, right). In another respect, I think the cameras will offer some insight as to how they, as parents, sometimes leave their child unsupervised, perhaps at times when they shouldn’t, not like what they are speaking of with the school.

    thank you

  53. Jen Connelly November 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    I don’t get parents today. If that had been my child I would have marched her back to the classroom and made her apologize to the teacher for not following instructions and wandering off and then she would have been in trouble at home because she should know better.

    All these stories I read all I can see is all the passed up opportunities to teach kids about personal responsibility. All this mother did was teacher her daughter that it’s not her responsibility to follow the teacher, it’s the teacher’s job alone to make sure she does things the right way. Huh? My youngest is 3 and perfectly capable of following the rules and when she doesn’t she gets in trouble for it (should have heard her screaming tonight when she got grounded to her room until bedtime because she broke her sister’s glasses in half).

    I actually had a bit of an issue with one of the teachers at our school last year. My oldest was in 3rd grade and volunteered to help her teacher out at an open house. All 3 kids brought home permission slips and all of them wanted to do it but because of the timing of the demonstrations we would have ended up being there all day so I told my oldest she could do it because she asked first and I signed the paper but not before I talked to her about responsibility and what it meant for her to turn in the slip. It meant she couldn’t back out and had to go through with the open house because her teacher was depending on her.

    So, of course, the day rolls around and she flat out refuses to go. She throws a complete tantrum and I tell her if she doesn’t go she will disappoint her teacher and her classmates. She doesn’t care. So she was grounded the rest of the day and I told her she would be writing a letter to her teacher apologizing for not showing up when she promised.

    At the open house we ran into her teacher and my son told her the story. She just smiled and said, “oh, that’s okay, it’s no big deal,” and then told my son in a cheery voice that she didn’t need to write any letters.

    I held my ground and told her it was nice of her to be so forgiving but my daughter would be writing that letter because she broke a promise and has to take responsibility for it. She looked at me like I had 2 heads. I guess 8 year olds don’t have to be responsible for their actions in today’s world.

  54. Ben November 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Kindergartners can go to a private school now? Those kids should be playing to their heart’s content. I wonder why any parent would spend so much money on that.

    Anyway, the parent clearly overreacted. The kid was inside the school the entire time and I doubt they’d get outside without anyone noticing. Also, this happened in such a short time span, that the teacher in question didn’t actually have enough time to react to the situation.

    Maybe some of those chill pills should go to the parents.

  55. shawn November 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm #

    It is the teachers’ jobs to keep track of the kids. In fact, it’s pretty much their main responsibility. I think this is symbolic of a family that has probably been upset by other things this teacher has done and this is the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak.

    I have experienced a center much like this with the defensive, laissez faire attitude by an unprofessional staff. And, since I have twins and pay more than $1,000 a month in child care, yes, I want to know that my concerns are taken seriously. I don’t think it’s entitlement at all. It’s a service and unlike returning something at Target, there is a no-money-back policy. That means staff needs to work at the relationship with the parents so that they may trust in the caregivers.

    If that trust is not earned, it will never exist. I took my girls out of that crappy center and now don’t care if they run the halls because I TRUST the staff in their new center — mostly because they respect my concerns about my children and take everything I say seriously.

    I would be embarrassed if I were the teacher and lost track of a kid — not proud of being some rogue teacher teaching free range kids. That’s a parents job, not a preschools.

    That said, I’m upset by this story not because the girl was by herself — she needs to know that’s not right — but because the teacher is not taking responsibility.

  56. max November 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    kids are going to do what the want to sometimes.unless it was a mistake and the girl just sort of kept walking. (gosh that must have been embarrassing) or mabey the girl was like ‘oh hey! theres the dismissal line! hi mom! whichever way it went, i highly doubt it involved the teacher dangling the little girl off the side of the building by a rope.endangerment? bah!

  57. Shannon November 19, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    There’s a lot of nuttery in this comment thread. The kid–as kids tend to do–decided to round the corner of a school building instead of going back to her classroom, saw her parents, and ran to them. At what moment was she in any danger? Do you really think that if her parents hadn’t been waiting, someone wouldn’t have caught her before she decided to go play dollies in the local crack den? In what universe does it make sense to think about suing a teacher because your kid decided to act like a kid and survived her two minutes semi-alone in a school hallway?

    Those of you Mommy types who are all, “OMG I pay so much money, like, if the teacher’s eyes aren’t trained on *my* kid at EVERY POSSIBLE MOMENT THAT SCHOOL OWES ME A MILLION BUCKS!” need to re-evaluate whether you really understand the concept of free range. Start by trying to think about whether anyone would have made a big deal out of this 20 years ago. No. The kid would have been reprimanded for not following directions, the teacher might have felt a little bad but realized, sensibly, that she can’t help an occasional moment of toddler-flakery, and everyone would have moved on. Nobody would have expected that their tuition money entitled their kids to a personal bodyguard and perhaps a three-person entourage to make sure that they didn’t take a little joy ride through the hallway of a school, *just about the safest place in the world you can be, even if there hadn’t been a flotilla of parents waiting nearby*. The person who pointed out that kids get lost with a 1:1 supervision ratio is right on, and those are your kids. But by all means, if you’ve never made a single parenting mistake, and never lost track of *your own child* for a single moment in an infinitely more dangerous public place and honestly think that this will never happen to you, continue to throw your little prissy stones at this teacher. I’m sure that in some hormone-enhanced Mommy Bizarro world, she deserves it.

    Sheesh, I expected better sense here. I think it’s time for all of you who see this as some sort of unspeakable act of neglect to either re-think your priorities and possibly your entire philosophy, or get yourselves over to If you’re going to stay here, you should be aware that rationality and reasonableness are the prevailing winds, not narcissism and entitlement.

  58. Sky November 19, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    “Start by trying to think about whether anyone would have made a big deal out of this 20 years ago. No. The kid would have been reprimanded for not following directions”

    I wonder–would the kid even have been in preschool 20 years ago? I don’t remember kids going to any kind of school prior to the age of 5 when I was growing up. This seems like no big deal on the surface, and probably is no big deal, but dealing with 3 year olds is different than dealing with school-age kids, and I think parents tend to be more protective at that age (not that this wasn’t an exaggerated reaction).

  59. Helen November 19, 2009 at 3:59 am #

    Well they didn’t call it pre-school but nearly 40 years ago at the age of 3 I went to “playgroup” when my mother was working. We seemed to do most of the things kids in pre-school today seem to do, including walk in a line from the yard to the classroom.

  60. Mary November 19, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    Of course, the teacher should supervise her charges closely, but it sound like the parents have WAY overreacted, and are telling their little princess that she is not responsible for making the wrong choice. It should be interesting to see what they do when she makes other independent decisions with negative consequences. No doubt they will “rescue” her, and find someone else to blame for her choices. The teacher should make herself available during conferences, but does not need to go out of her way to confront the parents.

  61. MommyMItzi November 19, 2009 at 5:05 am #

    If this had my child (and I HAVE had a similar situation occur), I would have reprimanded my child! At 4, they know they’re supposed to stay in line. She knew school was almost out, that mom was waiting around the corner and went to mom rather than back to her classroom. She DIDN’T go wandering around the school, she headed straight to mom, which is key! The mom should have marched her kid back to the classroom, and sternly said, YOU ARE TO STAY WITH YOUR CLASS, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

    That said, I’ve noticed that the teachers at my kids’ preschools often do counts–15 kids left the building, 15 kids in line back into the building, 15 kids enter the classroom, etc. This is a simple way of keeping track. So, perhaps the teacher can start doing that.

    But the parents have a much larger issue on their hands if they continue to teach their children that if the child doesn’t follow the rules, the teacher will suffer the consequences. Not a good parenting move, to say the least… (And, dollars to donuts that if this continues, the kid will end up pregnant, in jail, etc. some day.)

  62. Alexicographer November 19, 2009 at 5:07 am #

    @Sky — yes, absolutely. 4 decades ago my mother found childcare for each of me and my brother from the point when we were 2 months old so she could return to work. Initially we were in a home-based setting with a few other kids and later in church supported daycares. It’s not a new invention (neither are working mothers).

  63. Sarah November 19, 2009 at 5:19 am #

    Can we agree that everyone was in the wrong here?

    The child shouldn’t have gone past her classroom.

    The mother shouldn’t have overreacted.

    The teacher should have know if the line leader was missing.

    The issue then becomes how to best communicate with each other, so that everyone’s working towards the same thing.

    At this point, it seems like both the teacher and parent are blaming each other – one for over-reacting, and one for under-reacting. Something needs to happen to help the two of them communicate. I think that it would be an apology, and not trying to convince the mother that the free-range lifestyle has anything to school supervision levels.

    I’ll be interested to know how the face to face meeting went last night, and if they were able to communicate in person.

  64. LindaLou November 19, 2009 at 5:37 am #

    Hear, Hear, Sarah! You’re the voice of common sense on this one.

  65. DairyStateMom November 19, 2009 at 7:10 am #

    I’m sorry, but my sympathies are entirely with the teacher on this one. Mommy is way, way, way overreacting, and Little Clementina needs to be reminded that Teacher is boss. Mommy not only overreacted in the first place, but has rebuffed Teacher’s efforts to have a face-to-face conversation about it — not once but twice.

    Speaking from personal experience, there’s nothing more disheartening than to be complained about by someone who won’t have an honest conversation with you about the source of the complaint. It’s even more disheartening when no one was harmed and no one got up in the morning and asked herself “Gee, how can I endanger Little Clementina today?”

    If, against all odds, Mommy actually TALKS to Teacher at the conference, Teacher can apologize for “making Mommy upset” (note: NOT for anything Teacher did — Teacher didn’t do a damn thing wrong!) or for “causing Mommy anxiety”. Other than that: I’m sorry to say that I don’t think anything is going to make Mommy happy here. And I love Lenore’s idea of telling Mommy to get a grip. Except that my version inserts various profanities into the sentence, which even I admit helps no one.

  66. Jessica Reid November 19, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

    I am disappointed by the notion that some people have shared in that a 4 year old is too young to be accountable in this situation. 4 year olds are not babies but it really seems like society treats them that way. They are very bright and can are capable of quite a lot if given the opportunity and respect to do so.

    I have a 4 year old and if she did this my focus would be on working with the teacher to help instill a better understanding of rules, respect and accountability for *my* child to her teacher, her classroom and the rules.

    The idea that a 4 year old can not be held responsible for getting to class is, for me, the biggest issue. Do we expect slip ups, of course. Their kids and they’re going to act like it. But the goal is to instill in the child that he/she is perfectly capable of following simple rules and we as adults have all the confidence in the world that they are bright enough to do. It is amazing how our expectations on what a child is capable of will directly effect what they believe they are capable of.

    I share the sentiments of another poster. I am sad that respect for teachers really seems to have disappeared in a lot of circumstances. I can’t even wrap my mind around blaming the teacher for this situation. Had the child made it outside I would hold more concern for protocols and at that point serious consideration and a serious apology would be due but even then the chances are that no real risk would have been posed to the child because of x,y, z.

    I think it would be more appropriate (all though not realistic in today’s world) for the teacher and admin to sit down with the parent and daughter, go over school rules and advice them that if they were not able to follow them then they will be asked to find a new preschool. Ha. Obviously that is a bit harsh but why oh why do we teach children that adults are responsible for them and their well being. It has so many disastrous effects.

  67. Lola November 19, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    If they gave me a penny every time my son’s teacher misses him, I would be millionaire by now! Fortunalely for her, I know what’s it like to be in charge of nearly 30 3 yo, plus I know my kid is a pig-headed little bugger. It’s not that he runs away, but he just doesn’t get that he has to wait for everyone else before leaving for lunch, recess, class, or whatever.
    Actually, there was an accident involving a kid his age not long ago, and everyone at school (teachers, secretaries, janitors, even the Principal) thought at first that it was my kid trapped there. For once, he wasn’t. Casually, my husband was getting the children that day and he, too, thought it was his boy involved when he saw the police, the ambulance and the firemen crowded around the place. The injured kid is ok now, btw. No charges pressed, either.

  68. Shane November 20, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    Gotta agree with the people who are sharing the blame on this one.

    Mommy needs to calm down and teach her child about following instructions and what to do when she finds herself alone.

    Teacher needs to grow up and admit she made a mistake. Do a simple count when you get into class and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It doesn’t matter that the child was 100% safe. What matters is that your job is to be responsible for the children while they are in your care and you failed at that.

  69. Jenny November 20, 2009 at 7:35 am #

    I’m wondering about their classroom procedures. Our preschool (which is free to low income children) does a headcount before entering the school from the playground. And since they have a teacher and an assistant teacher in each class, one is at the head of the line and one at the end. How hard is that to do?

    Personally, I would be a bit upset myself. I do expect preschool teachers to keep a close eye on their students, moreso than a typical elementary teacher does. They’re younger, with less understanding, and slightly more propensity to wander off. Not EVERY kid is ready to walk the halls at school at age 4. I wouldn’t trust my 3 year old son to cross the hall to the school bathroom without wandering off yet, but my daughter could have done it quite well at the same age, and she did.

    Free-range is about allowing your child to do what they’re ready for, not pushing them to do what they’re not. And NOT about allowing others to determine that for you.

  70. Doug504 November 20, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    The teacher was responsible for this child 100% of the time and failed at that duty. A unreasonable standard? Maybe. Unfair? Maybe.

    But that’s the standard that applies when you take responsibility for someone else’s child. I’m pretty sure the school motto is not “We watch them 99% of the time”.

    This is a group of kids walking in a line with two adults watching. And neither adult noticed a kid just walking away?

    As others have noted there are several easy ways to avoid this situation.

    Should the child be reprimanded or reminded of the rules? Certainly. But 4 year olds are still learning about responsibility. Adults are supposed to know better.

  71. Haeleigh November 22, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Most posters here miss the MOST important point.

    The child REFUSED TO FOLLOW directions.

    It is natural for the parents to be concerned about what happened to their child. However, given the circumstances, they should blame the child, first and not the teachers.

    All the other children who led the group during previous marches followed directions. So, the teachers, basing things on past experiences felt it was okay to stay in the classroom and prepare for the next activity (the goodbye song).

    No one should be blamed but a change in procedures should take place – maybe one teacher watching the march while the other prepares the song?

    And finally – NEVER trust a three year old!

  72. Elizabeth November 23, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    My 2 and 4 year old go to a private Montessori school. The Montessori philosophy is of course all about letting them discover and learn on their own.

    However I cannot IMAGINE them losing the line leader. Whenever the 3, 4 & 5 year olds in the class are walking out to the playground or to music (I have observed) the assistant teacher is in front of the line but to the side watching the kids. The feel free but they are watched. In those moments that is the entire focus of her job. Kids this age are impulsive. My son in particular is a runner BUT the teacher has the class under control and they know the rules.

    They walk by a parking lot to get to the playground. I would not want a group of kids led by a pre-schooler doing that without “active” supervision.

    I don’t know how I would react but I would definitely be shocked that it happened. My first instinct would be to admonish my son for straying. In our school everyone would be apologizing to us.

    As parents, we all know how this could easily happen but there is no excuse when your paying someone to do a job, care for your 2, 3 or 4 year old, and they lapse. The kids safety is their job, you entrust them.

    Our kids play with other kids in the neighborhood. They push their own carts in the local grocery store and I let my four year old out of my sight in the store to go get specific items. He loves it. We do other age appropriate free-range things.

    Do I let him go to the pond, one house away from our house? No, he can’t swim and he loves to lean over and fish. Someone needs to be there to fish him out.

    The teacher and the school need to reassure the parents that there is a system in place to keep track of all the kids, explain how it happened and apologize.

  73. LaToya December 14, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    I’m sorry but I am a mother of 8 children ages range from 15 to 9 months and I personally do not blame that parent. First this is a private school so they are paying for a quality education for their child. Secondly this isn’t 15 years ago. We live in a society of sex offenders, murders lurking to get that one chance to grab your child. Instead of getting defensive I first would have put myself in the shoes of the parents. I know my twins teachers does a head count when they leave and return from the class. Teaching children is a big responsibility. I myself think they would have reacted differently if your response was more empathic and giving them a plan on how this would not happen again. I would have been ten times as worst.

  74. LauraL December 14, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    LaToya, you do realize that this is an enclosed school and the only other people there were other parents – not kidnappers. You are aware of the chances of a child being kidnapped by a stranger, right? If not, I suggest reading the book before you scare yourself to death.

  75. clarkbeast December 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

    LaToya, I think statistics don’t bear you out . . . there was more crime of the sort you describe 15 years ago. There just wasn’t the same sort of wall-to-wall scare-the-pants-off-you media coverage–or the pervasive helicopter parent culture.

  76. [email protected] [email protected] December 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    Good morning
    It’s nice to visit for the first time to your site. Hopefully we are willing to accept introductions from Indonesia.
    if you do not mind so good as a visit behind

    Happy Nice day


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