Warning! Man on Street Near School!

Hi tbrhyrtsze
Readers! Here’s an interesting little note that just came in from Jennifer in Canada, the gal behind the blog

Good morning, Free-Range Kids! This article appeared in the local paper,  The Milton Canadian Champion, and I found it and I found it both fascinating and scary. (Note: I have removed the school name and identifying street names, because, well, YOU KNOW…)

Shortly before 7:30 a. m., an 11-year-old boy left for XXXX School. When he reached XXXX Avenue and XXXX Drive, he noticed a man walking behind him and became suspicious. The man continued following the boy along XXXX Street.

The boy met up with friends on XXXX Avenue. When he arrived at school, he saw the suspect leaning on a fence, looking toward the school.

A teacher notified police.

The suspect is described as Asian, 30 to 40 years old and five-foot-six. He wore an orange hooded sweatshirt and grey sweatpants with a white stripe down the leg.

 Seriously?  Have we finally reached the point where walking behind a child who may just happen to be going in the same direction as we are, and then (gasp) leaning on a fence and looking in his direction is now grounds for teacher intervention and police action? Unless there was more information omitted from this article, I think we can put this one in the “grossly reactionary” file.

I guess the only thing in this article that doesn’t make me want to go to bed and never get up is that at least the boy was walking to school.

But I don’t think he will be anymore.

If they even keep the school open!  — Lenore

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55 Responses to Warning! Man on Street Near School!

  1. LauraL September 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    I dunno. Even as adults were told to pay attention to our surroundings and pay attention to our gut feelings. I mean, it may well have been a perfectly innocent action, but was he walking to a public bus stop and now waiting for a bus? Did a teacher go ask him if he needed assistance and thus “scare” him away? Why would he follow school kids and then stand outside the school looking in? Custodial interference possibility?

    Ack. Am I succumbing the tv stereotype?

  2. sylvia_rachel September 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    Oy. (Though there might be something missing from the article, I suppose, to make those involved think the guy really was in some way squicky.)

    Reminds me of the notice my kid brought home sometime last year about how the school had been “locked down” for part of that day because there had been reports that a suspicious person might have been seen in the area. (Note: we never found out whether the reports were substantiated.) Now, my kid considers lock-down drills hilarious fun, like playing Secret Agents and Super Spies, but really — overreact much??

  3. somekindofmuffin September 25, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    LauraL,, it looks like we know nothing about this. We don’t know that he was following the kid. We don’t know why he was waiting. And I think it’s because of what you touched on. Nobody bothered to find out. Also, did the kid pay attention to his gut feeling or the fear instilled in his psyche? I understand being aware, but you know what would have happened in my kid’s school? Someone would keep an eye out and if he stayed too long they would go talk to him.

  4. LauraL September 25, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    You have a point – was he taught to be scared?

    I guess I’d even want to know where the school is. My kids’ school is tucked back in a neighborhood, off the main roads, no public bus stops, all residential. If someone no one recognized were following the kids and then watching the schoolyard, that really really would bring on some further investigation. Another school in our district is on a main drag, neighborhood but within busy cross streets. This sort of thing may well NOT bring the same sort of interest in the person.

    I think there’s just too much missing information.

  5. WannaBFreeRange September 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    Lenore, I think you kind of missed the mark on this one. The kid is obviously free range, and he has been taught well to be aware of his surroundings and to let someone know when he feels uncomfortable.

    I agree that it may be innocuous, but if the man follows the boy on his route and then stops in front of the school for no other apparent reason, it sounds like the boy may have had a right to be concerned.

    Instead of criticizing the overreaction of a possibly innocent scenario, kudos to the parents for teaching a kid to be independent and street smart.

  6. Sam Caldwell September 25, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    We are becoming a fear-based society.

    I just emailed this article over to a friend, who emailed me back the following response–

    As a kid, dunno maybe I was eight, but I remember walking to school and someone saying “there’s a body under that board. Sure enough, I walked over and saw what looked like a hand reaching out from under a pile of wood. All the kids that day ran for school.

    Three or four days later two of us discovered it was a glove covering what had been a Halloween prop. Dude, I could’ve made like the news or something back then!


    (Posted with permission of the author who is now a Sr. Test Engineer with a reputable software company.)

    My friend has a point. As children we see the world at times through a magnifying glass. For the most part that is GREAT. The trees are taller, the grass is greener and everything is an amazing discovery. But when fear sets in, as children we must admit there were many times when we saw the ‘boogey man’ where there was an old tree.

    I don’t know the exact situation reported here, but I do know the response was extreme.

  7. swa101 September 25, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    Why was the first reaction to notify the police, I wonder? Why not have a teacher or the principal or heck even the janitor ask him if he needed something or was looking for someone? A kid thinking an adult is following them could be make the kid uncomfortable, but the school really overreacted on this.

  8. Kelly September 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

    I was just told by a friend that she’d never give her kids the freedom I give mine, because she knows how many creeps are out there.

    The thing about living in fear is those who prescribe to paranoia or over-protection can always think of themselves as “right” – because no one can guarantee that nothing bad will EVER happen to a child if you let them out of your house or out of your sight. I also wonder if those who are paranoid or fearful the same people who, SHOULD anything bad happen to my child, will give me no empathy and in fact blame me for it.

  9. David September 25, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

    Honestly, my only problem with this is the immediate notification of the police. Better would have been a couple teachers approaching him if the same thing happened two or three days in a row, followed by police contact if the behavior persisted. There’s nothing wrong with being intelligently and rationally cautious.

    A similar thing happened at the school where my girlfriend (for lack of a better word) is the principal. It was an elderly gentleman that time, and her reaction was to walk around looking for him, and keep an eye out the next few days. It amounted to nothing.

    @Sam, I love the story about the glove over the Halloween prop hand. That is exactly the kind of thing I would have thrived on as a child… well, even now, to be honest. It’s sad that today it would most likely have brought out the CSI team, dogs, the bomb squad and helicopters.

  10. Greg September 25, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    I agree that rather than bother the Police by over reacting, someone from the school should have simply approached the man in a friendly way and asked him if he was there to visit a child.

    Several years ago my kids attended a preschool in the basement of a local church. One day a ragged-looking man entered the church “sanctuary” wishing to speak to the minister, who was out at the time. The man waited quietly upstairs for his return.

    In the meantime the woman who ran the preschool became so concerned that she called the police because she feared for the children’s safety.

    The whole thing left me sadly shaking my head. The man was singled out only because he was a stranger and because of the way he was dressed.

    People complain that the world has changed, that it has become more cold and scary. But the truth is that it is us who decide, every day, whether to make our communities a happy welcoming place… or not.

  11. Elena September 25, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    I wrote something like this before, and I think it bears repeating: letting our kids be free range doesn’t mean we have to distrust them when a grownup scares them. Kidnapping is rare: scary encounters with creeps are not. Me, my mother, my brother and my sister all had incidents when we were very young with flashers and offers of money for sex, etc. Of course, for girls it continues past childhood but that’s another story. The boy felt like he was being followed. Why assume he was a jumpy over reactor? Ask yourself if you would dismiss your child if he told you a man was following him. How would you want his school to handle it? Letting them be free doesn’t have to mean rolling your eyes everytime a kid is frightened enough to ask for help.

  12. bethan September 25, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    As David said, my only issue with this is the immediate notification of the police.

    The kid did the right thing by meeting up with friends (kids should travel in pairs), and by letting the school know about something that made him uncomfortable. The kid did a very good job.

    The school would have been better served to go out and look at the guy in an obvious way so that he would know he was observed, and to follow-up if they saw him loitering again.

    There are a lot of creeps in the world, and most of them are not scary-looking. Most attempted kidnappings, lurings, assaults, and solicitations occur as the kid travels to or from school.

    Odds are unlikely that it will be ::your kid:: but little steps like this kid reporting something that made him nervous, and the school (not calling the cops, but) following-up on the kid’s report? Those things create safer communities for free-range kids.

  13. Katie September 26, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    I feel so bad for men. If this was a woman walking down the street, no one would have thought anything suspicious.

  14. Kimberly September 26, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    To me what the teachers should have done depends on what the child said. We have periodic complaints about people in our parking lot from parents. 9.9999999999999% a staff member looks out, recognizes the person and tells the parent it is ok. We only call the cops if the car alarms keep going off.

    A couple of years ago a child came in my room and reported a man with a gun arguing with a woman the other side of the chain link fence about 2 yards from my portable. I locked the doors and called the office. I was NOT about to walk out and investigate by myself. That was the 1st of 2 lock downs in 8 years.

    The other was actually after school, when a rampaging parent had already assaulted 1 teacher and was looking for another. The reason – her child had been sent home on the bus like her paperwork said. Mom had told the girl she would be picked up, but the girl never said anything to teacher. The child, 5 yo, probably just forgot. (This is why schools require notes for elementary school students going home a different way than normal)

  15. Kimberly September 26, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    Opps that should have been 99.99999999999% of the time we look out at the person and tell the parent it is ok.

  16. Krista September 26, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    Isn’t the whole point of being Free Range to teach our kids to develop those instincts?? If someone followed me around (by the sounds of the article) 3 corners, and then stood in front of the building I entered, I’d be creeped out too.

    I say great for the boy being aware.

    The school shouldn’t have immediately called the police, but more to the point: The police should NOT have authorized the release of a description of a man who committed no crime!! That’s the appalling part here.

  17. Alison Fairfield September 26, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    Is walking-while-male the new black-while-driving?

  18. David September 26, 2009 at 12:33 am #

    @Krista – EXCELLENT point regarding the release of the description. It seems so obvious, and yet it hadn’t occurred to me.

    That knee-jerk enforcement reminds me, now that I think on it, of several other stories relayed to us here, and many reported elsewhere. It’s a shame that I consider myself lucky not to have encountered irrational police officers on one of my cycling journeys. While the scenario differs, the fear and/or distrust of our “Finest” remains.

  19. Elena September 26, 2009 at 12:49 am #

    Isn’t it the 25th, not the 26th? Of September?

  20. Greg September 26, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    It saddens me that, from reading many of the responses here, a lot of people still don’t get it. We have a choice: assume the worst in everyone we meet and live in constant fear, or not. Despite the fear mongering of the media the overwhelming majority of people are not out to get our children. And the majority of neighborhoods are safe — even many of the ones people think of as unsafe. In fact, by assuming the worst we needlessly are making the world as less happy one for our children.

    As parents we have a responsibility to look at the facts and make our judgments based on reality. Too many people make judgments and decisions based on irrational fear instead. As Lenore has suggested again and again, we have to weigh the actual risks. Lightening can strike out of a blue sky (really!). Yet we let our kids play outside. Some of us even let our kids play in the rain. My country has 300 million people in it. If I was afraid every time a bad thing happened to one child, I’d never let them out of the house. We have to have perspective. Nothing short of the happiness and well being of our children is at stake.

  21. David September 26, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    @Greg – Unfortunately, you’re preaching to the choir here. So, as part of that choir, I naturally agree with everything you say. 🙂

  22. LauraL September 26, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Greg, you have to remember – we’ve been saturated, too. Some of us are still working our way out of that thinking. It’s not a switch we can just turn on and off. Please don’t berate those of us trying and working at changing how we react to Pavlov, ok? Help us, not punish us.

  23. David September 26, 2009 at 1:04 am #

    @LauraL – I thought the same thing when I first read Greg’s comment, but I believe (correct me if I’m wrong, Greg) that he was actually referring not to the people behind the posts, but to the people the posts refer to. Clear as mud?

    That being said, you’re right. “Saturated” is a great word. Overcoming our own knee-jerk reactions with rational thought will take time, and we will make mistakes.

  24. sligo September 26, 2009 at 1:07 am #

    without knowing what the neighborhood is like, it’s hard to say. In a very quiet neighborhood, then yeah it may be something odd. But in a busy neighborhood in a city, not so much.

    Last night I was driving down the road. I was on a dirt street, miles from a bus stop or train, and saw a young woman, all dressed up, carrying a nice purse, and hoofing it down the road in high heels. It was not what I’d expect, at all, but I just took note of it and went on.

  25. Nicola September 26, 2009 at 1:47 am #

    Krista nailed it on the head! Kudos!

    Yep, this kid needed to be aware of his surroundings and was – he did a great job. (I recall being followed over the course of a couple of days by a van – something just didn’t feel right, though I never bothered telling an adult, I just changed my route – found out they actually were kidnappers when I saw the van on the news with the story about a local abduction…)

    Why the school called the cops, I don’t know… but who is to say they wouldn’t have gotten sued for defamation if they’d have gone out to the guy asking him what he was doing?

    Then you have the cops releasing his description without him ever having committed a crime… someone should reprimand the police department for doing that – as well as the press for bothering to go ahead and run that “juicy tidbit.”

    Free-range kids should absolutely be smart about whats going on around them – that’s part of what makes them safe. We just need to make sure the rest of the world isn’t crazy about protecting them at any and all costs when they don’t feel so safe.

  26. pentamom September 26, 2009 at 1:52 am #

    I think the kid telling the teacher about it was exactly right. We don’t want our kids to be suspicious of everything, but if something seems out of the ordinary to them, I’d much rather they say something and let the adults figure out whether there’s any there there.

    Where it goes off the rails is calling the police on the guy. I think that any time someone has no evident reason for being somewhere, and does not “belong” there in a normal sense, it is right to find out whether he should be there or not. Someone staring at a school yard full of kids is not “minding his own business,” he’s minding the kids’ business. Now, he may have a perfectly legitimate reason to do that, and shouldn’t be unduly bothered. But I do think some adult in charge should either have made it clear (maybe merely by staring back) that his presence had been noted, or gone and spoken to him. Nothing accusatory need be said, “Can I help you?” usually works wonders. If the guy was up to nothing, then the encounter could be friendly. If he was up to something, he’d be on notice that he was observed.

    In sligo’s example, it probably would have been appropriate to find out if the lady needed help. But depending on sligo’s circumstances (s)he might not have been the best person to offer that help, so I’m not criticizing him/her.

  27. Michelle September 26, 2009 at 1:56 am #

    There really isn’t enough information in the article to whether calling the cops was unreasonable or not. Don’t know the neighbourhood either, so maybe a man following a kid and standing outside is unusual. Or there have been a previous reoprts of a strange man hanging around parks and schools, which weren’t mentioned in the article.

    Kudos to the kid, though. He trusted his gut and told an adult. Coming from someone who’s been followed before, you can kinda tell.

  28. Jacqui September 26, 2009 at 2:25 am #

    My old middle school, which I live down the street from, just installed new “turf”–you know, that bright green, plastic stuff with the lines for sports fields built-in.

    I hate the stuff, but apparently it’s awesome for playing soccer on, far superior to grass. My boyfriend, who is in grad school and played soccer for Cornell in undergrad, noticed the field and said to me that he wanted to go in there and kick a ball around with his brother.

    “You shouldn’t do that,” I said. “That’s a middle school. They’ll probably arrest you guys.”

    Sad but true. They probably would have gotten in trouble just for being there, even on a weekend during the summer with no children in the vicinity.

    I, too, agree that where the weirdness element comes into this news story is in calling the police on the guy. The rerason, to me, that it’s weird is because the police are not supposed to function as the mediators or spokespeople of our community. They’re law enforcement. We’re trumpeting stories like this as examples how we are protecting our children and the community (in this blog, as an example of how we are OVERprotecting) but the truth is nobody did anything themselves to address this potential situation. They just hid indoors and let the police take care of a situation where no law had been broken, rather than empowering themselves to go find out and take care of it appropriately. A pointed “Can I help you?” from an adult could have taken care of this just as well and given a more accurate read on the situation.

  29. lemontree September 26, 2009 at 2:39 am #

    Concerning a previous story about the bathtime photos. ABC has a video showing the photos. I was astounded! The children are not even in the bath and have towels wrapped around them. How could anybody even think they were porn? The video is here: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8617340

  30. Sky September 26, 2009 at 3:40 am #

    Well, this was in Canada, right? A lot of Americans assume people everywhere in the world have the same civil liberties we enjoy in the U.S. I don’t know whehter or not releasing this man’s description was a violation of anything in Canada or not, not being Canadian. Maybe a Canadian can enlighten us. I think being suspicious was not unwarranted – if you’re a boy, and a grown man over the age of 30 follows right behind you for three whole blocks, and then waits and watches you while you go in your school – yeah, that’s a little unusual. It’s worth at least being suspicious. I don’t know about notifying the police. The article is very brief. Was there a recent crime in the neighborhood or something?

  31. ThomasT September 26, 2009 at 3:59 am #

    I Google-mapped the walk, and the only way the article makes any sense at all is if XXXX Street at the end of graf 1 is switched with XXXX Avenue (where he met friends) in graf 2. Assuming that to be the case, the man was following for over half a mile. That would be enough to creep me out a little bit.

    As others have pointed out, the fact that a) this kid walks to school over a mile away (the first intersection given is a mile from the school; and that’s just where he noticed the man behind him), and meets friends part way there are all good signs that this boy lives in a fairly safe and sane community. Getting the police involved was probably unnecessary, though.

  32. Kimberly September 26, 2009 at 4:43 am #

    Jacqui about playing at the school. After school it might be ok. There have been studies that show if school playgrounds/sports fields are used like a public park after school hours, it decreases vandalism and increases support for the schools in general.

    Here in Houston there are Sparks parks. The city and school districts work together to get grants and build playgrounds, and sports fields at schools. During school hours they are used by the students and staff. After school they are used but the neighborhood. The partnership helps with liability questions somehow.

    I wish people using the playground as a park would help my school. We have been broken into 5 times since May.

  33. Stephanie September 26, 2009 at 5:00 am #

    I was talking about something similar with another mom at my daughter’s school. We’re new to the area, so I don’t know exactly what happened. She claimed that last year the school had had a number of scares with men hanging around the school, following kids as they walked home, and that was why she wasn’t yet ready to let her daughter walk home alone.

    Unless there’s a pretty serious predator in the area, I find it hard to believe that there was a regular problem last year. It’s just too unlikely.

    She did agree, at least, that if her daughter could walk home with friends it would be fine. The girls are in second grade, so they’re what I consider old enough, especially in a group. I walked home alone younger than that.

    Mine doesn’t yet only because she doesn’t want to. She’s still upset over leaving her old school and friends. But she’s thinking about it. Sometimes she just has me walk to the corner of the school with her, and we’re trying to spot a group of kids she could walk with. There’s a few that walk right by our house, so it’s just a matter of getting to know the right people.

  34. Uly September 26, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    Offtopic, funny picture 😛

  35. Rene September 26, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Having been that guy – not the one in an orange hoody, specifically – but a 6’2″ (186 cm for the Canadians among us) somewhat intimidating guy with a beard walking innocently near a school, I am always conscious that someone is probably afraid of me. Unless accompanied by a responsible child, I scuttle past schools and playgrounds as quickly as I can, and I often cross the street so I can avoid walking behind someone.

    It is sad indeed that today we cannot walk in our neighborhoods without being suspicious of everyone; it is also sad that we cannot walk in our neighborhoods without being suspected.

  36. Michele in MD September 26, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    We have to trust the child’s instincts or his gut feeling that day. Although I hate to give in to fear mongering, I think in general, that we are not raising our children and reinforcing to them nowadays how important it is to listen to instincts etc.

    We are such an overly-politically correct society now and we don’t want to offend anyone, that we are going overboard with turning off those gut feelings and teaching our children the same.

    **Great book to read on this topic: The Gift of Fear

  37. Stacey September 26, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    When I was 8 or 9, I was followed by a man on his bike. The road was off the beaten track but close to the public beach. I remember I cut through to the beach and sat on a swing near a woman sunbathing – she looked normal and safe. I began crying to get her attention and she walked with me to the public bathrooms and we called my mother. The man watched us the whole time and peered at us from the corner of the building. When we I got home we called the police. The police found the mam who said he was following me because I was crying. I know in my little eight year old heart that was not the case. Let’s give the kid some credit, maybe he had a gut instinct. I still had the run of the neighborhood after that incident but was very thoughful of my surroundings and felt comfortable approaching a stranger for help. I can only hope I can raise my son to do the same.

  38. Les September 26, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    Rene I can empathize with you, I too have made it a habit to cross streets to avoid school yards/playgrounds unless my kid or my wife is with me, having experienced first hand peoples irrational fears on the street in broad daylight, for instance walking down town in a city, a lady happened to be in front of me and appearently going in the same general direction , she glanced back, took one look at me and sped up, I ran into her again at the corner and she looked genuinly frightened, my heart sank and I calmly said to her, not to worry I’m not a robber or a pervert, infact I’m headed to the bank , I mean no one any harm …..it truly is a sad point in human history when a man has to tell a woman that he means no harm and is simply going to the bank!! it was the middle of the day, busy street, lots of shops, I just happened to be the only guy with a pony tail, ear ring,tattoos and a beard dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, the other guys were all dressed in suits and such …. it hurt to be singled out as a possible predator simply based on my appearance, this Mass hysteria has got to STOP , especially when it comes to children…. and why is it that its only men being singled out and stereotyped? …theres plenty of women in the news today who drugged raped and killed kids …. should we as men start eyeing every woman with suspicion? ….I think NOT , stereotyping every single guy as a potential pervert or other evil doer hurts ..it’s wrong, ludicrous, and down right shameful!
    walk a mile in my shoes before you judge me that’s all I ask .

  39. Kate Sanfilippo September 26, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    A confession:

    I was a “working parent” on the first day of school at the preschool my 4 year-old attends. The kids have a great private sand pit, field, and garden there, but the swings are at a public park bordering the school.

    A young man (college-age, we’re in a big University town) rode through on his bike, parked it at the fence, and stood around watching the kids. When there were no kids on the equipment, he would go over and do pull-ups on the monkey bars.

    As a good, no-fear, free-ranger, I know that maybe he was just taking a break from his ride. Maybe he hadn’t been around kids in a while and was enjoying watching their joy. BUT I have to admit, I watched him like a hawk, and made sure the teachers made a note of his face, just in case he makes it a habit to hang around while we’re playing.

    We haven’t seen him again. Just imagine the tax dollars I would have wasted starting a police investigation!

  40. Kate September 26, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    Michele, Great book! Gavin de Becker (sp?) has another specifically about training kids to trust their gut called “Protecting the Gift”. I love it for the same reason I love Lenore’s work, because he uses actual stats and talks about probability – it isn’t about being scared of everything, but about trusting the intuition they do have which is more reliable than ‘stranger danger.’

    The kid in this story has a good walk in a safe neighborhood – so I assume they haven’t been trained to be afraid of everything. And at 11 most of us have pretty good creep-o-meters. I don’t know whether calling the cops was the right reaction on the teacher’s part, seems pretty extreme, but I have no doubt telling the teacher was the right thing for the kid to do.

  41. bethan September 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    Protecting the Gift is one of the best books a parent can read, even if it’s a bit dated at this point. I buy it for all of my friends when they have babies or watch too much Law & Order SVU.

  42. Mrs Embers September 26, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    Someone wondered about civil liberties in Canada- I’d say it’s safe to assume that we enjoy much the same level of freedom as our American neighbo(u)rs do- including the assumption that we are innocent until proven guilty.

    I think calling the police was an over-reaction on the part of the school, and unless there’s information missing from the article, an active search by police seems strange. Around here the police might make the description known to teachers and school staff in case the man showed up again, but an all-out manhunt? Not so much.

    Is it possible that the newspaper got a hold of the description from someone at the school who told them the police had been called in, and this then got blown to active-search proportions in the article? Makes things more interesting, doesn’t it?

    I agree that things were probably blown out of proportion here, but I think the kid was right to report something that didn’t seem right to him. Being free-range doesn’t mean being oblivious.

  43. Kari September 26, 2009 at 7:43 pm #

    This one sounds totally legit to me. He followed a child quite a distance, stood outside the school watching the child and then the school. What would a reason be for that? He had no child with him. It’s not like he was watching his child walk to school. A teacher’s job is not to decide if this odd guy is up to something bad. Her job is to see that this is very odd behavior and to call someone to investigate what this man’s up to. Come on, free range is fine. But it’s irresponsible to ignore every danger out there. It shouldn’t be a free-for-all with our kids safety. If a man did that to me, I would call the police.

  44. Uly September 26, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    He followed a child quite a distance, stood outside the school watching the child and then the school. What would a reason be for that?

    He happened to be walking in the same direction as the child (but starting later), and when he got to the school he had a tremendous stitch in his side and stood there for a while until it went away. I don’t know.

  45. Kari September 26, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    HEhe, in which case, Uly, the cops would talk to him for 5 minutes and he would go on his way. No harm, no foul. And, as a parent you know that at that school, at least, suspicious people (because that was suspicious) will be at least questioned.

  46. Rachel September 26, 2009 at 11:16 pm #

    the above link isn’t relevant to the discussion above, but is about chat rooms. It does contain an obscenity, be warned! but I think it’s very funny and on point.

  47. swa101 September 27, 2009 at 12:18 am #


    An adult has every right to walk behind a child and every right to stop wherever he/she wants to stop on public property to rest. The child, being nervous, had every right to tell the teachers that an adult was following him and now was standing by the school. I suppose the school also has every right overreact and call the police about a situation that is making them uncomfortable. But, this man did nothing wrong. Had a teacher gone up to him and asked him what he was doing there, a perfectly reasonable answer would probably have been given. It is not legit to treat someone like a criminal when they have done nothing illegal.

    Anecdotal story time, gather ’round the circle kids! (But first look around and make sure no strange people are watching us). I was part of a group of parents who would meet at McDonalds Friday afternoons in the winter, buy a tea and muffin and let our kids play in the play area. One day, an elderly man came into the play area, sat at a table with his coffee and watched the kids play. Three of the four parents I was with left because of the “creepy old man”. Me and the only dad in our group stayed and went over to the table where the “creepy old man” was sitting. Through conversation, we learnt that “creepy old man” had just lost his wife two months ago. His kids were all grown, as were his grandkids, and none of them lived in the city – the closest being an hour and half drive away. Just a few days before that Friday, his grandson’s wife had his very first great-grandchild! He was feeling really alone, and was thinking about how time slips by so quickly. He was missing the fun and chaos of having little ones around and so walked down to McDonalds to watch some kids play.

    What is wrong with that? What is wrong with someone we don’t know getting joy in watching our children play? Would it be so bad if the guy in the posted news article just wanted to stop and watch kids play?

  48. Kelly September 27, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    @swa101 – I really like your anecdotal story. Thank you for sharing.

  49. Uly September 27, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    HEhe, in which case, Uly, the cops would talk to him for 5 minutes and he would go on his way. No harm, no foul.

    Unless the guy recovers before the cops arrive and continues on his way, thus setting off a manhunt for a guy who isn’t guilty of anything, wasting the cop’s time and taxpayer money.

  50. Mae Mae September 27, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    Kate – That’s what I was thinking. I have often walked past a playground or a school and stop to watch just because there is something about watching kids play. The joy, the oblivion, the creativity…it all brings back memories of our own childhoods and makes us feel young again. Maybe he was reminiscing (sp?) about his times of walking to school.

    That said, I am glad the kid reported it to the teacher. As a parent who has tried to teach my children to trust their instincts (that training is a big reason I allow them to be FRK’s) I am glad he listened to his. Maybe the police didn’t need to be called but I think the kid did exactly what he should have. I agree with the poster that said the only crime here was having the man’s description released without any evidence of wrong-doing on his part.

  51. Uly September 27, 2009 at 3:40 am #

    Mae Mae, you’re right – the kid reporting it to the teacher was the right thing to do. Calling the cops probably wasn’t. A better response would have been to send out a member of the office staff to ask him if he needed help – if he was really creepy he’d get the message and skeddadle.

  52. MommyMitzi September 29, 2009 at 1:01 am #

    The article calls the guy a “suspect”–suspect of what? Walking? Looking? Leaning on a fence? From the details of the story, it’s ridiculous that the school called the police but it’s even more ridiculous that this was published in the paper! Maybe the town should lock up all 30ish Asian men with orange sweatshirts–you know, just to be on the safe side. ‘Cuz you never know…

  53. Heather September 30, 2009 at 5:51 am #

    I like to consider myself pretty free-range with my son, and I would trust his instict on “creepy” in a heartbeat. There have been a lot of comments here that the child was right to tell adults, but that the school over-reacted. I disagree.

    If the police came and had the opportunity to meet the man they could request identification and possibly determine if he was a sexual predator by running a quick background check (sorry, I’m a fan of the registry and background checks). I’m assuming that if school personnel had approached him and asked if he needed help he would not have offered up any negative/creepy reason for being there. Who knows if this guy is creepy or not?! What is the harm in checking it out? It sounds like he behaved oddly and should have been questioned, at least to some extent.

    I don’t think free-range means free-for-all. I don’t think that free-range means sticking your head in the sand. And I don’t think free-range means ignoring odd behaviors because “what if” you are wrong and it is some nice dad making sure his kid got to school ok on the first day of walking to school.

    I think being free-range means being a smarter parent. Don’t over-emphasize potential dangers, but don’t ignore them either.

  54. babelbabe October 1, 2009 at 5:31 am #

    @swa101 didja have to make me cry? sheesh. poor old guy. I have a coupla three little kids he can borrow anytime he wants. after he gets his clearances, of course.

  55. Uly October 1, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    Heather, I don’t really look forward to living in a country where the cops can stop me for not being dubiously “normal”, nor for walking around.