Readers: This is from a comment on the Afghanistan post — the post where we learned that while American schools worry that Valentine’s Day could emotionally scar the children, and 15-year-olds waiting outside for a ride could be in danger, 12-year-olds in other parts of the world are the heads of households:
Dear Free-Range Kids:Â On a personal (Free-Range) note, at the school where I teach I was informed that we now have to get written/signed parental permission for our classes (Elementary schoolers age 5-11) to walk across a one-lane road WITH FOUR TEACHERS to a park/playground that is literally directly across from our parking lot.
This is new. We used to just take them all the time AND let them run back to the school in pairs or small groups when they needed to use the bathroom, or get more toys or whatever. Not anymore, apparently. Thankfully, all of the parents signed the slip (most agreed it was ridiculous) so at least we can continue spending our afternoons outside (mostly) Free-Range playing.
And so it goes. – L
In contrast to the assumption that kids can’t learn the skills necessary to cross a parking lot safely, check out this video:
Human castles — towers of people standing on each others’ shoulders, many levels high — are topped off by children climbing to the very top. The tradition goes back to the 18th century, with people training intensely to create impossibly strong, yet largely safe, momentary monuments to their ability to work together.
Is risk involved? Yes. One source — http://bit.ly/f9Yx9Y — notes that three people have have died, in 200+ YEARS. Tragically, the most recent was a 12-y/o girl, in 2006.
While I can’t imagine having my own kid doing this, it’s a perfect reminder that kids’ safety is borne of training, discipline and risk awareness, not magical thinking that all risk can be eliminated.
It’s ridiculous, but it is necessary evil due to our sue happy culture. With out the waiver (and even with the waiver) some parent will sues the school because they didn’t know that their kids were leaving school grounds to go to the park. Or one of the kids gets a skinned knee and the parent want someone besides nature to blame.
Even one better. I not only had to sign for my daughter to be able to cross the street to go with a teacher from the school to the park, but they have to wear orange vests and have one teacher with an orange flag. It’s crazy since there are barely any cars on that street except for drop off and pick up times at school and on Sunday morning for the church out there. You could lay down in the street during the day and get a good nap and not be bothered by anybody or anything except an errant squirrel. But, they get out there and get into position, blow the whistle and the kids file across the street in a straight line, holding hands lest one fall into the ditch and disappear forever. It’s a small town and the cops don’t have a heck of a lot to do, so I suspect that before long, they’ll have the cop car out with his lights on while they cross the street.
Unfortunately Angie, you are correct. this is what happens when you have an unregulated legal system. You can be sued for anything, have to defend yourself, win the case, but at what cost?
The way the legal system is currently set up, you can be sued and the Plaintiffs attorney knows how much it will cost to defend the case, then, settles for nearly that amount. Not to mention the time and aggravation that you incur.
Then, there are the frivolous lawsuits as in, spilling coffee on yourself, things like that. What happens next is that the cost of the litigation is passed on. And guess who gets to foot that bill?
Something that a lot of people do not realize is that all of the suits are paid by one person, the end user. That would be you and me.
I suspect the cause of the action mentioned in the article above, was some parents kid fell and got hurt. Now, because of one “spaz” and an over-protective parent, everyone else suffers.
Nah. Armored personnel carriers won’t fit in the budget. Thank goodness.
I do agree with the others that it’s protection for the school. My daughter’s old school had us sign permission slips for the kids to have class parties at the park next to the school… no street to cross or anything. The school merely had to open a gate. But it was off school property, and therefore permission was required.
Overall, they were a much calmer elementary school than the current one, parents allowed on campus at the end of the day to get their kids rather than having to wait outside. The current one requires kids who aren’t identified as walkers or escorted to the bus to point out their parents who are picking them up before they go. The old school was much more fun – parents could plan pickups and not worry that the teachers would interfere if you were picking friends up that day too.
I see our freedoms wavering – from the children to the adults. The majority aren’t going to notice until its far too late, and I believe we’ll end up having an Egyptian movement 40 years from now – only after we’ve been under a dictatorship that has stripped us of the America that our forefathers dreamed up. Gonna be a long, hard road my friends. Buckle up.
I am happy to report that my kids public school doesn’t seem to have gone crazy the way some have. Yesterday my daughter, 8, was playing at recess and got stuck in the mud. Apparently she was so stuck that they pulled her out of her shoes and then had to dig the shoes out of the mud with a broom handle! This was about 11:00, school last till 4. The nurse gave her clean socks and she wore those for the rest of the day including the bus ride home.
“Itâ€™s crazy since there are barely any cars on that street except for drop off and pick up times at school and on Sunday morning for the church out there. You could lay down in the street during the day and get a good nap and not be bothered by anybody or anything except an errant squirrel. ”
And here lies the problem- people don’t bother to think things through, they hear “street” and assume ten lane highway with 75 mph speeds. ALL STREETS ARE NOT EQUAL! There are some that are empty, some with mild traffic, some with crazy drivers, others with bumper to bumper tangles. This may SEEM obvious, but believe me, its not.
I don’t know how we got to a place where when you mention a street (or anything related to a kid) people think the most dangerous possibility.
This has been said before, but are law suits just another version of fear tactic? I have a hunch that schools and clubs fearing law suits may be similar to parents fearing stranger abduction.
The actual number of tort cases and the payouts in those cases has dropped over the past 20 years. We read about the McDonald’s coffee case but not the thousands of dismissed cases and/or frivolous suits that filers are forced to pay for.
In the same way that big business benefits from the sale of safety products, insurance carriers benefit from increased outrage at litigation. I wonder how much of our fear of being sued is statistically justified.
This seems to be a case by case thing, much like helicopter parenting. Some are, some aren’t. Different strokes for different folks. But it doesn’t make it right, efficient, and even logical. I pick up my nephew every now and then. My sister calls the school to let them know I’m picking him up, and when I get there (before they started knowing me), I would just go to the office and identify myself. They would then call to his classroom and his teacher would walk him out to the hallway. Which I think is still a little paranoid. But at least I’m not signing any waivers, dealing with background checks and catching leery eyed individuals.
*This is going to sound terrible but,
Thank you Great Aunt Polly for dying and remembering us in your will! Your kindness has allowed us to send all three of the children to a private school that hasn’t lost its common sense and followed the other lemmings off the cliff of stupidity!
@ Nanci – your kid is literally a stick in the mud? :O
Valerie, it was my ex-stepmother (long divorced from my father) who died and left some money to us that allowed us to make a down payment on a house so that I could continue to stay home and home school the kids instead of going to work to make that payment.
I understand where you are coming from! I am thankful with most of the posts I read here, when I hear about kids doing way too much homework instead of playing, or librarians that won’t let the kids read the books they want to read because they are not on the Accelerated Reader list at the level the kid is supposed to be reading.
Your story gave me the best laugh this morning. It would make a great scene in School Litigation: The Movie” should someone have the daring enterprise to make one.
Wow… I remember our entire gym class walking two blocks, alone, with no escorts from our middle school to the high school (which contained the gymnasium) on an almost daily basis. This was just in the early 90’s. My how things have changed… and not for the better. 🙁
Hey, at least they still get to go.
This isn’t so much an assault on Free Range as it is a CYA move by the school.
I went to a downtown Brooklyn school and we used to jog across the Brooklyn Bridge. Makes this story seem even sillier.
I think C.S. Lewis knew a few over zealous school administrators and over reaching bureaucrats too!
“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. â€” C.S. Lewis
Aussie Mom – I am actually in the movie business. Hmmmmm. We’ll have to write in a part for Adam Sandler.
Glad you got a good laugh. 🙂
when I was at primary school there was a 10 minute walk every day to the church all where we had lunch. With one main road to cross. The school went altogether in crocodile fashion. We went there twice a week for PE and also to a playing field for out door sport.
Children in thetop class were allowed out at dinner time when we got back from eating to the local shops.
From age 8 I walked to school with two friends
Huh. We held class parties at a park a few blocks away. We took back streets to avoid the busy road. I think we did do permission slips, but I never thought twice about them as they were sort of just in the vein of “this is what’s happening. Wanna come help, parents?”
Well, considering that where I live now no pedestrian seems to know what traffic lights are and why they exist, I am not surprized. When parents don’t know that you shouldn’t be trying to cross a six-lane road on red light when you see traffic coming at you at high speed, what are they going to teach kids? School has to assume that kids are just that moronic, because if even one is, and is killed on the remote possibility that there IS an errant car there at daytime, it’s more of a headache than its worth.
Just wanted to tell you that thanks largely to this site, I sent my six-year-old to the mailbox when she woke up grumpy the other day. I showed her which key opens the mailbox and reminded her to dress for the weather. She went down the hill, just beyond shouting distance, and across a two-lane street all by herself and brought back the mail in a plastic bag I had given her. The fresh air and exercise did her good.
@ Amy: I remember going on field trips downtown to the Museum or Art Gallery in Grade 6. And afterwards, if we didn’t need to go back to school to pick up our things we left behind, we were free to make our way home how we saw fit. As some students would have to back track if they went back to the school. The permission form our parents signed for us to go on the trip didn’t specify that, but it was an understanding back then that our parents gave us permission to go on these trips, that we would be as responsible as we were taught. And guess what…we were. Trust runs both ways, doesn’t matter whether your an adult or a child.
I sign one permission slip for the whole year for all walking field trips. The school is near downtown, so there’s lots to do. It would be a shame if the kids couldn’t go anymore.
When I was in grade school, the highlight of every year was the end-of-the-year picnic at a nearby park. It took about 10 minutes to walk there. It was such a blast! It was a park I rarely got to go to otherwise, there were ducks and swings and slides and a really pretty pond, all the stuff kids love. Walking there with my classmates always felt like a big, exciting adventure, even in the older grades. This was in the 1980s. My mother got a job there after I moved up to middle school, and retired in 2002. By then, they weren’t doing that anymore because “it was dangerous.” There are no sidewalks, and although the outings were really heavily chaperoned, everyone was too scared. Now they have some lame, on-grounds “fun days”, so I’m glad that at least the kids in this story are still going.
At least this fear is justified. Stranger kidnappings are rare. But a kid getting squished by a moron in a land yacht? Happns. Every. Day.