Welcome, Wall Street Journal Readers!

Hi Readers — All of you, including the new ones who caught my piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. It was all about the fact that so few kids are walking to school these days — about one in ten. And here’s a note that sums up the whole craziness:

Dear Free-Range Kids:  My son started kindergarten and the dismissal procedure is for the teacher to open her classroom door to the outside and let the kids out if she sees a parent or person assigned to pick up the child. When I asked another parent about letting the kids walk home – they laughed and said the kids can’t walk home until 2nd or 3rd grade.

WHAT???? I live exactly 1 mile from the school. My son would have to walk down a residential street, cross a busy street – with a crossing guard – and then walk in another residential area to get home. I would have no problem with him walking home. He might take a while because he wants to look at the birds or a stick on the ground, but hey, he is almost 6 and that is to be expected.

It takes me at least 20 minutes to pick up each day. I have to drive to the school, trying to maneuver around the other parents trying to get a parking spot, park my car across the street in the junior high parking lot, load a sleeping toddler (who I just plucked from a nap) into a stroller, try and cross the street that the other parents are trying to maneuver to decide where to park, and wait for my child to be released. To me it is a nightmare!

Me, too. And here’s a piece that should make us all think twice: In Germany, the newspapers are trying to convince parents NOT to drive their kids to school. Good parents (they say) should think about all the time, gas, pollution, and opportunity for exercise and socialization that are wasted when they act as their children’s chauffeurs. Agreed! — Lenore

P.S. The link to the Journal piece works now — possibly only for today!

P.P. S.  Let’s try to keep the discussions here helpful and supportive. Especially (spoken like a mom) because today we have guests! L.

149 Responses

  1. I think parents should walk with their kids or trade off with other parents living closer (kid time share) if they want to have their kids walk to school. Its not that I dont trust my kids to get where they are going – its the weirdos that live around the city that I dont trust. So Id never let my munchkins out of my site until they are safely in the teachers hands or with a friend taking their own kids to school. That said… its probably the parents that wont walk the distance lol

  2. If the child is nearly six, I agree that he’s likely old enough to walk home. I’m actually (sadly) impressed the school will allow kids to walk once they are in second grade. My one question here is, if it’s only a mile, then why is she driving to pick up her kid? She could put the younger in a stroller and take a nice walk. It would probably take less time than driving and parking, and would set a good example for her son.

  3. Not to be a snot about this, but why don’t you walk to the school to pick him up and maybe set an example for the other parents? If you expect a 6 year old to be able to manage, why can’t you?

  4. This same issue is affecting us. My daughter’s school is brand new. Their pickup procedure is difficult to say the least. You have to stay in your car, with a sign in the window. When one of the teachers/volunteers/etc. see your car, they call in on a walkie talkie and then someone escorts each child personally to the car. It takes forever. After two weeks of sitting in my car for no less than 45 minutes, I decided to let her ride the bus home. She’s the second stop and spends about 20 minutes total on the bus. I would let her walk or ride her bike or even walk to go meet her (I could use the exercise, too) but there is no sidewalk between our neighborhood and the school, a distance of probably less than a mile. I’m thinking of going to the city council and asking for a sidewalk.

  5. A lot of schools (mine included) have parents or designated adult pick up the kindergarten-age child with a special pass that correlates to one the child has, be they on foot or in car. Walking does need to be encouraged — and if you’re not comfortable with your child going solo (because of traffic or alleged bogeymen), then join him/her on the walk. More feet, fewer autos, esp. if you have sidewalks,crossing guards, and a reasonable (under one mile) commute to school.

  6. I agree that she should walk with him. But At least she wants her kid to walk.

    I was at a MOPS meeting the other day and 2 of the moms were saying that they might let there kids walk in Jr. High. No busy roads or long trek just fear.

    This in a town that was just praised as one of the best places to raise a family due to low crime, high walk/bike paths and 360 sunny days a year.

  7. @L.M. where do you live that there are so many “weirdos” lying in wait on one child’s route to school? Is there anything actually on record that any weirdo has done anything to a child on your particular route?

    And I disagree with those who are faulting the mom (and insinuating she’s lazy) for not walking with her child to school. I know it’s unheard of, but maybe she has other things to do?

  8. Lenore, we can’t read your full article without subscribing to WSJ.com. Is it going to be posted anywhere else?

  9. Yeah…I want to read the full article!

  10. Another point to consider in these financially strapped times is how much money school districts are wasting by busing kids who are well within biking and walking distances. How many communities are paying for two bus systems; one for the school and the municipal system. Wasted money!!

    Oh… Google the title of the article and you will reach the full article, bypassing the pay wall.

  11. I am subscribed, logged in, and I’m still only seeing three paragraphs. What am I missing?

  12. […] mentioned before how much I enjoy the writing and the message of the Free Range Kids blog … today she pens Whatever Happened to Walking to School? in the Wall Street Journal. How did […]

  13. To support children walking safely to school, the ADAC (German Automobile Club, akin to AAA in America) has launched an ambitious campaign to try to provide every child entering school this year with a safety vest so that they can easily be seen from a great distance by car drivers. Important in the late autumn and winter months, when it’s still dark in the mornings when children walk to school. They’re delivering 750,000 vests to schools around the country.

    http://www1.adac.de/sp/sicherheitswesten/default.asp

  14. I would also ask this women, why she can’t walk with the child. I agree that if the parents want the children to walk home, they should be allowed to. But given the school rules, I saw nothing that said she couldn’t walk with the child. That is what we are doing this year. My son starts kindergarten and I plan on walking him to and from school this year.

  15. Weather permitting, I am an advocate also of this mother walking to get her child (if it truly takes her 20 minutes to drive and park, etc.) and/or trading with another walking parent to walk BOTH children. Strolling at a pace of a 20 minute mile is excellent exercise and probably also good for the mental health of a mother of two. I know I’d look forward to it at least once a day. It sets a good example for her child, trains the five year old how to walk home (when it’s allowed), potentially builds neighborhood relationships, and shows other parents it can be done….

  16. I’ve mentioned it before, but I really feel this is an important issue:
    In cases like this, where kids are at the lower age-limit for walking on their own, there are some great ideas out there to promote walking to school, tested an tried in Europe, and usuallyquite successful. One of these is the “walking bus”:
    (from the website of cipra dot org -under “best practices”
    Piedibus is a ‘walking bus’: it consists in a line of children going to school in a group and escorted by two adults, a “driver” in front and a “conductor” at the back. The Piedibus starts from a “terminus” and, following an established route, picks up children at the various “stops” along the way, keeping to the set timetable. On the way children chatter with their friends, learn useful things regarding road safety and earn themselves a little independence.

    What I like about the solution is that it is a communal solution. Too often (I feel) free-ranging becomes an individual “identity strategy” for parents, while what really is needed is to find communal/collective strategies that promote more freedom for children while at the same time reassuring parents, one step at a time.

  17. I let my 6 year old 1st grader walk to school with a friend for the first time today. He’s thrilled and proud of himself and I’m happy not to spend the gas sitting in the car circle!

    And then I brought my daughter to the pediatrician, where we sat in the waiting room watching a video on stranger danger, telling us to make sure not to put my child’s name on anything, lest a predator lying in wait for him might use it as bait to lure him away. For PETE’S SAKE!

  18. In 2000 I visited Japan, spending time in Tokyo, Yokohama, and a small town outside Yokosuka. I regularly saw uniformed kindergarten aged kids not only walking to school unescorted, but they took the train by themselves and even changed trains! Occasionally they traveled in pairs but not always.

  19. I live in Germany. All my kids make their own way to school – either on foot, or bicycle or roller-blades. This includes all the months when it’s still dark in the morning… and in all weathers including snow and ice.

    I’m so grateful to live in a country where this is the norm.

  20. If readers want to read the entire article just do a Google search for “Whatever Happened to Walking to School?” and hit the first link. The WSJ allows Google searchers to read new articles free of charge.

  21. Is there a second or thrid grader that lives near you that your child might be allowed to “buddy walk” with? Would the school allow that?

  22. Umm… NO!

    Research the law where you live.

    If there is a law that allows the school to detain your child after school, then fight to have the law changed.

    If there is no such law (which I doubt!) then inform the school that there is no such law and that their policy is therefore in direct violation of your and your child’s civil rights. Keeping someone against their and their parents’ will is called false imprisonment, and yes, you can make a HUGE stink about it.

    My son’s third-grade teacher called home one lunchtime to ask if I really let my son bike the 1/3 mile or so to school. I said absolutely and she said she had to talk to the principal. I immediately called the principal, who admitted that there is no law preventing that arrangement. Problem solved–quickly, quietly, and amiably.

    I wrote a letter to the school explaining that Logan has full permission to walk, skateboard, or bike to school (he always wears a helmet!) and then go to the playground after school. I included te statistics on child safety to point out that the kids in the cars are really the ones in danger. And, of course, I waived the school from any liability should anything happen before or after school hours while Logan is exercising his permissions.

    I would be happy to provide a copy of the letter to anyone who asks on request.

    Bottom line, DO NOT simply roll over!

    (I’m just waiting for the PTA’s reaction when I make this a cause celebre inthe coming weeks!)

  23. New visitors to this blog might want to read some of the 200+ comments from parents reporting how their kids get to school:

    https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/stories-needed-how-do-kids-get-tofrom-school-in-your-town-wackiness-appreciated/

  24. @swimomswim
    You don’t say how old your child is, or what the roads are like, but you don’t have to have a sidewalk to ride on. In fact, if you’re riding any faster than pedestrians, you are much more likely to be involved in a collision when riding on the sidewalk. I do recommend a safe cycling course for both of you. The League of American Bicyclists is a great place to start.

  25. Biking a mile to school for a 6 year old is a great idea. Especially if Mom can get out with the kid a few times to make sure he understands the rules of the road and to see how well drivers react.

    I would recommend one of those tall flags to attach to the back of his bike (helps people in tall vehicles see him, and looks pretty darn cool to the eye of a young boy).

    As for taking the toddler along, I used a bike trailer when my little ones were little. It had the additional benefit of making even a short and flat ride into a bit of a workout. Also, once out and about on my bike I found myself making short small shopping trips to local shops. Fresh bread, fresh produce… all good.

  26. The mom said that school lets out when her toddler is napping. It would be nice for her to be able to walk, but you don’t know how many other things she has on her plate or what her toddler’s temperament is like, so the suggestion is great, but the judgemental tone in some of the comments is, in my opinion, inappropriate. Besides, if she thinks her child is able to walk home unescorted, then he should be able to walk home unescorted, period.

    The dismissal procedure described in the post is what is done at our PLAYSCHOOL with 4 and 5 year olds, and I think it is actually a legal requirement for a licensed playschool in our province. At the school, the teacher is watchful of the kindergarteners — e.g. the rural kids get walked to the door and wait for their bus buddies who make sure they get on the correct bus and the town kids usually wait in the classroom until whoever comes to get them (parent, grandparent, older sibling). However, I can’t imagine the school refusing if you told them that your kid will be walking home on their own. Maybe you would be asked to provide a letter as mentioned in one of the previous comments, but I can’t blame the school for protecting itself in these litigious times, and your explicit permission should be enough.

  27. Being German I regularly find myself astonished by the proceedings depicted here. I remember my mom taking me to kindergarten the first few days and since then I’ve always been alone (or with my best friend) on my way to kindergarten, elementary school and high school. It was always a walk of about 1 km (2/3 miles), except high school where I had to take a regular bus to the next bigger town (there are very few school only buses round here).

    To the topic of bullying on the bus: it exists and the general response by your parents in Germany is: Cope with it, ask your friends for help. There doesn’t have to be a fight, but usually the kids are totally able to resolve the situation for themselves.

    In the end, I want to share this funny article concerning the overall situation in Germany with you: http://nothingforungood.com/2009/03/01/germans-let-their-kids-do-stuff/

  28. It is funny that only one person brought it up so far… Maybe the mother is working and has no time to walk the kid to school? Instead of both of them leaving at the same time: kid to school and she to work, she is now asked to spend an additional 20min to drop her kid off or alternatively walk her to school which could mean 40min extra.

    Seriously guys, does any of you work? It is so hard to balance job and kids. And the demands on parents are getting increasingly worse. I work 10h days. I simply have no time to walk my kid to school. Nor do I really care for dropping them off. These policies are an unnecessary constraint on working parents. A working parent, who could be home earlier instead of waiting in the pick up line and prepare some dinner and wait for the kid to come back…

    Walking with the kids to school. Lol. That will be my joke of the day.

  29. This link seems to be to the whole article for those who don’t want to pay for a WSJ membership.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703946504575469542721199832.html

  30. well it was the whole article 5 minutes ago. I guess they fixed it.

  31. I have such a great story about this. I was thinking of posting it in the next few weeks.

    I wanted to let you know that I talked about you, your blog and book on my post today, with a link to get your book as well.

    Come read about it at:
    http:// http://www.mudpiesformommy.com

    Let me know what you think?!?!?

  32. Click the top result from this search (the online.wsj.com one)to read the whole article. http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Ms.+Anderson+declined+and+allowed+her+second-grader+to+walk+instead.+He+beat+the+car+every+day%22

  33. “Another point to consider in these financially strapped times is how much money school districts are wasting by busing kids who are well within biking and walking distances.”
    Agreed. They bus the kids from my street to a school that is 3/4ths a mile from us! There was no bus stop there when I grew up – all the kids walked. Now, even though I want my kid to walk, she’d have no one to walk WITH until she was within 1/4th a mile from the school. At 5-6, I didn’t want her walking that first ½ mile without other kids or any crossing guards at busy intersections, so, alas, I put her on the bus (while some days I did walking to/from school with her – but other days I didn’t have time to walk 3 miles a day. The walk would just be 1.5 for her of course since she doesn’t go there/back twice.)

  34. @Lara: That was my thought and reason why I didn’t post something similar. From the info provided, it’s just as likely she’s picking the toddler up from daycare right before heading over to the school, having just come from work. If the child could walk himself home, she might be able to stay at work an extra 20 minutes and the toddler might have a chance to wake up more before pickup.

    But we really don’t know the details.

    I work 12 hour days. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a real nightmare for the single parents to juggle!

  35. Dear Ms. Skenazy,
    I saw your piece in the WSJ. I was shocked to see the name of your blog. I first heard the term “free-range children” when my own nephew so described his own nieces and nephews. He meant that they were completely undisciplined. Your use of the term is more accurate, but I don’t think nearly as funny. You are dead right about the value of walking to school. Keep up the fight.
    Gary Howard

  36. Took my girls(both 9) to a new school today. When we said they’d be walking to school and back(1 1/2 blocks) we were told if they had to cross the main street, they wouldn’t be allowed to walk. WHAT? It’s lit and has a cross walk! Why can’t my 9 year olds press a button and wait for a signal? If it’s SO worrisome, why not place a crossing guard?

    They don’t do bus service if you live within a mile of the school but you can’t cross the street to walk?! Not every parent can be at work after 8:30. It’s SO needless.

  37. Our school does encourage walking, but the majority of kids are dropped off. We have a second grader that is not quite ready to walk on her own (from my perspective) given the busy nature of the roads she would have to walk on and the substandard sidewalks. Unfortunately, no immediate neighbors with similar aged kids. We can’t walk from home (3/4 of a mile) because it would make us let for work. What we usually do is to drive to a street near the school and walk the rest of the way with her.

  38. Normally my son and I walk to school in the morning and then I walk to pick him up. We live close by and its not that I am fearful, but he is a cautious child and has asked if I will still walk with him (he is in Kindergarten). So I do…but on the bummer note, I actually injured myself on a water slide yesterday (an accident which involved me going one way and my leg going another) So I actually am going to drive to pick him up. Which is way more work and stress, but right now I am hobbling slowly so I am hoping that by tomorrow or thurs at the latest I will be at least walking able again, so I am driving.

  39. @cartooncat — Word.

  40. Not so much about this article, but readers of Lenore on other sites are at the disadvantage of not finding all of the resources here. Many of those commenters think she is crazy without knowing her story or the statistics showing that there is a vast difference between how dangerous the world really is and how people have been misled to believe it is. One site labels their columns as liberal or conservative, Despite being dubbed America’s Worst Mom, Lenore has wide appeal to all sides of the political spectrum including libertarians such as Penn Jillette.

  41. Sorry, I don’t mean for this to sound combative, but if her five year old can walk the mile home from school, can’t the mom stroller the toddler to and from school for pick-up? Exercise and fresh air are never bad things.

  42. If it takes 20 minutes to pick up the kid every day, it’d be no slower to walk. A mile is slightly less than a 20 minute walk already.

  43. @buffy: The reason people are insinuating laziness on the mother’s part is because she does have the time, apparently, to drive, park, put her younger child in a stroller, and pick her elder child up from school. She may not like it, but she must have the time for it, since she (and not someone else) is doing it. Part of the mother’s complaint is that the driving trip takes a good 20 minutes or more. Then of course, there is the return trip. Simply walking to and from the school in all likelihood would take no more time (and possibly less) than what she is currently spending in the car. I wasn’t necessarily trying to imply she is lazy, but I do question why she is choosing to drive (which she is complaining about), when walking would be just as expeditious time-wise and superior for a number of other reasons. I understand that she wants her child to do the walk alone, which would be a great time-saver for her no doubt, but knowing that is not an option for another year or two, she should at least take the opportunity to set a good example and walk or bike instead of drive.

    I have twin 3 years old boys who have started preschool. The school is only 3 stops and 2 blocks off the L. BUT, we are nearly 1/2 mile away from the L at this end, which can make for a slow walk. So, I can either make that (at times VERY meandering) trip on foot with the boys, or I can pile them into the car and sit in traffic for what would ultimately be the same amount of time. To me, the choice seems clear, so I can’t help but wonder why this other mother is choosing to drive.

  44. If the mom is working, she has no time to walk her kid to and from school !

    It should NOT be a requirement for parents to transport their kid to school unless they choose to. Whether walking, driving or renting a helicopter to do so.

    To assume that all parents have the time to work around a school and pick-up schedule is ridiculous.

  45. @Christina, I take issue with the fact that, “the school said it, so it must be so.”

    If there is a law granting the school this power, then the law must be changed.

    If there is no such law, then the school policy is even more arbitrary.

    The fact that the school laughed at the idea says just about everything one should need to make the decision to stand and fight.

  46. I would be driving my kid to school, because it would take me 20min to walk her to school and then I would have to walk back home to pick up my car to drive to work… it is simple math. 1mile walk takes 20min. I am a runner, I can do the mile in 6min if I run really fast…, but not with a kid.

    Walking the kids to school is not an option for most working parents. I am sorry. I barely make it to school before the latch key program closes. Yes, I choose to drive…

  47. Sorry. Incorrectly put. I have no other choice than to drive.

  48. Not so fast, Lara. Unless forcible rape is involved, the parent CHOSE to have the kid, either through deliberate planning or not taking adequate preventive measures. It is therefor incumbent upon the parent to make time for their child and do whatever must be done to raise that child. As a member of society, I hold you responsible for making your schedule revolve around whatever you need to do to take care of your child, period. What you “can” and “cannot” do is immaterial. You had the kid; deal with it.

    I am NOT directing this at you personally; I am simply saying that people make their own options.

    I would love to be able to sleep from 3-11AM each day, but I chose to be a parent and now have a child who needs to leave at 7:20AM each day to go to school. Yes, he does this on his own and yes, he is allowed to go the playground by himself after school until it starts to get dark or he gets bored, whichever comes first. But as a parent, it is my job to get my client meetings, etc. done before he is through with school so that I can be within a couple of miles on the off chance that something does go wrong. Which means my ideal sleep scedule, etc. is a thing of the past for the next 9 years.

    Oh well.

  49. @Anthony – I in no way or implied “the school said it, therefore it must be so”. If you have an issue with the school’s policy, fine – I tend to agree with you there – but it has no bearing on any comments I’ve made, so I’m not entirely sure why you posted @me. The mother in this case chose not to argue, but to pick up her kid from school. That is the circumstance I am commenting upon, not the issue of whether the kid should be allowed to walk to school or not. If she chooses not to fight that rule, that is her choice to make. However, having made that choice, it still leaves open the question of why she is driving when walking would, based on her own estimation of the time required to drive, park, unload the infant, etc., be just as quick.

  50. I know a lot of kinder and first graders and I don’t know any that are capable of handing a mile long walk alone when navigating streets. Kids that young aren’t old enough to be reliably crossing the street alone by themselves.

    I’d say you were being absurd if you were complaining about “freaks” that might see him, but him being hit by a car because he didn’t look both ways is very possible.

    If the child was walking with older students I’d think it was a fine idea but overall I think second grade (or the end of first if it’s a short walk and a responsible kid) is an appropriate age for kids being allowed to walk home.

  51. Anthony.
    I do the same you do. We should be agreeing.
    However, I refuse to walk pick up my kid. My time is scarce. Unfortunately, I have to drive to save that extra 20min.

    I was aiming at those women that their choices to stay home or work part time is the role model for everybody else. And that walking kids from and to school is even an option for the full timers or managers like me.

  52. I’m adding my voice to those wondering what working parents do with these insane rules. My kids are grown, but if I’d had to pick them up every day at 2:45pm, I wouldn’t have been able to work.

    What do these schools do if someone other than the parent has to pick up a child? Does the school background every non-family-member, such as a day care provider, who is going to pick up a kid, like they do with volunteers? I’m legitimately curious, because I can’t fathom an entire school with a majority of stay-at-home moms.

  53. Logistics are logistics. My biggest issue is with the freedom to choose, and with the choices made for the best interest of the child. In my never-humble opinion, my idea of “best interests” is allowing my son to explore the world on his own time and terms, within continually expandng limits.

  54. You have never lived the missing parent nightmare and I hope you never do. Facts speak louder than crazy words and when it comes to missing Children the facts are over the top. This article was in the Washington Post last week and quotes several studies. I think you should put it under your pillow and maybe something will sink into your head. Fear is not the answer but the correct education of Parents and Children is important. It happens in small towns and big cities. It comes in a heart beat.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/04/AR2010090403226.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

  55. The world has gone mad. We moved into our house because it is so close to school. We live in a residential neighborhood and the houses on the other side of the street back up to the school that our children attend. My daughters are in second grade and kindergarten. They walk less than a block and only cross our not busy, residential street. In fact, some parents wishing to avoid the overcrowded parking lot at the school actually park on our street to wait for their children. Last week, the POLICE rang my doorbell because they got a call from a “concerned citizen” reporting that two children in school uniforms were walking home “hand in hand” after school. Has this really become a police matter?

  56. @KPabst, my policy with the police is to be very nice, thank them profusely, for their concern, explain that the kid is a lot safer than anyone thinks (thanks in part to the cops!) and that no law is being broken. The next time it happens, I will collect names and badge numbers and write a letter to the precinct captain explaining the situation and asserting my civil rights. The third time, I will take them to court for violating siad civil rights. The amount I sue for will be $1 because it’s not the money but the principle of the thing.

    Stupid lawsuits got us here, perhaps they can get us out!

  57. Let me give you and your followers some more facts.
    2,000 children are reported missing every day.
    1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood. That is one child every 5 min.
    As many as 100,000 registered sex offenders are “lost” in the system, their whereabouts unknown.
    1 in 7 children using the internet receive sexual solicitations in a single year. 58,000 children are victims of non-family abductions each year. The Numbers are staggering. The threat is real _and so are the Children and families who suffer.

  58. @Lou,

    Between 90 and 95% of sexual victimization comes from friends and relatives… the very people the child knows and trusts. Stranger molestation is the exception, not the norm.

    Do you take your child to church? Guess what: The guy in the dress spewing the mumbo jumbo about some big daddy in the sky is 50 TIMES more likely to molest your child than a stranger.

    Well over 95% of sexual offenders pose ZERO danger to kids because their “offenses” are such things as peeing in public, making out in a car, simply exposing themselves, and doing things that, again, pose ZERO danger to children.

    Well ovr 90% of the kids reported missing are take by their own parents as part of custody battles.

    ONLY 115 CHILDREN PER YEAR are abducted by strangers in the cassical sense, and ONLY 46 per year are murdered by said abductors. Tragedies, all. But, the fact that you know the kids’ names decades later is PROOF POSITIVE that these situations are exceedingly rare. That’s why the news is called “the news” and not “more of the same old crap that happens every day.”

    Over 1,750 children die each year in cars.

    Bottom line: If you are driving your kids to church, then you are one of the worst child abusers possible.

    Life is inherently risky, which is precisely why people like you need to breathe through your nose, research actual numbers from actual sources (the news is NOT a valid source), and make intelligent decisions based on those numbers.

    The numbers do not lie: Any way you look at them, your kid is orders of magnitudes safer today than you were as a kid when your parents kicked out of the house to go roam on your own all day.

    Put another way: The day airliner crashes become so common that they no longer make the news is the day to stop flying. So long as they make front-page news worldwide, fly to your heart’s content.

    Now take your stupid fearmongering elsewhere. It ain’t selling here.

  59. I started walking approximately a mile to get to the bus stop when I started kindergarden, at 4. Granted, it was with several friends (all the same age), but there’s no reason why a 6-year-old couldn’t do it, especially with a buddy or two.

    I never had a bus come to my door until I moved to the States. I was also never forced to remain on school grounds during lunch until I moved to the States.

  60. @Lou

    2,000 children are reported missing every day.

    and how many are found and returned by strangers?

    1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood. That is one child every 5 min.

    Horrible, but not related to kids walking to school.

    As many as 100,000 registered sex offenders are “lost” in the system, their whereabouts unknown.

    Many of whom shouldn’t be in the system. We need to concentrate on the dangerous ones, then maybe we can keep track of them.

    1 in 7 children using the internet receive sexual solicitations in a single year.

    Who cares? What matters is now many are from real predators (not FBI) and how many kids honestly follow up (not baiting).

    58,000 children are victims of non-family abductions each year.

    ok, I call BS on this one until you can provide a citation. Every source I’ve seen puts stranger abduction at < 200 per year.

  61. @L.M. – Do you honestly think that teachers are never weirdos? Or that other parents in the area can’t be molestors? What kind of horrible parent are you, letting your kids to go to school?!

  62. @Anthony — regardless of whether it’s a “choice to have a child,” society is the gainer, not the loser, when institutions like schools realistically take into account the reality that people have jobs, kids, or what have you. Who gains by an “Oh, well, you choose to have kids, we’ll do nothing to accommodate the complications that creates, even though *the very reason for our existence as a school is to serve families with kids*” attitude??????

  63. Rich, you got this one half right:

    “1 in 7 children using the internet receive sexual solicitations in a single year.”

    Your answer was accurate, but the more relevant one is:

    Which has what to do with walking home from school?
    😉

  64. Having an issue with the parent being lazy is a complete cop out, and a typical tactic in the war on parenting that seems to have developed. If you ever want to do something other than be a super nanny to your children people accuse you of being lazy. As though making your life easier is some kind of crime. It’s smug, irrelevant, judgmental and mean.

    This woman would like the right, that her own parents enjoyed, to decide how her child gets to and from school. Being able to exercise that right would give her more freedom to mold her family and her own life in the way she wants to. The desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should not be expected to dissolve into a desire to follow a single type of “approved” lifestyle just because you have kids.

    Maybe while the kid walks home she hopes to tend home grown vegetables to feed her family, maybe she works from home and could earn another $20 to keep the wolf from the door, maybe she wants to watch TV with a cup of coffee. Maybe she just hates juggling her younger child to a set schedule for a chore she considers unnecessary. The point is, it’s her choice. The fact that she drives instead of walking now doesn’t make her desire to stay home any more or less OK. And walking isn’t a solution to what really bothers her about the situation.

  65. @Rich Wilson,
    You wanted facts so if you go to this link which was a FACT BASED story in the Washington Post last week and hit in the middle of the article, Federal studies have found that teenagers are most at risk in non-family abductions. It will take you to US Dept of Justice National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children. It will give you the most recent study on the topic. It is not a problem until it hits locally. Read this study and then please comment. Lou

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/04/AR2010090403226.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR

  66. @Lou, yes, and if you had taken time to read the headline, you would see that it says that CAPABLE kids are the best defense against abductions.

    How do you get capable kids?

    By teaching them to be capable.

    How do you do that?

    By being a free-range parent who is not always solving their problems, picking them up, escorting them, etc.

    In short, the solution to the problem you lament is the parenting method you seem to be decrying.

    Again take your fearmongering elsewhere. I ain’t buying it!

  67. Other people have tackled other parts of your comment, Lou, so I’ll take this one:

    As many as 100,000 registered sex offenders are “lost” in the system, their whereabouts unknown.

    100,000 is a lot, sure, one out of every 2300 adults in the US. (Although, like always, I have to ask how many of those sex offenders actually raped children as opposed to just, say, peeing in the wrong alley, and how many of the rapists harmed anybody outside of their own families – tragic though it is, a guy who diddled his daughter is NOT a risk to me and mine.) However, it’s important to remember that one reason sex offenders fall between the cracks is… draconian laws against sex offenders. If, after your prison term, you find you can’t live in most places, you find that you can’t get most jobs, you find that your neighbors are allowed to know everything about you and make your life miserable… guess what? Odds are you’re going to do whatever’s in your power to stop this, ASAP.

    These guys drop out of the system (and in the serious cases this means they are prevented from getting the help they need to keep from harming anybody again – great job!) because they need to feed themselves, and being in the system doesn’t help with that.

  68. Lou, of course teenagers are more at risk of stranger abductions. What does that have to do with letting your six-year-old walk to school?

    Your article, btw, says exactly the opposite of what you’re claiming. You’re claiming tens of thousands of stranger abductions a year – the article says stranger abductions are “infrequent”. And the 58k cases of “non-family” abduction includes neighbors, teachers, and friends – mostly not strangers.

  69. Uly
    To be a reg sex offender it is based on a point system. Touching x points, penetration xx points, so on and then there are different levels. There are 704,777 reg sex offenders. 100,000 are MIA. Here is the problem last year of all the new cases only 5% were from reg offenders. They are incurable and the cost to everyone else is huge. It cost us 16% more for women who were sexually abused and 32% if they were physicaly and sexual abused. Sorry to tell you all this good news but you can teach your kids to be wise. But as a parent you have to take some responsiblity.

  70. This is the full quote Lou is referring to:

    There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of nonfamily
    abduction, defined more broadly to include
    all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances
    as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser
    amounts of forced movement or detention in addition
    to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical
    kidnappings.

    They go on to say:

    The controversy and confusion that have plagued efforts to estimate the number of children abducted by nonfamily perpetrators stem in part from ambiguities regarding the meaning of the term “abduction.” Because the media focus on notorious crimes, such as the kidnappings of Samantha Runnion, Polly Klass, and Adam Walsh, child abduction is conventionally thought of as a life-threatening crime of substantial duration and distance involving strangers. However, as legally defined, an abduction can occur when a person is held against his or her will for a modest amount of time or moved even a short distance, which often occurs in the commission of other crimes. Estimates based solely on the legal definition of abduction would be unlikely to satisfy those wanting to know about the risk and nature of stereotypical kidnappings, nor would the stereotypical kidnapping estimates alone satisfy those concerned about the phenomenon of abductions in general.

    Sounds like that 58,200 covers a wide range of things, some of which have nothing to do with kids walking home from school. I do concede that limiting ‘stranger abduction’ to abductions of over 50 miles doesn’t really illustrate the problem. I wonder how much the 115 number would grow if they included kids kidnapped and killed by strangers, but only taken 49 miles. Or 2 miles. That distance is immaterial to me as a parent.

    I also think the focus should be on risk/reward. How much ‘reward’ does something ‘cost’, and how much safety does it buy us?

  71. Uly
    This is my last comment, A kid is taken, he is sexually abused 99.9% of the time. A total stranger abduction are rare yes, 117 to 200 a year. Adam Walsh was a total stranger abduction or Jaycee Dugard. The other 58,000 are still taken and abused. Please explain the difference. Those 204,000 parental abductions are not pretty either,

  72. Lou, your persistent refusal to use logic to see the fundamental flawsin your argument is of a level normally reserved for the religious. Go kneel in front in front of the person who is most likely to molest children, confess your “sins,” and let us raise our kids.

  73. ok, my last post too:

    I honestly think that letting my kid walk to school one mile at age 6 will make him better prepared to handle an abductor (known or not) when he’s 14.

    At 14 he’s not going to let me escort him to school. I want him capable of making decisions on his own.

  74. Lou, I don’t know where you’re getting that “point system” from. It’s simply not true in all (most?) states and municipalities.

  75. Anthony, seriously, that’s not called for.

    For one thing, it’s not accurate. The person most likely to molest any given child is their father or stepfather – not Father So-and-so, their actual father!

    For another, child molesters do occur in all religions. The only reason the Catholic Church has gotten so much media attention is because a. they’re so big b. they ran so many low-cost schools and youth programs (thus giving their authority figures more access to children) and c. they did cover up a lot of it. However, that doesn’t make a Catholic priest any more likely to molest a child than, say, a non-Catholic scout leader.

  76. Uly, I crunched the numbers. Father so-and-so is 50x times more likely than a random person off the street to molest a kid. A kid is also 47 times as likely to die in a car as they are from a classic stranger abduction, and some 5-6x times (I forget the exact number but it’s somewhere in this range) more likely in a car than riding a bike or walking.

    I stand by what I said: Driving your kid to church is a pretty damned risky thing to do compared to letting them walk to school.

  77. I’m a working parent. I enjoy walking with my daughter to school (she walks home alone). My solution (mentioned on previous thread, but relevant to the oh but I work discussion here) is to get up early, drive to a little way PAST the school, park the car there and walk home (its about 1 mile/20 min). Then we do the morning routine, walk together, she goes to school, I hop in the car and drive on to work.

    Not necessarily an option for solo parents I realise who may not be able to leave kids alone at 6am, and also dependent on my start time being sufficiently laterthan daughter’s school arrival time but works for us and gets us both some exercise and quality time!

  78. Uly, I crunched the numbers. Father so-and-so is 50x times more likely than a random person off the street to molest a kid.

    Well, no duh. Mom and Dad are about a zillion more times more likely than a random person off the street to molest a kid – and they’re also more likely than Father So-and-so.

    People known to a child are more likely to molest that kid than strangers. Obviously.

    And in the hierarchy of “Who’s likely to molest a kid” parents and other family members come first, well before other authority figures. Those groups together totally trounce “strangers”, yes… but you didn’t say “Your priest is more likely to harm a kid than a stranger”, something obvious. You said “He’s the most likely person to harm a kid”, which is wrong. (Why? Because Father So-and-so almost certainly isn’t anybody’s actual father or stepfather. THAT is the most likely person to harm your kid.)

    For that matter, taking your kid to church but staying with them won’t put them at any risk (unless you’re molesting them, in which case they at least probably aren’t being raped by you in church where there’s people around.)) Taking them to church but allowing them only to stay alone in group settings with multiple adults won’t put them at an especially high risk (and one that’s probably equal to the risk of being molested by their teacher, that is, probably not that high at all.)

  79. @Anthony,

    You keep telling Lou to keep his fearmongering off of here. I agree that he isn’t correct in his assessment of the risks, but could I respectfully ask you to keep your religious hate mongering off of here? By that I mean the hateful comments that you are throwing towards any form of religion. There are plenty of free range parents on here that aren’t irresponsible or foolish for having church of some type be a part of our lives, and it just makes me write off anything you are saying because it’s so washed in bitterness. I’m sorry for whatever has happened to you in your life to make your hate religion, but it’s not helping your arguments, sorry.

  80. You know, I looked up the dismissal procedures for my local elementary school, here in Montclair, NJ. They are… amazingly sane, really.

    Kindergarteners must be escorted home. All other kids, the parents choose whether they will walk alone, be escorted, or ride the bus. The webpage also exhorted parents who drive children to look out for walkers and remain outside the circle. Our high school has ginormous bike racks out front.

    I appreciate my town even more, now that I see how much crazier things could be.

  81. That’s exactly my point, swimomswim. I’m an atheist, and sure, I have my opinions on a lot of people’s religious beliefs – but I don’t go ahead and share them in mixed company. It’s not polite, and it’s simply not appropriate when the discussion has nothing to do with religion.

    Likewise, as a liberal, I’m often irked by people posting here sneering that “liberals” wanted this or that. Not only is it untrue, but the effect is to make some people uncomfortable with posting, in a place where they SHOULD be welcome if only because they agree with the principle of the site – raising your kids in a free-range way. Politics and religion aren’t actually relevant to these discussions.

  82. My point is that all these paranoid people who whine about strangers should look at the things they see as perfectly safe. It is well established that churches are statistically awful places as far as molestation is concerned, but nobody gives that a second thought. But just little Tyler or Ashley walk down the street…

  83. That might be your point, but it’s not what you said. What you said is a hateful and incorrect comment that the person most likely to molest a child is a Catholic priest (at least, I don’t know many other religions that require confession to a priest).

    If that was legitimately your point I’d suggest that next time you say it exactly the way you said in your last comment, because I really doubt that the next time you make the anti-Catholic statement it’ll go unremarked upon, even if the two of us who already objected aren’t there.

  84. Hateful comment…

    Stake…

    Hateful comment…

    Stake…

    Hmm…

    And I’m done with this topic.

  85. @ Anthony

    Having read all the comments, one point that I feel the need to add that I think you either are unfamiliar with or don’t take into account is all those parents whose jobs don’t allow them to ‘get client meetings and such’ done around the kid’s schedule. I’ve never been a single parent, but I have spent years working in food service and retail, prior to becoming an adjunct instructor at the local university. In none of those jobs, including instructor, was the setting of my hours at all up to me. I mean, sure, I could turn down a class that was at a crappy time, but there are a bazillion Soc majors out there who can take my place. I take the classes they give me. In food service and retail, I absolutely could not choose my hours. If I had a good schedule, I worked first shift, 6am-2pm, and could get my kids after school. If I had a decent schedule, I worked second shift, 2pm to 10pm, and could have breakfast with them, and get them to school. Never could I do both. And always I had to work at least one weekend day. If I wanted to keep the job that is. Like, pay my rent and put food on the table. And my husband was always employed, but also in retail.

    And just to clarify, we both had graduate school under our belts at this time, but made more money in the service sector in Washington State than in a professional position. And that was well over a decade ago.

    So, ya’ know, just sayin’, don’t assume someone copping out on parenting if they can’t accommodate the demands of a given school. The schools are certainly not very accommodating to the needs of parents.

  86. PS… my two cents (or is a quarter now?) on the religion thing…

    I’m with Uly and swimomswim on the stop the religious bashing thing. As with Uly, I am an atheist and a liberal. I have seen terrible things within religion, my younger brother ended up taking his own life after horrible crimes being perpetrated against him by his childhood spiritual leader (and no, none of us has ever been Catholic). But people who find value and strength in religion DO, and that is completely fine for them! And to suggest that they don’t love or take as good care of their kids as parents who don’t take their kids to church… well, patently untrue, and irrelevant to the issue of free-range parenting.

    Supportive community for our parenting choices, people. Supportive community.

  87. I walked a mile alone and with a friend, frequently at age 4 and 5. I never had an issue with crossing the streets. That was a safety lesson drilled into me very very early on and one I got to practice at every single day with and without adults. It wasn’t for school but to the store or other friends houses. I walked myself home from preschool three times a week at age 4. It was about two blocks depending on how I went. I often went the long way through the park and peoples yards. It was the norm to walk home from preschool. It was also the norm to walk to and from school because you went to the neighborhood school. I rode the bus because I went to a magnet school across town. I still walked a half block after getting off the bus and a half block to the bus in the morning where I waited 10 -15 minutes. My mother couldn’t even see me unless she walked all the way out of the yard and around the neighbors house, which she didn’t after the first day of Kdg. I’m only 36 so this wasn’t eons ago.

    I’m happy to say that kids in the neighborhood I lived in as a child still walk the 3/4 of a mile (roughly) to and from school without parents, in all weather. They have to cross a semi busy street with a cross walk light and they manage very well. I can’t imagine how many parents and grandparents would pitch a fit if the school tried to keep the kids from walking and biking without an adult, let alone leaving the classroom until a parent was seen by the teacher!

  88. @gramomster, I get the employment and scheduling thing. I also remember when I joined a volunteer fire department. The chief looked me in the eye and said, “Remember, you are joining us, we are not joining you.”

    Nobody forced any of us to have kids. We chose to have them. It is therefore our duty to fit into the system, and not the other way around. If enough people have problems with the system, then they should come together to find ways to change it to the highest degree of mutual acceptance. I am advocating a few changes at my son’s school and if I don’t get my way, oh well. They did not ask me to adopt my son nor to send him to that school.

  89. @Anthony – As the saying goes, S*** happens.

    I’m sure that many people had kids when they fit perfectly into their schedules and could easily work around the demands of schools. Unfortunately, jobs don’t always last forever, especially these last few years, and many families have been forced to take whatever they can get.

    It’s an unfortunate truth that raising kids takes 18+ years, and it is very difficult for people to be able to anticipate what will happen to their circumstances in that amount of time. Even a year ahead can be very rocky for many people, especially the less advantaged.

    Now, as many have already told you, a school’s entire purpose is to take care of and nurture children. It’s one thing for employers not to offer flexible hours for parents, but schools absolutely have a duty to be more understanding.

    By the way, when I was a kid, our class would sometimes be closed for the afternoon if our teacher had a headache or felt ill – sending all of us little ‘uns home. My mother, a single parent, worked full time in town over an hour’s drive away. There was no warning, no way for her to make alternative plans, no way to contact the babysitter and ask her to come over a few hours early. When she complained, the school matter-of-factly told her that she was responsible for her children’s care and what was she doing leaving me in the care of strangers anyway instead of being at home like a good mommy?

  90. Yes, Grimalkin, very much so. And, sometimes, as you said, s**t happens. Which can also mean a kid comes along at an, ahem, less than opportune time. We do the best we can.

    Right now, hubby and I are raising a 4 year old grandson, child of our now-20 year old daughter. Crappy timing, but he’s ours, we have to figure out how to rearrange our entire lives to do the best we can for him. Not at all what my life looked like it would be in my 40s back when I had my last child at 26. Hell, this was the year I’d be done raising, have them launched, be able to do nifty things, like get a hobby that requires the purchasing of materials, or travel, or effing sleep in and do whatever the heck I wanted on the weekend.

    Yeah. Plans. Gotta love em’.

    And Grimalkin… what a pain in the neck, and how demoralizing and marginalizing for your mom! The attitude of some folk, I tell ya’. Women are people, and we are not an agrarian society anymore!!! Can we please pull education into this century? Or at the very least, the late 20th century? Sheesh…

  91. Helenquine, thank you for your post; very insightful and spot-on.

  92. I’ve fully admitted to just starting to dip my toes in to the free-range water with my two little kids (5 and 3). And, I realize all kids are different and some mature faster than others. But, I think a kindergartener is too young to walk a mile home from school by himself. I don’t think the school should make rules requiring someone to pick him up, but I don’t think he should walk home alone. I think this parent would have a better chance of bucking the car pick-up system if she got a few other parents together whose kids live near her and they take turns walking home from school with the kids.

  93. Why don’t the parents walk to the school to pick up the kids deemed to young to walk home? Seems like a better and faster solution.

  94. @ Anthony – To quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.” I never intended to be a single parent working the job that I am currently but c’est la vie.

    Now I guess that you are correct and I certainly had choices. I could have murdered my child at the end of my relationship with her father, or placed her into foster care. I could have chosen to support us both on welfare. In my selfishness, I’ve disregarded those “choices” and actually work to keep a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs and clothes on our backs. Sadly, my selfishness means that I can’t always “fit into the system.” Nor do I think that I am so self-important that the entire system should alter it’s schedule to meet mine (although it’d be nice). Instead we make do the best that we can. Since the other options seem to be death, foster care or welfare, I think that I have the best interest of my child covered.

  95. Wow I must be tired. Please disregard the typos. I really can correctly write the English language and do know the difference between your and you’re and it’s and its.

  96. @Donna – Exactly. No one is saying that schools should be bending over backwards to accommodate parents’ busy schedules. Rather, don’t have crazy restrictions that make things nearly impossible for all but stay-at-home/helicopter parents. Have a little flexibility, have a little understanding, and lets all work together to ensure that our children are safe, educated, and healthy – all in good measure.

  97. Ahhh, yes, the things I miss so dearly about living in Germany. To address the real issue at hand: I agree with several other responses, can mom and toddler walk to the school and pick up the 5 year old by foot? If it’s 20min in a car or 20min on a 1mi walk, I’d take the walk. If mom is really adamant about the 5yo doing it himself for independent’ sake and not time’s sake, by all means, fight the school. You have emotional support and more from everyone here.

  98. I lived that life for a year. My older son started kindergarten when my younger son was 2. When the teacher explained the pick up procedure to me I asked “and what if he is walking home”. She looked at me like I was insane, and explained that he was too young to walk the half a block home. So I picked up my son from school. Generally my 2 year old was ready for his nap about 1/2 hour before it was time to pick up from kindergarten, so I either had a sleeping child, or a screaming child with me. It wasn’t too bad when I could walk with the stroller, but when the snow was too deep (most of the winter) I would have to carry him, and he was a big kid! That was the worst year ever!

  99. Mom just needs to pay a responsible older child 20 bucks a month to walk her kid home from school. I doubt my kid would be ready to walk home solo at kindergarten. Waking up a toddler from a nap is no fun. Mine will scream for at least as long as it takes to cook dinner if I wake her up early. I don’t fault her for not wanting to walk herself. That is not laziness. It’s protecting her sanity!

  100. I and every other 5-year-old in my neighbourhood walked 1km to and from school every day. Why are today’s kids incapable of this? And why are people who have no understanding of childhood allowed to be principals and set school policies?

  101. If we think it’s good for our kids to walk without a parent, why argue about the parent’s mode of transportation?

    I could see how some 6-year-olds could walk a mile safely. I don’t think it’s against the law. So in my opinion, the school has no right to demand that the child be escorted. They can demand a letter / release from the parent confirming that the child is to be allowed to leave on his own when school is over. That should be enough to protect the school.

    I understand the concern about a 6-year-old walking. Many of them are not experienced enough or are too impulsive to be trusted with that much responsibility. Fine, but isn’t that for the parents to determine?

  102. If we think it’s good for our kids to walk without a parent, why argue about the parent’s mode of transportation?

    Because she made a big deal in her post about how she has to drive (although her son would be safe walking alone) and it takes 20 minutes finding parking and navigating the traffic before she even picks up her son.

    Since she wants her son to walk anyway, and at the moment he is not allowed to walk alone, none of us sees why she’s spending money driving when she could spend the exact same amount of time and walk instead.

  103. Uly, I am a little annoyed by you right now.
    Would it be reasonable to walk with the kid? Who knows. But to imply that all parents should alter their work and home life to accomodate arbitrary rules is not in the best interest of society.

    Yesterday, I did the first pick up routine of the year. Two kids, two separate locations… it took me more than an hour to pick up both kids while driving from work. And I did not have a choice as the kids are of different age and cannot yet go to the same school. The kindergartener cannot walk home, the preschooler even less.

    I will have to leave now 30 to 45 min earlier each day from work just to spend time in a car driving around.

    The pick-up routine at schools is a nightmare. Walking with kid just the same with a different means of transportation. But still the same.

    This country has a serious problem with putting rocks in the way of working parents, and taking stay-at-home moms as the standard.

    Parents should not be required to pick up kids from school at all. The fact that most schools have these ridiculous policies is a sign that the competence level and skill set of our kids is seriously deteriorating and that most of us have waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy too much time at hand to worry about and cater to their kids’ every need.

  104. It’s not the exact same amount of time. If she’s driving the child to school, and then driving on to work, she’s only got one twenty-minute journey. If she’s walking, and then driving on to work, then she has a twenty-minute journey to the school with the child, then a twenty-minute journey back home to get the car to drive to work. On the way home, if she’s walking she first has to drive home and park, and then walk twenty minutes to school, collect the child and walk twenty minutes home again. Two twenty-minute journeys makes a total of forty minutes, twice a day. And I can well believe that she wouldn’t have time for that extra twenty minutes off her work at either end of the day.

    Why is this so incomprehensible? Is it because people are still unconsciously assuming she is a stay-at-home mother?

  105. Thank you Orielwen. I thought nobody would get it.

  106. It is so annoying that people really believe that the time a mother spends at other places like at her job is not worth anything. And that you have ultimate flexibility when you work, so that it does not matter whether you leave at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, or 5pm. It matters a lot.

    The alternative for many working women is then to take work home or get up at 5am every morning to arrive at work early. But only if she does not have kid-drop-off as well.

  107. I think the reason most people are assuming she is a stay at home mom is because she didn’t say anything about work. First off, let me just say, that if a parent wants their child to walk home without an escort, than that is their choice and they should be allowed to do so. If that is not allowed at your school then by all means fight the system. In this case, as others have said, it would probably be pretty easy to change the current rules. But while she is doing that she still has to follow the current rules.

    All that being said, I do not know many kindergartners who would walk home alone and stay at home alone until the parents came home from work. In most cases where both parents are working the children are either in some sort of day care, which will pick up your children from school and transport them to the day care. Or they stay in an after school program until the parents can come pick them up. A third option is that there is a babysitter who is watching the kids. There are the parents who do leave work in time to be home with the kids after school. However the women in the article mentioned none of this, which leads me to believe she stays at home.

    So, given that she does in fact stay at home. (If she doesn’t, than that is a different situation, and would require a different solution) Why can’t she walk? If it were me, I would put the toddler down for his/her nap in the stroller. That way when it is time to leave to pick up the older child, all she has to do is push the stroller and she is off. When she gets home she can just leave the toddler in the stroller to finish his/her nap.

    If she is in fact a working mom that leaves work for the day to be at home with her kids after school. Then maybe she does need to, as others above have suggested, pay a older child to walk home with the younger child. That would give her the extra time to get home.

    I think some of the readers and commenters on here need to relax a little. Not everybody is out to get working parents. Like I said above, I think the reason most people assumed she was a stay at home mom, is because she herself never mentioned working. If it were my question that is one of the first things I would have said. Mostly so people would know the whole story and could give me solutions and advice that would work for my situation.

  108. I find all the talk of “why doesn’t she walk” to be besides the point because, as far as I can tell, the letter writer isn’t asking for advice. She’s lamenting the pick up situation at her kid’s school and describing the “nightmare” she currently goes through. If she walked she would be describing a different nightmare, but her issue is with the fact the school will not allow her kid to leave on his own. I pretty much assume that she isn’t really stupid, and if the issue were actually simply that driving isn’t fun she would already have worked out she could walk.

  109. Lara, I’m not saying she SHOULD alter her life. I’m saying it’d take the SAME AMOUNT OF TIME to do it through walking than through driving – and she’s ALREADY driving. In the interim where the rules are the rules and not being changed she needs to get her kid to school SOMEhow. (And Lara, I kinda think that you should have to pick up your preschooler from school. Your kid who isn’t even in kindergarten yet is almost certainly too young to walk unattended. For one thing, the cars can’t see him.)

  110. These are facts not to scare you but to give you all a reality of what I deal with so listen carefully before you make your choices and I want to be clear about why schools have put pick up policies in place. I’m very good friends with many parents of missing children and know the ones that I mention here very well. John and Reve’ Walsh had no idea when Adam at age 6 wanted to play in the game aisle in Sears while Reve’, two aisle over was looking at lamps and she would never see Adam again. Colleen Nick was at a Little League game with her kids in Alma Arkansas when Morgan age 6 was playing with friends behind the bleachers. Jacob Wetterling age 11, his brother and a friend were going to a video store on their bikes, Jacob is still missing and Sara Ann Wood age 13 from Litchfield NY went back to her father’s church on her bike to get some sheet music. All these parents are great caring responsible parents that never can understand why me today. This is a sad tale about life. I have a Child Advocacy Center, What a child advocacy center does is co- locate law enforcement, the pre and post social service teams, the physicians, the DA and victims advocate team to make sure the child has one interview not 10 or 12. To increase the conviction rate from a low 10% to a 70 or 80% conviction rate of a child molester. The average child molester will do between 4 to 100 children before they are caught. If you get a conviction at the second or tenth child you have saved a bunch of kids lives. This affluent county has 781,000 people, it has 1024 registered sex offenders. Last year family services had 7500 reports of child abuse, we saw over 1000 children for sexual abuse. This year we are sad to say on track to see 2000 children. The abusers run the from teachers, coaches, parents to even doctors. These are facts. I give this information again not to scare you but to make you aware.

  111. I agree with Helenquine. The issue is that she has to pick her kid up at all, not the way that she does it. Since the poster doesn’t seem like a complete idiot (or any idiot at all), I assume that she considered all her options after her first choice of having her kid walk home alone was shot down. For whatever reason, and there could be many that were not addressed in her post since she didn’t think that she would need to justify her entire life for a bunch of judgmental people, she decided that driving would be the next best thing for her family. That doesn’t mean that she now has to be 100% happy with that decision. It can still be damn inconvenient to her while simultaneously being the best option available. The fact that she chose driving for whatever reason over walking herself does not destroy her ability to gripe about not being able to use her first choice of getting her child home from school. Going off an tangents attacking her for not walking herself is completely irrevevant and takes away from the original point of the post.

  112. It’s the same at our school – and we live ACROSS THE STREET. Kindergarteners are not allowed to walk home alone and must be picked up at the door and released by the teacher. Or I’d write a note to the teacher and stand at the garage door and wave to her to release him. The kids feel like “big boys” when they get to walk home by themselves!!!

  113. @ Lou – I work in the criminal justice system and have for a number of years. We have NEVER, I repeat NEVER had a single, solitary case of a stranger abduction. Every single one of our child molestation cases involved people KNOWN to the child. The largest number were step-fathers, followed by other step-relatives, older cousins and uncles. Fathers and grandfathers make an occasional appearance but are much rarer. School scenarios are extremely rare but do occasionally happen – there has been one case in the last 4 years here and it didn’t involve sex at all. We’ve never had a minister or priest directly although there is currently some weird cult guy who is charged with molesting his step-daughter and one was netted in a Dateline Catch-a-Predator scenario.

    Yes stranger abductions do occur but they are extremely rare. Conflating all your over 1000 cases of sexual abuse into a warning about stanger danger is ridiculous. 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of those molestors were KNOWN to those children. They were absolutely NOT people who wandered in off the street into a daycare to molest the students. They are a stark statistic for single parents contemplating remarriage (something I will probably never do until my child is 18) but in no way speak to the danger of not having PINs at daycares and walking home from school. For most sexually abused children, HOME is the most dangerous location.

  114. Uly, not my point again, please read what I have to say before commenting.

    I am in support of working mothers in general, because this group is very often neglected in all discussion around parenthood. I feel working parents need a voice, because they have to deal with accusations (as in being egoistic and own personal choice) way too often. Additionally, these mothers and fathers make a fairly difficult trade off to secure a financial future, while having less time to take care of kids and household.

    This means they will less likely participate in school activities, PTAs etc, and thus being forgotten when decisions with regards to pick-up, attendance, and flexibility are made.

    The point of whether I decide to pick up my own kids or not is completely irrelevant to the discussion. This is about the “why”. Why is it necessary to have such rigid pick up policies and how can we change those towards something more free range… ?

    One of the reasons why these policies do not change is fear (as in law suit, stranger danger, what do others think) and those parents that have too much time at hand that can plan around any circumstance as they can schedule cleaning/shopping/Dr. visit/charity work/school support any way they want. These parents do neglect that working these days requires you to be at work most of the time during the day. There is not a lot you can do about that if you still plan on having a career and try to keep a well-paid job.

  115. Lou – Those of us here know the statistics, know the stories, and some of us likely even know families with children who have been molested or are missing for a variety of reasons. Some of us may even be part of such a family. We are choosing not to live in fear. We are choosing to provide our children with the tools they need to move confidently in this world. We are choosing to communicate the (now) radical idea to our children that bad things can happen to good people sometimes, that the unexpected happens, that you cannot control the world around you but only how you interact with and respond to that world. Children are not helpless sub-human creatures that suddenly flower into humanity and adulthood at 18. They are young people who need to be reared and guided and loved as they grow. Locking them in the proverbial attic until adulthood does them, nor society at large, any great favors. And children ARE part of society, which means how you rear them has an impact on us all. Children raised on a diet of fear will grow up to be fearful adults – physically, mentally and emotionally. Is that the legacy you wish to leave behind? If so, that is your choice, but you probably should stop commenting on this site. You will find no converts to fear here.

  116. Oops – that should be “does not do them, or society at large…”

  117. I would like to know why, when walking to school is NOT expected anymore and NOT the norm, the speed limit in a school zone forces everyone to go down to 25 mph. I know why it was started, and how it was safer back in the day – but it is totally obsolete now. There are no kids outside and certainly none walking on the side of the road!

  118. Renee, my school has lots of walkers/bikers so I don’t wonder there, but I do wonder at why we have to slow to 20mph in HIGH SCHOOL school zones. Um, half these kids drive themselves — are they really so untrained as to not know to watch for cars, etc., if they’re walking?!?

  119. Ok I give up. I agree that 80 to 90% know the child.That makes it OK????? All I was trying to tell you is to educate yourself and your child to be responsible. If you know the rules than you are prepared. Parenting is eduction on all aspects of life. You teach your children about water and fire safety. Yes? Teach them then to tell you and be aware.

  120. […] letting your kid walk to school. Also: I hope there’s a special circle of hell reserved for busy-body elementary school administrators. Share and […]

  121. And Lou gets the concept of Free-Ranging and teaching our children HOW TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES so they can be successful, safe, productive adults!

    Yay! Welcome to the fold, Lou! (I mean that sincerely.)

  122. Lou, you are definately in the worng web site discussion forum. People here aren’t scared by meaningless fear generated “what if” stories. What we do here is worry and plan for REAL, not perceived fears and risks.

    You keep spouting education, yet the “statistics” you spew out are either downright false, or can be explained as non fasctors when it comes to real fears if you actually took the time and effort to understand what the numbers actually mean. Stop blathering the fear speach, we here are trying our best to live in reality, not the “everyone’s a preditor and child molestor” society you make life out to be.

  123. Sorry I gave you facts so you can educate yourself and your children. I voiced no opinion. You do what you want with the information. I kept saying that I was not trying to scare you but educate you on the world around you. You want free range children than educate them is all I was trying to help you with.
    Peace

  124. Your not helping, your scraing with meaningless dribble. Educate yourself and understand what you are quoting before you make yourself look even more of a fear spewing zealot.

  125. Back to the question of the mom’s choice of transportation. I still feel it is irrelevant, because the point is that the child should be able to go without his mom if she says so. Regardless of whether Mom would be walking or driving.

    However, maybe the reason why the mom was commenting on the 20 minutes was that overall, it’s a very inefficient system, because every parent whose kid is not bussed is reallocating time, running their engines, screwing up traffic, and making the actual walkers’ route more dangerous. The point isn’t how the 20 minutes is spent, but that it’s 20 minutes that didn’t need to be spent at all. And it isn’t just her 20 minutes, but that times the number of parents whose kids could walk alone (or with buddies).

    I really don’t get how people on this site think they need to weigh in on other people’s personal life choices, be they religion, exercise, working, spending, or whatever, when the topic at hand is letting little kids walk independently home from school. This matter is equally relevant regardless of whether you are a working or stay-at-home parent, in my opinion.

  126. Paul, Please go back to my early post where I gave you the links to the Justice Dept study on this topic.
    I’m done

  127. As mentioned in previous blog posts, my kids go a school where there are no busses, because everyone lives within walking distance. The head of th schools PTA organized a private school bus, defeating the school’s (and mine) effort to try and get kids to walk. My kids live at the very edge of the school’s zone and it’s a 20 minute walk. when giving her “the facts” about the safety of walking verses driving, she replied “Statistics mean nothing when it comes to my child’s safety”. THAT’S the attitude that we here must attempt to change.

  128. Lou, i sure hope you’re not a parent. If so I feel very sorry for your children.

  129. (I know, I promised last post, but Lou reneged first🙂

    I for one would like to thank you Lou. I do agree with you in terms of educating (or empowering perhaps) our kids. And you have posted some useful information.
    In particular http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/196467.pdf
    which is where the 58000 non-family abductions number comes from. On page 4 they have 11 examples that serve to illustrate the kinds of cases included in the 58000. What struck me is how many of them were date rape, or similar. And the words ‘coerce’ and ‘lure’ come up a lot. I think a kid with good instincts is more likely to get out of the situation before it gets bad, or be able to get out of a situation once it gets bad. Not always, but better equipped. Yes, I want my kid to be aware that even the most trusted adult, or even fellow kid, can turn out to be a dangerous person. But if I’m hovering over him until he’s 18, that’s not going to happen.

    This is all about striking the right balance between keeping them safe, but also letting them learn their own survival skills for the inevitable day when we’re tethered to them. Lou’s information has a place in educating kids, I just don’t think ‘walking to school’ is that place.

  130. Thank you Rich!!
    I just wanted you to know so you can create a well balanced child. This education is no different than fire or water safety. If your child is walking to school, gets side tracked and goes by the river, OOPS and falls in! If you did not teach him or her to swim do you kick yourself for the rest of your life or do you say those swim lesions paid off? It is all the same thing.

  131. God help your children Lou. They will grow up in fear of everything imaginable and unprepared for life.

  132. @Lou – I wouldn’t say that it’s *all* the same thing. There are nearly an unliminted number of horrible things that could happen to your child and it is realistically impossible for pre-emptively prepare your child for each and every possible danger.

    Our job as parents is to filter through the possible dangers – prepare our kids for those that are actually somewhat likely to come up and get over our fear of the ones that are more far-fetched.

    That’s what this blog is about – balance. Identifying realistic risks and teaching our kids to cope with them (even protecting them when necessary), but letting go of the paranoia.
    Drowning is a fairly big killer among kids, at least up here in Canada. So yes, swimming lessons are absolutely useful (especially if you own a backyard pool or live near a body of water), as are instructions not to go swimming if alone (a good idea for adults too, btw).

    Stranger danger? Not really. Or rather, not specially. Teach your kids to be very clear with *anyone* (even people in a position of authority) if a situation is starting to make them uncomfortable, and seek help if the situation doesn’t stop as soon as that discomfort is raised. Learn not to get into bad situations, such as not getting into someone’s car unless they know that their parents are aware of what’s going on.

    But to teach stranger danger specifically? I don’t see the use. I want my kids to be able to go up to strangers and ask for directions or buy ice cream or otherwise interact with all the people they share a world with.

  133. Lets talk about “facts”, since you love them so much.

    100% of people who buy cans of pop from pop machines die.

    While this fact is true, it is essentially meaningless. But by quoting this fact you are essentiially promoting an unwarranted fear of pop machines.

    13 deaths a year are killed via pop machines (msinly from people tipping them over oin top of themselves).

    This fact, although just as correct, is far more meaningful. It assesses the true risks involved.

  134. Balance is what I keep saying. Stranged danger is a term from the early 80’s. It is someone they know 80 to 90% of the time. It could be anyone, it could be a baby sitter, it could be teacher, youth coach. I think we are all saying the samething to allow your child the opportunity to grow but educate them on the fact that if someone makes them uncomfortable they can come and tell you. Simple

  135. @Lou – Simple indeed, but confusing. If we’re all saying the same thing, why did you come here posting statistics and talking about how many kids get molested? Did you think that the people who frequent this blog didn’t realize that molestations happen?

  136. Good Bye

  137. … and good riddance

  138. “I agree that 80 to 90% know the child.That makes it OK?????”

    No, it’s someone they know closer to 99.9% of the time. Strangers account for a miniscule number of child molestations every year. There are what about 120 or so stranger abductions a year in the US. My state alone had far more child molestations than that last year, and we’re just one of 50 states.

    And nobody said that non-stranger molestations are okay. They are horrible, life altering experiences that nobody should have to endure. But locking our kids behind closed doors and refusing to let them out of our sight doesn’t prevent them. This blog is about trying to stop the out of proportion fear of stranger abductions to allow kids some freedom to breathe and grow. Nobody here negates the impact on child molestation victims of all kinds.

  139. I had a LONG reply but I’m starting over.

    if the weather is good enough for your son to walk, it should be good enough for you unless you have a medical condition that wasn’t mentioned in the letter. so I would suggest walking, with stroller full of toddler and maybe shift bed and nap times so they coincide with school.

    Also……
    Talk to the school about the after school parking issue and ask if your son can walk home. they might let you sign a waiver or leave a note on file allowing it.

    As President Obama said..

    .”BE the change you want to see in the world!”

  140. I am staying with friends who live next door to a major multicultural inner city school. It has a great reputation and parent’s will do anything to ensure their kids go there.

    Being inner city, it is squished between two major roads – one being the second busiest in our city.

    There are the usual four-wheel-drive parents. Although, knowing how far some travel in order to get their children into this school I chose to pretend they are all commuting in excess of 45mins.

    However, there are also alot of walkers and public transport users.

    There’s Indian twin girls who look about 7, who I see waiting at the middle school for I presume their big sister (who looks to be 10). They walk two suburbs away.
    The 6-ish year old Asian twins walk the three blocks home themselves.
    And my favourite, a ten year old girl walking her four and six year old brothers to school. There had to cross a 9 lane highway (with no overpass). She had complete control of the situation.

    If children can manage to get themselves in one piece to an inner city school without crossing guards or the like without becoming involved in an incident, surely parent’s in safer neighbourhoods also have this option?

  141. Good lord! I had this same discussion when my first child entered kindergarten. We lived three residential blocks from school with one busy street. No crossing of busy streets was required. I lost the arguement and picked my child up (on foot) every afternoon and dropped her off every morning).

    She was the only child who walked home in first grade, but she was very proud to do so. Are neighborhood was very safe and would have been more safe had more children walked home.

    My second child was allowed to walk home with her sister who is all of two years older.

    In the past year three parents and students have been hit (no perminant damage, just bruses and broken limbs)

  142. Sorry this is a continuation:

    Those injured were injured by parents picking their students up by car. Unlike walking home, the parents in cars are a danger to young student.

    We walked home with no injuries at all over the six years I was in elementary school. Statistically, the streets are safer. Why couldn’t my children walk home?

  143. On a practical note, do you think it would be possible for the school to introduce a buddy system, whereby older children walk with younger children (even if it is just one day a week to get him used to the route and to show the school community that it’s a safe prospect.)

    Walking school bus is also an excellent idea.

  144. I kinda think it’s reasonable for schools to have a certain level of security for kids who need it– e.g. kids in the middle of nasty custody disputes, where abduction is a real possibility. (Heck, throw in wealthy heirs and heiresses too.🙂 But parents bear the responsibility for their children, and so have the right to trump school decisions– outside of school hours, at least.

    Free-range has always carried the caveat that one must adjust to one’s environment: don’t let kids play outside if you live in a war zone, etc.

    We live in a neighborhood which is three-tenths of a mile from the elementary school, and I’m pretty sure my three-year-old could walk there by herself if she wanted to: she certainly knows the way as we go to the playground next door all the time, and she’s learning how to cross streets safely. I *wouldn’t* let her go by herself, and she probably wouldn’t *want* to go by herself either, but as far as skill level is concerned, she’s almost there, so the idea that she wouldn’t be able to walk to school two years from now is absurd. Granted, our neighborhood has quiet streets all the way through, but if you’ve got busy streets on the way to school, you hire crossing guards, or ask for volunteers. Some parents will want to drive their kids anyway, and that’s OK, but the school shouldn’t be mandating it or even encouraging it.

  145. I feel for this mom, and I think the school’s policy is silly. (My daughter’s school has a similar policy, but it hasn’t really affected us because the husband and I both work full-time, so she’s always gone to the before- and after-school program, and we pick her up and drop her off there — by city bus, because we don’t have a car and it’s a 25-minute walk each way, which would be fine if one didn’t then need to go twice as far in the other direction to get to work by 8 am. She’s in grade 3 now and is agitating to be allowed to go to and from school by herself; we aren’t worried about the trip, but given her relationship to time and clocks, we are somewhat concerned about her ability to actually get herself out of the house on time :P)

    But I’m not sure I understand why, if the distance is short enough for her 5-year-old to walk, it’s not also short enough for her (with toddler in stroller, where his/her nap can take place undisturbed) to walk to pick him up …

  146. My child walks to school every day. The parents driving cars to pick up children from school pose the biggest danger to the walkers. Parents don’t respect the crossing guard or the crosswalk and we have had several children almost hit by cars driven by parents picking up their own children from school. Do you have any suggestions?

  147. @Lisa – I can definitely see how this would be an issue, especially since our “little people” can be difficult to see from the perspective of a vehicle.

    The only thing I could suggest would be to bring it up with the school, show that there have been close calls, and request that a crossing guard be posted before and after school hours while a lot of the picking up and dropping off is going on. Certainly, the primary school I went to in the UK had a crossing guard (no one picked up their kids, but it was recognized that shorter people and cars don’t always mix).

  148. @Lisa – Upon reading more carefully, I see that you do have a crossing guard. I think I may need to fetch my glasses!

    In that case, I’d say the best thing to do would be to instruct the crossing guard to take down license plates, maybe ask that the school have a word with your local police officers, and have real consequences for these reckless drivers.

  149. As President Obama said..

    .”BE the change you want to see in the world!”

    Pretty sure that’s Gandhi, actually.

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