School Accidentally Lets Kids Walk Home Alone!

Readers — I can understand this fyhsbinidn
father’s misery
: He told the school he’d be picking up his 5 and 8 year old sons late. The school got the message bungled and dismissed the kids, who then walked home the two miles by themselves, without anyone else realizing it. It took three hours to figure this all out, and after that everything was fine.

I totally get that the dad was shaken. I’d be, too. But, as usual, I do NOT get why this is a news story, with every anguished “What if?” of the dad’s reported in detail: “If I would have lost my kids, I would have been a mess,” Jackson said.

But…he didn’t. They were fine. A little weary from the adventure, but competent, plucky, unharmed.

So is the idea to shame the school? Or tantalize us with how terrible this COULD have been? Or make us even more worried that some day something could go wrong with OUR kids, so we’d  better set up even more safeguards?

Or was this simply the classic slow news day? I just don’t know. – L.

Not that long ago, kids walking on their own was not a news story.

Strange but true: Kids walking on their own was not always a news story.



50 Responses to School Accidentally Lets Kids Walk Home Alone!

  1. hineata October 7, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Pardon my ignorance, but I thought Hartford Conn. was one of those little whitebread ultra-safe communities? Conn. (which I can’t remember how to spell and am too lazy right now to look up) always comes across as such.

    Actually, I see the boys are African American. Given what we learnt about racism and the ethnic divide in history classes, wouldn’t these particular boys be safer in this sort of town now than in, say, the sixties?

    Am not even sure if Conn. is North or South, but I gather ‘good ol’ boys’ were fairly rife all over the place……

  2. BL October 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Conn. is N.

  3. hineata October 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Ta BL:-) .

  4. Eileen October 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    It’s a news story I’m guessing because the father called and reported it to them. He’s described as angry. This is the time if year that schools are ironing out transportation issue and there are always stories on our local news about children left on buses, left at wrong bus stops, etc. Parents contact news channels when they don’t get satisfaction from school/transportation offices. It probably doesn’t help things overall, but an individual gets satisfied.

    As you said, his concern is justified. It was 3 hours later and he couldn’t find them (it doesn’t take anyone 3 hours to walk 2 miles). When he did reunite with his family he was upset. That’s hard.

  5. BL October 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    One comment on the story: “This is not the 60s. It’s 2013 we’re talking about.”

    Oh, yeah, the 60s were just idyllic. Like they say, if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t really there.

  6. lollipoplover October 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    “The boys told Eyewitness News they were never told their dad was running late and so they decided to walk home themselves.”

    So they made a decision to walk, then completed the walk (2 miles is not much), and arrived safely but somehow this is news? OH MY GOD THEY COULD HAVE GOTTEN A BLISTER.

  7. Missy Homemaker October 7, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    I can understand the dad being upset. What I can’t understand is why it took him 3 hours to figure out that his kids walked home 2 miles. I don’t feel this should really be news.
    My kids walked over a mile home from school every day last year. I didn’t freak out when one of them was late, but I did go looking for him. I certainly didn’t call the news and wouldn’t have even if it had been a lack of communication.

  8. Jenna K. October 7, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Lenore, don’t you ever get tired of the fight? Sometimes reading all these things makes me exhausted with how ridiculous everything is. My kids told their pediatrician that mean old Mom makes them walk to and from school, hoping to stir up her sympathies. I was a little afraid she’d come down on me for “putting them in danger”, but instead, she looked at me and said, “Way to go, Mom! That’ll keep them in shape and healthy!”

    By the way,I just saw this:

  9. Dee October 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt only b/c they didn’t know the boys walked home, only that they weren’t at school. It does remind me of when my first grade friends and I got lost on the way home from school. This was the Seventies and actually the police were ultimately involved, so maybe parental reaction is not that different.

    I will also say that Hartford can be pretty dicey, depending on where you are. It does go to show that you NEED to show kids how to walk home just in case. (My friends and I only got lost b/c an older girl was supposed to bring us home … and brought us to her home in a different neighborhood.)

  10. Wendy October 7, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    It took 3 hours to find them because they didn’t go home, or maybe they went home and couldn’t get in:

    “They were found in a park near their house more than three hours later.”

    So, not only did they walk home, but they played in the park unsupervised! I DO understand the panic from the parent and the school. From their point of view the kids simply disappeared. It deserves some attention re: the school procedures. But it’s not newsworthy.

  11. Donna October 7, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Actually they didn’t make it home. They were found playing in a park near their house 3 hours later. Who knows how long they were playing in the park.

    The thing that struck me about this story is that I don’t imagine that a free range kid would have been missing for 3 hours. Kids who have been given reaponsibility make better choices. I think my child, also 8, would have enough sense to stay at school and wait if she knew I was coming to pick her up and wasn’t there at dismissal time. I also believe that she’d know to come home and stay there rather than stopping by the the local park for a couple hours if she did decide to walk home rather than wait for some inexplicable reason.

  12. Peter October 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    I think it’s the “A Government Screw-Up That Could Have Ended in Tragedy!” And angry parents always make good stories.

    By the way, here’s what it looks like. Pretty decent neighborhood. Not much for reported crimes.

    One issue is that the kids didn’t actually walk home–they were found in a park near the home. Whether they didn’t know how to get home or not, I’m not sure. So I can imagine the Dad getting a bit frantic–“They’re not at school, they’re not at home, where the heck could they be?!”

    Still, sounds more like the Dad is playing it up for sympathy points–and for the possible lawsuit later on.

  13. Warren October 7, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Dad is just trying to deny his part in all this. His part being parental failure. Why, if the norm is being picked up, would these boys just decide to walk home?

    The normal scenario would be to just wait until Dad showed up. These boys have not been taught what to do in the event that Dad isn’t immediately there to pick them up. Not giving them instruction is the primary problem. And that responsibility lies completely on Dad’s shoulders.

  14. Brandy October 8, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    I’d have been upset as a parent enough to have a sit down with the principal.. I wonder if the media was involved because police were notified. These examples point out exactly why it’s important for parents to teach safety to their kids. They should know to stay at school unless instructed otherwise by a parent, the route home, and how to contact a parent by phone, and not to go to a park etcwithout parental permission

  15. Reziac October 8, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    He didn’t ‘lose’ his kids. A little common sense would have told him right where they were.

  16. lollipoplover October 8, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    The dad is at fault here- he was late picking his kids up from school. The call he made to tell school administrators he was late clearly wasn’t made early enough to get the kids the message amid the dismissal craziness. His kids should have waited. They decided on their own to walk.

    Dad needs to sit down with his kids and talk about following directions and what backup plans they have if things don’t go perfectly. Not sit down with a news crew and make his kids out to be imaginary victims of “what if” crimes.

    Do the kids face any disciplinary action for walking off without permission? I know we want to blame schools for everything that is wrong with our kids, but most of what went wrong here was on the parent/child end.

  17. Donna October 8, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    “He didn’t ‘lose’ his kids. A little common sense would have told him right where they were.”

    Really? I’m not sure that common sense would tell me that my kids must be in a park near our house when they are supposed to be at school 2 miles away. Home would be a place to check (and I bet it was but they weren’t there). We don’t even know where this park is. Is it on the way home or did the kids make it home, find the door locked and decide to continue to a park completely off the path between the school?

    While home is a first place that should be checked, I’m not sure that common sense should tell you that your children, who have never once walked to or from school, must be at home if they are not at school. The leap from never in life having walked home from school to walking home from school because dad is a little late is pretty big. I might actually think “kidnapping from the playground while waiting” before I thought “walked home” because walking home is so outside of what has ever been done in this family. Kidnappings are very rare but this family walking home from school is even rarer.

  18. Eileen October 8, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Good points Donna. Another story where the details are important and we just don’t have any. I’m not sure blaming the father makes sense either (again, not enough details to know much). Perhaps he DID tell his kids not to leave school. Sometimes kids don’t do as they are told. Or sometimes kids are presented with an unusual situation and make a decision.

    I agree this is a situation for the dad, kids, and school to work out. No one is forcing the news to decide it’s “news”.

  19. Donna October 8, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    “The dad is at fault here- he was late picking his kids up from school. The call he made to tell school administrators he was late clearly wasn’t made early enough to get the kids the message amid the dismissal craziness.”

    Nice to know, lollipoplover, that your world is so controlled and perfect that you are on time 100% of the time and never even once late for anything.

    Most people realize that they are going to be late pretty much right before they are late. Absent a flight delay or something major like that, they don’t suddenly realize at 10am that they are not going to be on time to pick up their child at 2:30. They realize it 2:15. Perfect it is not, but life is rarely perfect and we need to stop blaming parents for failing to be.

    Now he is slightly to blame if he did not tell his kids prior to this day to stay put if he is late, but I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never told my kid that either. It is just such common sense to me that, until reading this, it never occurred to me that my child may decide to leave school and walk home if I am late picking her up (although at her current school she can’t since I haven’t authorized her to leave by herself so they will simply send her to afterschool if I am late).

  20. lollipoplover October 8, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Not at all Donna. I’m late all the time. Traffic is a bitch around here.

    The difference is my kids know the “what ifs” of being late. If they knew I was picking them up in a car they would have stayed put and waited and held responsible for the choices they make. That’s what this is about-responsibility. If they were leaving on foot, why didn’t they tell someone where they were going for 3 hours?
    How is that the fault of the school?

    The dad was late, the kids took off, but he wants the school to be held responsible for his kids actions. Everyone runs late! Not everyone’s kids dart off and disappear for 3 hours. Mine would be in so much trouble for making an irresponsible decision.

    They could have let someone know they were walking. They could have gone straight home. They made bad choices but the blame is being put on the school. This could have been a great parenting lesson but somehow these boys are being played like victims and they’re not.

  21. Warren October 8, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Funny, whenever something happened to disrupt our schedule, that called for an immediate remedy, my first instinct was never to put the responsibility onto the school. They have enough to do, and are not my private tutors/babysitters.

    My first reaction was to always call family or friends. And no they are not my private emergency backup, but it goes both ways with family and friends. They would call me to help out when they were pooched.

    You cannot do that with schools. You can impose on staff to stay late and watch your kid, without them ever going to call you and ask you to return the favour.

    1. Dad failure for not teaching his kids what to do.
    2. Dad failure for not having a backup plan.

    It lies on dad and dad alone.
    1. He was late.
    2. He called too late.
    3. His boys left on their own.
    4. His boys didn’t go straight home.

    Stand up Dad, and accept your role in all this. Stop trying to blame others for you failings.

  22. Donna October 8, 2013 at 10:23 am #


    I agree that this was not the school’s fault. If anyone needs to be blamed, it is the children, not everyone else.

    I simply disagree with your blame with the father(outside of making it a bigger deal than it needed to be after the kids were found). Lateness happens and usually at the last minute. As I said, I don’t fault the father for not going over what to do with his kids beforehand. This really seems like a hindsight is 20/20 situation. Prior to reading this, it never would have occurred to me that I needed “what if” plans for being late for a daily school pick-up, not because I’m never late (I’m routinely late), but because it is so damned obvious to me that you stay put and wait that it never would have occurred to me that my child would do anything else. Considering the children NEVER WALKED HOME, the kids’ choice to do so is so irrational, even for young children, that I’m not sure most people would be prepared for it occurring before it occurred.

  23. Eileen October 8, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    @Warren, where in the linked article does it indicate when the Dad called to report him being late?

    Also, how do you know that the boys didn’t go straight home? It seems likely that the couldn’t get in without a key. Do we have any idea about what was the better option for the kids: to hang around their apt bldg or to stay in a park?

    There’s a bunch we don’t know. Sounds like most agree it’s not a “news” story, but that’s on the new channel.

  24. lollipoplover October 8, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Here’s some more from the dad (Jackson):

    “Jackson said couldn’t shake off his fear even after he found his kids. He’s so angry, he kept his kids home on Wednesday.

    “You just let them walk out of school, you just let them walk by their selves.”

    Jackson said he plans on moving his children out of the Sarah Rawson Elementary School permanently. ”

    He was 30 minutes late picking them up.
    They walked to the park and played for hours.
    And he kept them home from school the next day! Hopefully to punish them??

  25. Eileen October 8, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    @Donna – you make another good point imo. Sometimes kids do things that you’d never thought you needed to discuss or set up rules for. Sometimes we read or hear about things that other kids do (or even friends of my kids) that hit you like “wow, do I need to go over that? Isn’t that implied by every other thing we do?”. In fact, going over every conceivable possibility sounds more NON Free Range, than Free Range.

    My kids are big, and just recently we had a discussion about something in regard to twitter. I actually started the discussion with “I don’t think I need to go over this, but….” and then proceeded. Too much parent->child info…or not enough. It’s a balance.

    To me, that’s the challenge of parenting. Do too much, you are helicoptering, but if your kids do something unexpected/bad, you’re not doing your job. Which bring this back to this NOT being a news story, but rather a learning experience for all parties.

  26. Laura October 8, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I don’t get the whole ‘school let’ the children go home. At our elementary when the bell rings, the children are released and go. It’s the child’s and parent’s responsibility to ensure they go where and how they’re supposed to, not the school’s. Only for kindergartens do they have us let them know what their pick-up plan is, primarily because we have half day AM and PM classes.
    This father told the school he would pick them up late? Three hours late? Does the school have an after school care program and kids didn’t know to go to it? Did the father not tell the kids he would be late and for them to wait at the school?

  27. Eileen October 8, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    @Laura, the article clearly states that he was 30 minutes late. The children were not located until 3 hours later.

    If the school didn’t have a provision for something like this then I imagine they would have said it. Hard to know since we don’t know what those sorts of details (is there a program, does he get billed, etc. etc. etc.)

  28. Donna October 8, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    “This father told the school he would pick them up late?”

    Yes apparently by phone.

    “Three hours late?”

    He wasn’t 3 hours late. The children were found in a park 3 hours after school was out. He was only 30 minutes late.

    “Does the school have an after school care program and kids didn’t know to go to it?”

    At my school, you can’t just go to the after school program because your parents are running late. You have to be registered for the program.

    “Did the father not tell the kids he would be late and for them to wait at the school?”

    This appears to be a last minute lateness thing. He didn’t plan on being late the last time he saw his children. Something came up during the day and made him late. Being 5 and 8, they probably don’t have cellphones to notify them personally about the lateness. He expected that the school would notify them as he asked.

  29. Susan October 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    We are not hearing the entire story. The kids shouldn’t have left the school but we don’t know if there was anyone there to stop them. This was a public school, right? They don’t have private school funds to watch every kid. Dad shouldn’t have been late, the kids shouldn’t have left, Dad should have left instructions with the kids, the kids shouldn’t have gone to the park. There is plenty of blame to go around.

    I have a young son who goes 20 miles to school each way on the bus. We talk everyday on the way to the bus stop (8 miles from home) about “what if’s” for the day. He can take 3 different buses home (which all leave at different times.) He knows that he needs to contact me so that I can be at the bus stop to pick him up. If I’m not at the bus stop when he arrives, he implements the next set of instructions…so far, he hasn’t gotten lost, gone to a park or gotten kidnapped.

  30. Donna October 8, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Actually, the school does bear some of the responsibility here. Schools in general have no responsibility for what happens to the children of late parents but THIS school agreed to get THESE children and hold them in the cafeteria until dad arrived and failed to do so. I would be mad too as I am always mad when someone says that they are going to do something and then fails to do it. The fact that it is not their job is irrelevant if they agreed to do the job anyway.

    Now his whines that his kids were at such a risk of kidnapping are stupid, but to the extent he complains that the school said they were going to do A and actually did B, I am with him.

  31. Captain America October 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    I don’t know right now what to make of the whole “walk home” issue. Here are some things I’ve been turning over:

    1) your kid will be self-conscious if he doesn’t get a lift like everybody else. . .

    2) other parents think you’re mean. . .

    3) when people say, “times have changed” they suggest greater dangers and I tend to dismiss this, however, there are, ARE, I think, fewer natural safeguards, to wit: nobody’s at home in the neighborhood during the day since women have substantially joined the workforce; and also, since there are fewer children being born, there are fewer kids around to also add to the neighborhood’s natural safety (it’s hard to walk home with neighbor kids if there are no other kids in your neighborhood).

    4) of course, suburban design has been haphazard.

    5) our troublesome economic outlook makes us reluctant to pay for closer schools, and presents an argument for a “bigger and better” school farther away from home.

  32. Warren October 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    I still say it is ignorant on the Dad’s part to put the school on the hook for his schedule. You know what time the school lets out. If you cannot be there then you get some family member, or friend to pick them up. Had this man’s delay become longer was a staff member to remain there with his kid for hours? No.

    Your kid. Be prepared. And stop imposing on the school system, for your problems.

    In my line of work, schedule disruptions are normal. Not once did I call a school and get a staff member to stay late to watch my kids. That is not their job.

    As for kids staying put……that is a standard rule with my kids when it comes to meeting up with them. It is a real world lesson that needs teaching.

    Goes right up there with if they are lost and cannot find someone to help. Do not wander around, stay put and let us come to them. Easier to find a stationary person than a moving one.

  33. Papilio October 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    “Considering the children NEVER WALKED HOME, the kids’ choice to do so is so irrational, even for young children”

    So, you are 8. You’re in place A, you want to get to place B. Normally dad picks you up in his car, but he isn’t there. You kinda know the distance between A and B is not THAT far, and more importantly, you know the way.
    How is deciding to use the means of transportation he DID have – his legs – irrational?

  34. J.T. Wenting October 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Every school should have a “let the children go home by themselves day” once a week…
    Good for the little ones, teaches them confidence and most will walk or use bicycles so good for their health as well.
    Good for the parents who learn not to fret over not seeing their kids for 10 seconds (if a pet behaves towards its owner like most parents about their kids, we call in the pet psychiatrists to cure their separation anxiety…).
    Good for the school that might get less worried phonecalls when little Jimmy is 5 minutes late getting home because the schoolbus had to divert for a closed road.

  35. Donna October 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Papilio – It is irrational for a child who has never been allowed to find his own way home from school to believe that it will be acceptable for him to do so on this day, regardless of whether he can or not.

    It it also very irresponsible and inconsiderate for anyone, child or adult, who KNOWS that someone is going to come pick him/her up at a specific location to just take off without telling anyone anything.

  36. Donna October 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Warren – I didn’t say that the father should rely on the school or that a school should agree to monitor the children of late parents.

    This school DID agree to monitor the children in the cafeteria until someone could get there. They took the obligation upon themselves and then completely failed to do it. I don’t think that it is a legitimate argument when you fail to do something that you agreed to do that the person never should have asked you to start with.

  37. Ravana October 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    I was wondering how it could take kids 3 hours to walk 2 miles, but it didn’t. They went to a park and had fun ON THEIR OWN for three hours. Dad may have been worried, but the kids sure weren’t, until the adults found them that is.

  38. lollipoplover October 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    On the topic of schools and things going wrong, this one just had me baffled.

    First, spell cafeteria right. Second, will someone please instruct this child that smashing things with your fist to open them is generally not a good idea, especially if they are known to be hot?

  39. Eileen October 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    We don’t have any idea if the kids were scared or not. We’d probably have an inkling if we’re talking about our own kids, but there’s no way to know if the kids were perfectly fine or getting nervous. Three hours later after school dismissal is 6:45. It would be getting dark.

    I really wonder how people can make such projections onto a situation with so little details, involving children you’ve never even met. If it’s getting dark, and the kids hadn’t decided to head for home (which seems the logical thing to do), perhaps *these* kids had no business walking 2 miles home from school…and the very reason Dad was so worried.

    But we just don’t know. Another reason why the news story isn’t “news”. It’s an opportunity for all parties involved to learn something and plan accordingly.

  40. Donna October 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    “If it’s getting dark, and the kids hadn’t decided to head for home (which seems the logical thing to do), perhaps *these* kids had no business walking 2 miles home from school”

    Heck, the very fact that these kids left school knowing that that was not what they were supposed to do and then played at a park for 3 hours while nobody had any clue where they were tells me that THESE kids likely had no business walking 2 miles home from school whether they were afraid or knew the way. There are many things that my child can physically do that I don’t allow her to do because she lacks the maturity to do them responsibly. These kids showed an ability to get from point A to point B (maybe if they didn’t get lost and decide to stop in the park) but no ability to do so responsibly.

  41. Liz October 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    We just moved to Virginia where they have early dismissal on Monday’s. My husband and I forgot and went to the movies. When we got home…there were our boys (6 and 10) waiting for us. They lived and frankly, proved they are capable of making smart choices.

  42. Tsu Dho Nimh October 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Turns out, Nasir remembered the route he walks with his grandfather almost every day and made it back with his brother in tow.

    It sounds like he was walked to or from school with the grandfather at least some of the time …

  43. Eileen October 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I was confused by the part about walking with their grandfather. They said they walked the route, but didn’t specifically say anything about walking to/from *school* each day. I wondered if they meant they’d walked along the route or to/from the park or something. And to say they “made it back”…doesn’t make sense either because they weren’t at home.

    Again, vague info about a specific situation.

  44. Lillian October 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    I don’t think anyone should be considered at fault for this failed communication, but everyone feels the need to blame someone for everything that goes wrong. So if the father feels that it’s not his fault, it must be someone’s. Things just go wrong sometimes. Our society always wants to blame someone for everything.

    On another note, as a teacher, it’s getting frustrating to wait for parents who don’t show up on time. I teach high school, but if I give up an afternoon, weekend, or Saturday to bring students somewhere, when we return to school, I must wait for their parents. These are students who often are old enough to drive on their own, be left at home for a weekend while parents are out of town, but I can’t leave them alone in the parking lot of our school during the day until parents show up. Sometimes, I’ve had to wait for over an hour for late parents, when I’d like to be with my own family.

  45. Papilio October 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    @Donna: No, you’re still thinking like an adult, one that seems to think the father had told the kids to stay put if he ever wasn’t there right after dismissal. I don’t think they would have left school grounds if he had.
    So I don’t see this as disobedience, I see it as a predictable reaction to a new, probably somewhat confusing situation.
    What is irrational IMHO is your thought they’d be abducted rather than walking home by themselves, even though you read this blog and know how very unlikely abduction is…

    Slightly different situation, but still: When I was 5 and in the second year of primary school, the new babysitter forgot to pick me up on the very first day of the schoolyear.
    I didn’t stay at school. Everybody was leaving, I just met my new teacher that day and was probably too shy to go to her, and I didn’t like the teacher I’d had the previous year. Instead, I chose to walk along with my friend and her mom. My house was on their route home, but I don’t know if I was thinking of that.
    Anyway, my babysitter suddenly discovered what time it was, went out, and found out I was already in the same (short) street. My friend’s mom told her I would’ve gone off with anyone, which my mother later refuted.
    You can call my leaving the school irrational, but if you consider all the circumstances, it was kind of logical (child logic) what I did: I stayed with people I knew/trusted/liked.

  46. Stephanie October 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    This kind of thing is why my kids get a house key in kindergarten. I don’t expect them to need it for years, but if they need it, better they can get into the house than be stuck outside. We talk about what the key is and isn’t for – no showing off to friends or anything, as that’s a great way for keys to get lost. It’s just supposed to stay put in a small pocket of the backpack or attached to an interior loop.

    That said, our school is one of those that requires an adult pick up of kindergarteners and first graders, although I think they may allow sibling pick up if the sibling is enough older, or at least my son’s first grade teacher was very willing to allow him to walk home with his fourth grade sister… and enforced the walking when other parents she knew were friends of mine offered the kids rides. It was great. The parents were ones who my kids knew were okay to ride with, but I still thought it was great that the teacher encouraged the (5 minute) walk.

    When a kindergartener or first grader isn’t picked up at our school, they’re walked into the office so parents or others on the list can be called. The school even called me for my neighbor’s kid when the neighbor goofed and forgot a minimum day and no other contact was available. Not for pickup, just to see if I had other contacts for the parents. I’m on their list now.

  47. Donna October 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Papilio – I very much disagree.

    I talked to my daughter, same age as the older child, about this yesterday. Despite NEVER ONCE being told what to do if I was not at pick up, my daughter already knew that she was not to walk home from school. Why? Because she’s not allowed to walk home from school alone. I asked how she knew that she wasn’t allowed to walk home from school alone, as she’s never been told that either, and she looked at me like I was crazy and said “because you never let me walk home from school alone.” (No she’s never asked to walk home from school alone and been told “no.” I simply pick her up everyday without explanation).

    While she did understand that walking home alone was against the rules, she had no clue what to do and did think that going home with a neighbor friend was a possible solution. Why? Because she was with an adult and not alone. The concept of “mom will not know where you are and worry” went right over her head but the rules, in this case don’t walk home from school alone, sunk in. That is why your 5 year old story surprises me much less than these kids. You did do what you knew to do – stay with an adult. It is similar to the stories you will hear about kids running away or heading out on adventures alone only to return when they get to a road because they know that they are not allowed to cross the street alone.

  48. Papilio October 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    @Donna: But has your daughter ever walked that same route home, even if it wasn’t after school and/or alone?
    This 8yo had, admittedly with granddad, but still.
    And then of course there is the matter of different 8yos, different parents, different communication styles.

    “You knew to stay with an adult”
    No, I rather think I wanted to stay with my friend. I don’t know if the adult made the difference. If my friend had been walking with her hypothetical older sibling or even alone, I would probably have gone with them anyway.
    What I wanted to say is that the logic of a child can be different from the logic of an adult, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s not like these kids took the opportunity to spend their allowance in the toy store 2 miles in the other direction…

  49. Puzzled October 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Side note – today was Walk to School Day, and I came out to volunteer to help out. It was a sad experience. First, about 30 kids walked, total. All walked with parents, plus a team of volunteer ‘helpers.’ Also, the number of parents carrying backpacks was astounding.

  50. BL October 10, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    ‘I asked how she knew that she wasn’t allowed to walk home from school alone, as she’s never been told that either, and she looked at me like I was crazy and said “because you never let me walk home from school alone.”’

    So ‘everything that is not mandatory is forbidden’? When is this girl going to think at all? At age 18? 21? Never?

    I walked home from school in kindergarten, like every kid in my neighborhood. The classmates who were bussed lived considerably farther away in other neighborhoods, and across a major highway.