Let’s Help This Boy Bike to School!

Hi Readers! I’m dashing off to give a talk tonight (Thurs.) at the Ethel Walker school in Simsbury, Conn. (outside of Hartford). It’s free and open to the public, if you’re in the nabe.  Meantime, let’s help this California mom! Any advice? Support? Great ideas? — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: I recently lost my car and decided that bicycles will be mine and my son’s primary mode of transportation until I can afford to replace the car. The boy is 8 and I ride with him half-way, some days all the way, to school in the mornings. His first day riding, I provided him with a note, releasing the school from any related liability.

Today I received a call informing me of the district policy that kids can’t bike to school unless they are in 4th grade or higher. So no kids are allowed to ride their bikes to school unless they are 10 years old.  I feel like the district is over-stepping its bounds by telling me how my kid can and cannot get to school.

I guess I’m contacting you to see if you or your readers can offer some suggestions on how I can fight this. I want him to ride his bike. It will teach him another level of responsibility, boost his confidence and make getting home after school easier on both of us. Any advice or suggestions on handling this situation? — A Reader in California

72 Responses

  1. argh.

    A politely worded letter first, stating that the school district does not ha have the authority to dictate how your child arrives at school. That is for you as a parent to decide, and your child will continue to ride his bike to school under your authority, thank you very much.

    If they continue to insist, then you insist on seeing their legal right to dictate such a thing in opposition to your parental rights to raise your child.

    If they continue to persist, consider talking to the press. And enlist Lenore, your child’s pediatrician regarding healthy exercise, and examples of other school districts that don’t seem to have this desire to control what families do outside of school hours.

  2. Check with local bike advocacy groups… this has been a common type of experience around the country (with schools banning biking or placing restrictions on it). Bike advocacy groups should be able to provide some resources. Most are county or city based… I’d offer specific recommendations if I knew the specific location, but that’s the best I can do for now.

  3. Write to Mrs. Obama. With all her push for reducing childhood obesity, maybe she can help convince all these schools that have policies to not let kids walk or ride bikes how counter productive it is to their health!
    I am actually suprised I have not heard that as part of her healthy kids agenda.

  4. I had been trying to get my daughter to ride her bike for some time. A nice short ride was home to school and school to home. The school had the same dumb rule: no kids riding bikes to school until 4th grade. But here’s the secret: they absolutely cannot dictate how your kid gets to school, so, in the end, the rule was, basically, until you’re in 4th grade, you can’t park your bike in the school-provided bike racks. Still another rather dumb rule, and I’m sure if my daughter had actually taken to riding her bike regularly . . .

    Anyway, my solution was two-fold: we have a bike trailer, and my daughter’s bike wasn’t very big, so I would just put her bike in the trailer, and not leave it at the school.

    The second way, which I never attempted because of my daughter not wanting to ride her bike, was this: bring your own lock, and don’t give your kid the key/combo. That way, the bike can only be unlocked by the parent, thus preventing the kid from doing something as “dangerous” as riding his bike without the parent around (it makes me itch saying that, but at least it would get him riding). I’d probably have had to discuss this with school administration, but it’s reasonable. Which means they probably wouldn’t have gone for it.

    Those are my suggestions. Aside from knocking sense into people with a two by four, of course. And who knows, maybe this will baby-step schools back to sanity.

  5. Will, I’m not sure I understand how your suggestions would work. With the bike trailer – you’d obviously have to drive behind your child in order to haul the bike away. Similarly, with the bike lock, you’d have to be there to unlock the bike so she could get home.

    These are silly rules and the bike rack thing makes it enforceable by the school. I would get with Safe Routes to School for advice. They may already have a program in your community or you could start one. Also in Calif, there are tons of anti-obesity groups that would likely help out – Project Lean is one. Also try the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. If these groups can’t help, they might be able to point you in the direction of someone who can.

  6. I think I’d start by asking them to provide me with the citation for (a) the published rule and (b) the enacted law that allows them to make such published rule. And until they provided it, my kid would continue riding his bike to school.

    If they provided (a) and (b), then I guess I’d see if I agreed with their interpretation of the law and go from there.

  7. You might try contacting your local cycling advocacy group.

  8. They have no legal right to tell your child what to do when she is not on school grounds. Is there anywhere close to school, but not on the grounds, that she can leave her bike?

  9. Can they walk to school? If that’s the case (like Wills suggestion) have your child bike just up to school grounds, lock their bike somewhere legal and walk the last steps. They can’t possible prohibit kids from walking to school can they?

  10. I’d contact Lauren Hefferon, who was interviewed in the Boston Globe article I think you linked to recently about biking to school in Arlington; she was fighting that fight a few years ago. Also I really want to do one of her bike tours someday — her company is http://www.ciclismoclassico.com/ .

  11. @dmd: The bike trailer Will is talking about is presumably one that attaches to a bike. The parent would have to bike with the child. (Which doesn’t solve the problem of the parent having to supervise the commute, if that’s your concern, but does get the car out of the equation.)

  12. I should be clear, the bike trailer is a trailer that hooks to my bike. I rode in with her, and rode out again. It gave me some exercise as well. Also, it wasn’t a long ride, so, frankly, my solution was pretty well perfect for a 6 year old who wasn’t very sure of herself on her bike yet anyway.

    Admittedly, for an 8 year old who is better on the bike, it’s a different story.

    My solutions have the benefit of not just jumping into straight adversarial confrontation. If the mom was, on some days, riding with her son to school all the way *anyway* (as indicated in post), these could both still work.

    With an eventual goal of letting him ride his bike unsupervised, these could also both work, with patience.

    These also give the parent a chance at some exercise, which is never a bad thing.

    But, again, these both count on, in the long term, appealing to common sense, and *proof* that the student can ride safely, even if he’s not 10. Now, if those appeals don’t work, sure, involve the First Lady, or your local bike club, but attempting the measured response first can yield positive results.

    Another solution, if the parent don’t want to ride back and forth: if the school is close to a park (as many in my area are), consider parking the bike at the park (most have fairly secure bike racks, and you’re not leaving the bike overnight) and walking to the school. Even if it’s across a street, there’s likely to be a crossing guard. Get enough kids doing this, and, who knows, maybe the school will see the sense in allowing bikes on campus again.

    Again, no school can dictate how your child can get to school. They *can* dictate, for better or worse, what’s allowed on campus. If they want to not allow kids to park their bikes at the school until 4th grade . . .

    Which is not to say I think the schools have the right idea here. The school at the end of our block has a fenced bike area about the size of the one at my elementary school (same state). When I was going to school, the racks were *full* (but I think we had to pass a riding test – knowing hand signals, ride on the right, dismount to cross streets, not using training wheels). The ones at this school are almost empty. And that’s sad. But it also points to the fact that not a lot of kids are riding, even if they can. Now, is that because the schools have this arbitrary limit, thus causing a chilling effect on biking to school later on? I’m sure it has an effect.

  13. I would also suggest that people just not formally announce that their kid is riding to school. Do they have bike police checking IDs of kids who park their bikes before coming into the building? Assuming the child makes it into his classroom in one piece and at the right time, who is even going to ask about whether he rode his bike?

    I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike to school as a kid, except during “bike week.” I walked, which is certainly just as healthy, if it’s feasible. On the other hand, my kid sister was able to (and did) bike to school from her first day of KG. Nobody ever said a word about it. I guess in those days, they actually thought parents had enough sense to keep the bikes home if the kids weren’t responsible enough to ride them to school.

  14. I agree that you should just have your kid ride and lock up the bike elsewhere. I cannot see that a school can dictate what your child does off school property, at lest as far as transportation. I mean if you drove your kid, would the school visit each house to inspect the car seat first?

    This is insane!

  15. ooo la la! that irks me. i would, quite simply, do it anyway. not much fanfare. just do it. and calmly state, if confronted, that the other option is truancy.

  16. Chris’s suggestion of locking the bike just off school grounds was what I was just about to suggest — with the added detail of “and make sure your child mentions to EVERYONE — friends, teachers, administrators — that that’s exactly what he did.” The idea being, of course, to embarrass the admin into dropping their silly rule.

    Extremely passive-aggressive, sure, but it’s also likely the path of least resistance at the same time.

  17. Our school doesn’t allow biking. Because there is no where to lock the bikes up and it’s against the law to be locking them to public street signs and stuff (which are few and far between in our residential area. Heck the parking lot is so small at the school that the teachers are required to park on the residential streets surrounding the school (which means residents have to find some where else to park which ticks me off and I don’t even live near the school). The public school doesn’t allow biking for the same reason and because the helmets won’t fit in the lockers.

    On top of that my kids’ school doesn’t allow them to walk home on their own until they are in the 5th grade so, even though they walk themselves to school every morning, I have to go get them in the afternoon (they are in 4th, 2nd and 1st grades). Drives me batty. I should be the one to determine if my kids are capable of walking to and from school on their own, not the school.

  18. Thanks for your helpful responses. I’ve been digging around all morning and found that the district does have some arbitrary policy disallowing kids to ride bikes to school before 3rd grade (not a huge difference but we only have about a month & a half before summer and next school term he’ll be in 3rd grade). However, there is an exemption from liability when students are not on school property as well as personal items brought onto school property. I found a permission slip and a legal code they cited as support for their policy that actually seems to contradict the policy.

    I spoke to the principal this morning and after I explained that I would ride with him and that he would not be riding alone after school (he really only needs a place to store his bike while at school and until someone from the YMCA picks him up), she still insisted that he cannot lock his bike on campus.

    I’m really hoping she’ll be reasonable but I’m not all that optimistic. On the one hand I want to let it go since the end of the school year is almost upon us. On the other hand, I want to fight for the next kid/family who wants to bike to school.

  19. Ayyyy Dios mio! Why not try getting a WAIVER releasing them from any responsibility. I also like the idea of a bike advocacy group assisting you in getting around this ridiculous rule. I’d love my sons to ride their bikes to school, but we live too far away to make this work by 8:00 AM, but during the summer when they go to Jr. Guards they ride their bikes and love it. A big plus – they stop at a different Mexican restaurant 2-3 times a week on their way home and can recommend the best carne asada burrito or fish taco on their route. They’ve met wonderful, helpful folks on their own and they love that they get to pick and choose which ones they like best!

  20. I vote for enlisting the help of your local cycling advocacy group, as another commenter suggested.

    As for getting the school’s policy changed: The school district has to, somewhere, publish their rules and their code. Somewhere in that code will be “how we change this.” All the school has to do is follow its own policy, whether it makes sense or not, so your ultimate remedy is to get the policy changed.

    Another thought: Get to know members of the school board. They’re always members of your own community and they care enough about the school and kids to show up at all those meetings, for which God love them. Suggest some outlines of a more sensible policy (the bike racks could be in X place, the school is absolved of liability for damage to the bikes as long as the bikes are locked, the kids have to take a bike safety class [ask the local police department, they might run them], the parents and the kids have to sign a form that the school keeps on file, whatever), and tell the board members that they’re promoting kid’s health as surely as taking soda out of the vending machines.

    Good luck!

  21. Does the school district you live in not have buses? I realize that biking is healthier, but if the school is willing to provide transportation I really don’t see why this needs to be an issue. If he’s on a bus then the fact that you don’t have a car makes no difference and if there are activities that he goes to after school that aren’t close enough to walk to but are close enough to ride a bike to then just see if his bike can be kept there and provide a rack like the one someone else suggested so that whoever “picks him up” for the bike ride to the activity can just bring him his bike.

    I also like the idea of storing the bike just off of school property. If the surrounding area is residential, maybe you could ask around and see if any of the people who live there would be willing to let your son keep his bike somewhere on your property during the school day.

  22. *on THEIR property

    sorry

  23. My son’s school doesn’t allow kids to ride bikes until 3rd grade, and my son gets around it by riding his scooter to school. He came up with that all by himself, and I was pleased with his cleverness. No one has said a word about it. I also considered locking his bike up elsewhere, there’s a bike rack about half a block away.

  24. here are some links to organizations that might have helpful information on biking to school.

    http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
    http://www.walktoschool.org/

  25. Our school allows children only to be dropped off or picked up or the bus met by a familiar adult. No latch key kids allowed.

    Walking or biking is not allowed at all.

  26. My elementary school (K-5, back in the ’80s) didn’t allow bike riding until 3rd grade, either, so this isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. However, there were lots of kids who looked forward with excitement to 3rd grade when we could finally ride bikes instead of walking, and the bike racks were always full to bursting. We were required to take a bike safety class provided by the local police department, and have our parents’ permission. Helmets weren’t yet required by state law, and the school didn’t require them either.

    I remember when I finally hit 3rd grade I had to shuffle my feet along while sitting on my bike, because my sister was in Kindergarten and had to walk with me (she had to be picked up by an adult at noon–you couldn’t walk home alone until 1st grade–while I rode my bike home by myself at 3:15).

    I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I know I’ll be up in arms if I live within a reasonable distance of the school and they aren’t allowed to walk or ride bikes as I was.

  27. I would put a note at the bottom of the next letter you write to them that if it is really that big of a concern for them, then they can buy you a car!

  28. I think the first thing to do is find out WHY there is this rule.

    Is it for “safety concerns”? Is it because they don’t have enough space for bike racks? Is it because they don’t have bike racks at all? Is it because it doesn’t come up often and they don’t have a way to deal with this?

    Pinpoint the reason, then you can find the best way to combat this.

  29. I would write a politely-worded letter explaining that while you appreciate their concern for your child’s safety, he is under their care during school time, but not before or after, and that it is not their responsibility (or right) to determine how he travels to and from school.
    Perhaps include a note that you’d be happy to keep him from riding his bike on school property, if that’s an issue, and have him lock it outside and walk in.

  30. Besides the suggestions already made, the one possibility that occurs to me would be to contact the office of your elected representative (e.g. Member of Congress or Senator) and see whether their constituency service arm can/will do anything about this foolishness.

  31. Wait, wait, wait… schools have rules about how kids arrive on their doorsteps?! I have lived a sheltered (unsheltered?) life! I rode the bus from K on, so I don’t have real experience on my elementary school’s so-called rules.

    I’m in the camp that doesn’t think the school can really back their rule up with anything, but Cali’s kind of crazy place…

    One thing I do know: the school will never-in-a-million-years waive any kind of liability. My vote is for keeping quiet. Who knows where this policy was enacted, the school may not have a choice in the policy but it probably has more discretion on its enforcement.

    I’d say hope they forget about your note, and from now on, mum’s the word! And have him keep parking at the school unless the taxpayers are funding a bike-parking attendant at the school. I imagine the school has bigger things to worry about.

  32. I hate to be the sourpuss in all this but how about just follow the rules?

    Sure you don’t like it, or even agree with it. But the school places regulations on how kids get to and from school for a reason – not just to inconvenience you. I think it’s important to allow children to grow without smothering them with safety, but it’s also a parents responsibility to teach them how to function in society. There are rules and we have to follow them whether we like it or not. Traffic rules, rules of conduct, parking rules… some might seem silly but too bad! The world does not revolve around one person.

    If it really poses an issue for you then talk to the school and explain the situation an perhaps they will make an exception. But to expect them to change all the rules for you is absurd.

  33. Of course, considering my sister got a detention for combing her hair before school, I don’t know why I would be surprised by this. (My mom didn’t let her serve the detention. Go Mom!)

  34. I have to respectfully disagree with Janice on this. Many regulations don’t have a reason per se – it’s all about CYA. And while I understand that that is the world we live in, the only way things change is if we address them. There used to be rules/laws saying you could not marry someone of a different race. This is not in anyway on par with that, but the point is the same. If the rules and laws are not working for the people affected by them, it’s important to stand up and say something.

  35. @Janice, I understand the importance of following the rules but I think my fighting the school on this is a matter of teaching the boy how to function in society. And we always have the right to fight against rules we find unjust, unreasonable and wrong. The LAST thing I want to teach my son is complacency.

    Since my situation (me riding with him and him not riding his bike home alone) don’t fit the district restrictions, I am respectfully asking the school to reassess its position based on the facts of my case and not some arbitrary rule.

    I don’t know what I would do if my son went to a school that didn’t allow “latchkey” kids. Not that my boy is really latchkey, but I’m a single mom and we do what we have to do, which has often meant the boy walking to school by himself. With the bikes, I’m actually able to go with him all the way and still get to work on time.

    Again, thanks for all the great suggestions. I will keep Lenore posted on this issue. It probably won’t be an issue next year since he’ll be in 3rd grade, but right now, this policy is affects more than how he will get to and from school–it affects how I’ll get him home hours after he’s left their care.

  36. I would tell the school district “Great! When are you buying me my new car?” What are they going to do, lock your kid out of class because he rode his bike? This is a CYA rule. My guess is if you explain your situation, they will make an exception but it sucks that you even have to go into make an plea for your case, like the school is your boss or something.

  37. If I were a person who lived next to the school and a parent got to know me a bit and happened to ask me if their child could leave their bike at my house, I would happily oblige. If I knew of the school’s stupid rule, I would set up a bike rack on my property for kids who bike to school.

  38. I still wonder why they won’t allow your kid to bike in with a note that releases them from any liability. If it were a fear of lawsuits, I would understand the rule, but it seems they are trying to tell you how to parent your children (and make them obese couch potatos in the process).

    Do any other parents feel the same? If you protest together, you’re going to achieve a lot more than you ever would alone…

  39. Airborne has hit on exactly what I’d do… ask the people that are nearby the school if it’s ok for your son to leave his bike on their property. Like, if they have a fence he could chain it to. That way, your child gets to ride to school, he doesn’t have to park on campus, tell the homeowner that you absolve them of any responsibility for the bike (give THEM a waiver), and let your kiddo ride.

    If the school doesn’t want their kid to bike to school and park on campus, fine. Let your child bike to the neighbors and walk the remainder of the way. If free-ranging involves being more neighborly anyway, you’re hitting two birds with one stone – and possibly three if you’re making it known at the school what you’re doing.

    Best of luck.

  40. THIS IS SUCH BS!!! My kids bike to school, the youngest is in kindergarten – luckily we live in a bike friendly area.
    Those of you who brought up childhood obesity make excellent points….WHAT ABOUT GAS? Can’t this be viewed as a financial issue and a type of discrimination? How can your child be denied a method of FREE transportation that happens to also be socially and environmentally responsible AND good for your heart?

  41. Does your school have a parent support specialist? At the school where I teach, if you’re looking for a little rule-bending that will allow your kiddo to keep his attendance regular, the parent support specialist (or, if such position doesn’t exist, try the counselor) would be your go-to contact.

  42. I asked my 10 year old 4th grader his opinion. He said that schools shouldn’t be able to tell you what you can do off of school property. He also said that since this is America, the student should work on letting officials know that the rule may not make sense. He did not say parents, he said student.🙂

  43. I work at an elementary school and judging by how I see parents, daycare people and grandparents drive every morning I’d be scared to ride my bike to school!

  44. I work for a school system (in technology, but I spent 5 years in a school). School systems seem to have some sort of “in loco parentis” doctrine that says they can dictate what students do on the way to and from school – from doorstep to doorstep. One of my HS students was seen smoking a cigarette at a bus stop, he was punished. For smoking on the way to school, not because he was under 18. So there is precedent out there to control students’ behavior to and from school regardless of how they get there, and I guess they feel like they can construe that to include the mode of transportation (though I wonder who would be punished if they discovered a young child wasn’t restrained properly in a parent’s car on the way to or from school). Someone else mentioned CYA, and yes, risk management is paramount. They do not care at all about the various stats showing how safe it is now to properly bike to school, or how much it contributes to health, it’s all about perceived liability whether or not it really concerns them or not. Lawyers write the rules, not common sense or the reality of any situation.

  45. I’m in CA and we have the same rule at my school. My 2nd grader was not allowed to ride his bike with his 4th grade brother. Then they refused to let him walk home alone! I feel your pain. I drive the kids now and they complain about that too…the traffic is ridiculous!

  46. This is not a new rule. I remember not being allowed to bike until I was older, too. Lots of reasons for it: If every grade were able to bike and leave their bikes there, the racks wouldn’t hold them all!

    When my kids were still in public school, the little ones that rode to school with their families but had their parents take their bikes home caused such a pedestrian traffic jam! Then again, the school that my kids went to was very big on walking and biking… LOTS of children and no age limit on when you could lock your bikes or scooters up…

    Good luck. I have a feeling that this is a policy that you won’t be able to realistically win. If you are comfortable with him just breaking the rules without them knowing about it, the school probably wouldn’t ever notice…

  47. While I dislike the rules dictated by schools about kids riding bikes or walking to school, I seem to remember a rule/law similar to what Tray mentioned. The school is responsible for your child as they walk, ride bikes, or ride a school bus to but especially from school until they reach home or another place where they are under some other care – home, after-school care, a friends house, etc.
    The scenario I remember from my grade school days (late70’s/early80’s) included a fight between some boys. They were walking home, but had not arrived home yet when they got into a fight. The school, after some debating, was held responsible for the boys behavior because they had not reached home before the fight broke out. The school punished both with suspensions.
    So, while we may not like the schools policy, and I do think it is over-reaching, we can not entirely blame them for trying to protect themselves in our litigious society. I do think this school needs to bend the rules for this mom – who has presented them with a pressing need for her son to ride his bike to school. Some compassion and common sense is in-order.
    Good luck.

  48. tracey said: “If you are comfortable with him just breaking the rules without them knowing about it, the school probably wouldn’t ever notice…”

    We should NOT advocate a child breaking school rules because they might not notice. This is a bad strategy. My five years in a high school showed me way too many teenagers who were brought up thinking that the rules didn’t apply to them, and I do mean they quoted parents who had let them break the rules.

    Now, if I missed the comments from Kymlee suggesting she might ignore the rules…either change the rules or obey them.

    Tray M.

  49. 2funkidsmom said:
    “The scenario I remember from my grade school days (late70′s/early80′s) included a fight between some boys.”
    She goes on to say both boys were suspended. Because the school got involved.

    In 1970 I was a School Safety Patrol member. We “monitored the halls and classrooms until all students had left” in 1st through 6th grades. I was a 6th grader, the minimum to be a School Safety Patrol. I caught a School Safety Patrol member bullying a first grade student. I reported him. His punishment was to be kicked off safety patrol. My punishment was to be attacked by him as I walked home the next afternoon. Another safety patrol member knocked him off of me. Neither of us were punished. By the school. It wasn’t their problem. A parent driving by saw the attack (I was literally drop kicked from behind by this kid) and called the school. I guess the school called our parents. Mine didn’t mention it. He squiggled a lot in his seat for the next couple of days. But I’ll bet he never bullied another kid again.

  50. don’t think anyone’s mentioned this, you all seem so focused on the “to ride or not to ride” bit.

    America’s public education system was founded on the Jeffersonian principle that an educated society can better serve the society at large. That an education in fundamental skills and concepts is the difference between a democracy and ” mob rule”. As such, it is the right of every American child to get said education as provided by American adults. the writer (Kymlee?) is currently without a vehicle. it is inflicting an unreasonable request to insist that the child be driven by a non-existent vehicle. it is an unreasonable financial request for the school to insist that she acquire a new one. the school is therefore denying her child the right to an education based on financial circumstances and it is not the school place to decide what constitutes a financial hardship.
    You may not want to play the “Poor Card”. but it seems that this school holds way to many assumptions about the families in its district. I can bet with great confidence that if you had a few more shades of melanin and spoke with an accent, they wouldn’t bother telling you how your child gets to school, they would just be glad your child shows up.

  51. Why not just let your child ride to school and lock the bike up ACROSS the street on a light pole or something like that. Get a combination lock so you don’t have to worry about a lost key. You can special order combination locks from Masterlock with a combination of your choice (i.e. the childs month and year of birth) so no worrys about lost keys, and then all she has to do is cross the street to school. Ummm, they DO have crossing guards right?

  52. Not every school has crossing guards. Ours doesn’t.

    Locking it up on city property may be illegal in her city.

  53. I love the supportive comments and ideas. I’m sad to see policies like this. I just want to tell the original parent I admire your goal and I hope things go your way in this regard!

  54. Oh my god what is this world coming to??? I am not a parent (yet) and am shocked that schools have all these rules about how kids can get to/fro school. When I was a kid in the 80s I walked/biked to school from KINDERGARTEN onwards. Most kids did. No doubt this is one of a myriad of reasons there is a childhood obesity epidemic.

    I just can’t wrap my head around that there are schools out there that don’t allow children to cycle (or walk!) to school period. Man it’s not like we live in a war zone or something. If it’s all about liability… well that’s a very, very sad commentary on your society.

    I live in a very bike friendly city (Vancouver, Canada) and on my daily bike to work I cycle past an elementary school and see many kids biking, of all ages, with and without parents. It warms my heart. What lucky kids!

  55. I am actually quite astounded by all of this discussion about school districts dictating how children get to and from school. Has anyone asked whether they really have that right?

  56. I would take a look at the relevant laws and explore where your son can leave his bike that is not on school property.

    I agree with you that the school is overstepping it’s bounds in trying to dictate how your son gets to school when there is no significant impact on the school or other stakeholders.

    I think it is fine to simply ignore the policy. Rules are not all important and blindly following them is apoor lesson to teach your kids. Civil disobedeince has a long and noble history and this sort of thing is a very good example of why it should have. A public school district really should not be putting obligations on parents that require them to make significant expenditures inorder to get their kids an education. That is totally at odds with the point of public education.

    Best of luck. And please let us know how you get on.

  57. The same thing happened to my son. He was riding for six months before they caught on and said no. He has now waited for two years, and in January gets his bike licence back! Fortunately we are close enough, that it was more of a killjoy situation than anything bigger.
    There could be a few issues supporting their decision so it is best to check it out first. Contact your local traffic authority to see if there is a legal age requirement to ride unaccompanied. As mentioned by someone earlier, sorry I’m too slack to scroll back and find out who, schools used to have a duty of care and therefore also liability, to a child from the moment they step into the school grounds in the morning until the moment they arrive back in their door or into the custody of their parents (prob why they are so keen to have kids picked up from school).
    Unfortunately a waiver that you provide to them wouldn’t really be too legally binding, and in these litigious times, it still puts them in the firing line should anything go wrong. Definitely NOT saying I agree with their policy, but I do understand their position.
    That being said, I would still recommend following some of the suggestions above, particularly finding a friendly neighbour to allow bike storage. Do approach the school again in a reasonable manner too.
    Good luck!

  58. […] Let’s Help This Boy Bike to School! « FreeRangeKids […]

  59. Maybe its me but why does the school have a say in what a parent does with their child off of school grounds? I would let the child ride to school park the bike off of school grounds and never bring it up. We give schools to much power. It is time to take back control and put the school in its place. We don’t help them raise our children they help us. We decide they come along side of the parent. Things have somehow gotten out of focus and we need to take back the control that is rightfully the parents.

  60. Dave,
    I agree, and it is one of the reasons we quit school.
    I am not against public schooling. I was tired and angry at them telling me they knew more about my children and trying to dictate how I raised them. They went as far as telling me what activities my kids should or should not do out of school.
    I took control by choosing home-schooling. I know that not everyone can or would or should do that, but you can make your own decisions about raising your children. Schools are there to educate – not raise – children.

  61. @hlenqunie you write, “I think it is fine to simply ignore the policy. Rules are not all important and blindly following them is apoor lesson to teach your kids. Civil disobedeince has a long and noble history and this sort of thing is a very good example of why it should have.”

    I agree with the basic sentiments, but if we’re teaching our kids stuff there are 2 very different concepts here … ignoring a stupid rule, generally done in such a way as to avoid drawing attention to what one’s doing, and civil disobedience, generally done very publicly to attract attention and involving accepting the requisite penalties. Each has its place IMO, but they are not the same thing.

  62. This is clearly not about safety: riding a bike is not any less safe than walking, plus this mother is riding along with her son. So it must be a bike rack issue. The thing I would try finding out is whether the bike racks at the school are even close to being full. I would bet they aren’t. My son rode his bike to school today (he’s in first grade, and to my knowledge, not forbidden from leaving his bike at school). I stopped at the school on my way to work to make sure he locked up his bike, and there were only two bikes on the rack. On a beautiful, 75 degree day!

    By the way, my kids’ school does have a rule against bike riding on school property. Once you get to the school property, you need to get off your bike and walk it the rest of the way. It’s a pain in the ass, but I imagine that this removes the chance of a bike-related injury for which the school would be responsible. This could be a possible suggestion if liability is the issue.

  63. Do like me, pray for the day when you can move out of California. It’s ridiculous here.

  64. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this fear of the bicycle is NUTS!
    Sure, I’m Dutch, and we have great biking infrastructure, which makes it very safe to bike, but still, what’s with all this fear?
    Here, we expect our children to bike to secondary school (primary schools are are always within walking distance, but secondary schools can be up to twenty miles away, so kids need to bike), so we give them training and they take an ‘examination’ (for which they get a certificate:

    See David Hembrow’s blog:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2010/04/school-cycle-training.html

  65. Yes Thad! I can’t wait to get out of CA.

  66. I would definitely feel out other parents that have a similar desire. With a group, you will have more power…you may also be able to set up “bike buses”.

  67. Write back that you have a policy prohibiting school officials from dictating your son’s behavior when he is off school property.

  68. […] on the books and publicly available, they really wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. I also emailed Free-Range kids, to get some other ideas from the free-range community before I had my next conversation with a […]

  69. You guys really rock! Thanks for all of the great feedback and suggestions. I contacted the school board & explained my situation. They gave me the green light!😀

    Here’s a more detailed story of my Free-Range victory: The boy gets to bike to school! http://goo.gl/fb/H8MBJ

    Cheers!

  70. Not living in the US I can only offer so much advice without being familiar with the specific legislation.

    1. Find out what by-laws/rules etc that the school is following. Usually called policy and procedure manual or some such thing.
    2. Ask them to identify clearly what parts apply (eg, sect 1, part 2, a-c)
    3. Now you know what you are fighting, come back here and ask for further advice.

    It is easier to fight written specifics than spoken generalizations.

    Goodluck

  71. Coincidently – Ive just had a phone call from the school telling me that that they have just changed school policy to dictate that all children must be collected from school by an adult. They will not let my children walk home from school by themselves. I dont know what to do? Im furious!

  72. Hi, I have been following your website for some time and basically needed to congratulate you regarding the quality of your posts. awesome work

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