Ugh! Now 5th Graders “Can” Go Play — Once a Month, If Chaperoned

Hi Readers! In a post earlier this week we were discussing a great tradition: Fifth graders in Davidson, N.C., who leave school on Friday afternoons and proceed to the town green for an an afternoon of just being kids. This was abruptly declared “unsafe” and ended. Here’s why, according to

Ms. Nivens [the interim principal] said she thinks fifth graders are too young to be allowed outside home or school without an adult. “Even though it is not a school-sponsored activity, the school still is perceived as encouraging children to be unaccompanied … and to be unsupervised,” she said.

She also worries – though she admits it is “far out there” – that unsupervised children could get into other trouble when they’re alone, such as arranging meetings with strangers they may have met on the Internet. “The world is just a different place nowadays. I just imagine that a child could be on the Internet or Facebook with someone and arrange to meet them there. That would just be a concern that I would have as a parent.”

So now, if a person can dream up a dreadful scenario, it justifies acting as if it’s about to happen? What if I dreamed up the idea that the kids, instead of going to the green, were instead picked up by their parents only to get into a multi-car crash? Sure that’s a little “out there” but it’s not completely unheard of, right? Would that justify the kids NOT getting picked up? After all, I can imagine it.

Anyway, NOW, according to this thoroughly researched follow-up piece, the Friday tradition may be revived — with a nice thick layer of bureaucratic overkill:

A new letter [from school] this week offers to allow the walks once a month – on the fourth Friday – but only if parents sign up with the school as volunteer chaperones. The school said Thursday that kids would not be allowed to walk to the Green this week, since it’s not the fourth Friday.

If they want to go on a Friday that is NOT the fourth in the month (like today), they must be picked up and driven there, or take the bus home FIRST and THEN be driven there.

So what was once a simple throng of kids being kids becomes a tangle of permission slips, regulations and minivans.Huck Finn’s got nothing on these kids!

And, as you’ll read in the story, the shopkeepers were not dismayed by unruly students. For the most part, they were delighted with the kids’ business and already miss it. What’s more, sometimes parents would meet their children downtown later, to shop or go out to dinner. WHAT’S GOOD FOR KIDS IS GOOD FOR COMMUNITY.

And as Davidson is learning: the opposite is true, too. — L.

Children outside, on their own? THIS MUST STOP!

62 Responses

  1. And 100 years ago 8th-9th graders were considered very close to adults, and if you weren’t married or almost by the time you graduated HS something was ‘wrong’ with you. *sigh* What is the penalty should parents just grow a pair and tell Ms. Nivens, ‘interim’ principal where she can stick her extra-school regulations? Id love to see that case go down after the school tries to punish a child for doing something outside of school where they have no jurisdiction to enforce.

  2. This makes me so sad. I went to Davidson College for undergrad and it was such a family-friendly town 10 years ago. I can’t imagine a safer place on earth, either. It really is so idyllic.

    Parents rebel!

  3. Wait a minute! So the school has the authority to govern children outside of school grounds? Do parents have to call them up to see if a proposed dinner is healthy enough or an appropriate bedtime? We shouldn’t have school at all, because I can IMAGINE a school were the teachers violate the children. Once the kids leave the school premises or off the bus, they no longer belong to the school disctrict. I wonder what the penalty is if the kids go to the park anyway.

  4. I am totally confused. The school has any standing here because why? Was it a school event.. did the kids leave early? Aren’t they just choosing to walk home on Friday… ohhh I get it.. that’s right. It is unsafe to walk home from school when you are 10 years old.

  5. What about the ones that already walk?

  6. Wait…so the school was deciding what the children could do outside of school property and outside of school hours?! That’s ridiculous!

  7. I’m with Chris. The school can control this how?

  8. My 5th grader did a horribly dangerous thing yesterday. He walked, with a friend and his brother, from my house to the train station in the center of town. They had to cross actual streets! With strangers driving by! ANYTHING COULD HAVE HAPPENED!!!

    But nothing did. My son’s friend has PDD, and tends to be very timid. His mom wants him to learn independence and learn that the world is not a scary place. It was her idea to have the boys walk the ten minutes to meet the friend’s dad at the station. Even with her son’s developmental issues, she (and I) found a way to give him a taste of independence and confidence. The three train buffs left the house debating on which type of engine there would be, and navigated happily and safely without any adult interference. All kids should have that privelige.

  9. I hope the parents and kids ignore the new rule and get that interim principal recalled.

  10. Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhh… I can’t even begin to articulate… Just dumb *expletive in the plural* the lot of them!!!!

  11. Wow. I was in 5th grade 14 years ago… I would pretend to be “home lunch” and walk the mile or so to the local italian bakery with two friends in the middle of winter basically every day. One day I had a massive headache (that turned into a fever) and my mom was home without a car. The office called and got her permission but allowed me to walk two miles home (across a busy street, even) by myself.

    Now they can’t even walk home from school at the end of the day? That’s ridiculous. How does the school have any say in this anyway?

  12. Quote from the article: “The effort comes as some parents continue to question a decision by the school’s former principal, and now upheld by a new principal, to stop letting parents give their fifth-grade students permission to walk to the Village Green on Main Street after school on Fridays.”

    “Stop letting parents give their fifth-grade students permission to walk to the Village Green on Main Street after school on Fridays”?? Excuse me? It’s the parents who make that call, not some tight-assed bureaucrat. The only way a school or some other “authority figure” gets the right to make these decisions is if parents let them.

    The gall!

  13. Sounds like the businesses should submit their own letter. Talk about how in this time of slow economy that they want the business of the kids and that the school has no right to restrict where the kids go after school has let out.

  14. “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

    Huck would be appalled.

  15. Wow. This seems to mean that kids are not allowed to walk home from school, right? They must be picked up every day. That’s appalling. Some of my fondest memories from fifth grade are getting to walk the approximately three miles from school to my best friend’s house after school. We would stop by the convenience store every day on the way and get Laffy Taffy (because they were only 5 cents and all we could afford!

    Once, we got to her house and found that she had forgotten her key (her parents weren’t home when we got there, imagine what could have happened!) so we got creative and found a way in through a little crawl space for firewood. No panicking, no crying, just independence.

  16. If I were one of these kids parents I’d pick up my kids as they require, drop them off inches past the school property line and use a bull horn to tell them to have fun at the green. Since I would be following the rule of picking my children up by their normal mode of transportation (do they allow walking at all?) they can’t do squat to force their nonsense outside of school hours and off school property.

  17. I would tell the school where to shove it. This principal has NO RIGHT to tell parents what they can and cannot do with their kids outside of school hours and school property. WHY does she think she has any right to direct parents? Because the parents let her.

    If we expect our children to stand up to tyranny and injustice for freedom, we have to do it, even in petty cases — especially there.

    I would go into the school and tell her point blank she was exercising authority she does not have. And then I would serve the school with a cease and desist letter from a lawyer.

  18. I like the idea of “Occupy the Green”, and think the entire 5th grade class should walk-out. Maybe a couple of parents & teachers could assist the children with it? Public schools are getting near the GOP level of Ridiculous!

  19. Wow. I have no words. Anxiously waiting to hear what happens this afternoon with Occupy the Green. Is there another petition to sign in the meantime?

  20. I don’t understand how a school can tell you what your child does after school. If I still had a child there I would send them with a note to go to the green anyways.

  21. Like all the other commenters, I am wondering why these parents are allowing this. We can’t live our lives on the basis of the “What ifs?” How about this what if? What if someone cut off a bus carrying some of these kids and the bus got into an accident and some of them died? Should we stop sending them on the bus lest this happen? Well if we do that, what if some parents’ schedules don’t allow them to to drive their children to school, so they get a neighbor to drive them. What if that neighbor turns out to be a child molester? What if we are too afraid of everything and just keep our kids inside until they are 18?

    When I was in 7th grade, the school stopped bus service to my neighborhood. I was offered many rides by people seeing me walk home. The one creepy guy that I didn’t know went on his way when I declined his offer. I knew to do this by the time I was in 1st grade. I think that these 5th graders are going to be just fine. And if any scary internet people are going to prey on any of these children, they will find a way even without these Fridays on the Green.

  22. IT IS AN AFTER SCHOOL EVENT!!! If this is not a school sanctioned event the school has NO, NONE, ZIP authority to govern when or where the students are after school hours. NONE WHATSOEVER!

    Don’t tell this area that I let my eight year old take my five year old down the street two blocks to the park. They might want to make me fill out a permission slip. Absurd.

  23. I say screw the principal. He has not authority outside school grounds. And if parents are cool with it, kids should just walk over and disregard this idiots “policy”. If he’s so afraid of being sued, then he should have just invented a policy that states if the child leaves school property, at the behest of the school not to walk on their own to the Green, the school and it’s staff will be free from any liabilities. Everyone is happy. Unless of course this principal is all about CONTROL. And feels his authority cannot be undermined, because of his holier than thou, Mr. Know It All attitude.

    I would tell my kid, if he wants to walk to the Green, go ahead. He more than capable of taking care of himself, and is more street smarts and has more common sense than many adults I know. And should the school have an issue, he can let them know to contact me about it. I’d even give him a note stating so, that he can pass along should he be harassed by the school and it’s staff.

  24. I agree with Heather; I’d be picking my kids up from school, walking them off of school property, and then waving goodbye as they headed for the Green without me. Maybe not just on Fridays. Maybe every day.

    Luckily, I don’t have to worry about that. As soon as my kids are done with their homeschool work (usually by 10 or 11 am), I can just send them outside without permission from anyone but myself.

  25. “The world is just a different place nowadays. I just imagine that a child could be on the Internet or Facebook with someone and arrange to meet them there. That would just be a concern that I would have as a parent.” The world is different for who? The principal? lol What may be “right” for her, doesn’t mean it’s RIGHT period. She’s obviously one of those adults/parents who think children are fragile and don’t know anything. And hangs on to every word spouted by the media. A helicopter parent that has the authority over students in her school. That’s like a cop who has a vendetta against a certain group of people. Not a good combination. And as parents, we should be EDUCATING our children to know what to do, and what not to do. NOT sheltering them, where they never learn the reason WHY they are not allowed to certain things. It’s just basic human psychology that kids are curious, and if you tell them they can’t do something and not explain to them why, they are more inclined to rebel and do it behind your back. Now I’m not saying that by telling them consequences of their actions will prevent them for satisfying their curiosity 100% of the time. But at least they have the knowledge to refer to and decide if its a good idea or not. THAT’s how we protect our kids 24/7, by helping them protect themselves by using common sense and street smarts.

  26. Dear Ms. Nivens,
    Yes, I agree with you when you said, “The world is just a different place nowadays.” Despite record low crime statistics, school leaders are instilling unfounded fear in parents and children and attempting to take away basic freedom (walking!). Shame on you. Kids need to play outside. This tradition sounds lovely.

    What changed at Village Green? Are there crime statistics from Davidson that you can provide that show it is now dangerous to 10, 11, and 12 year-olds? Is Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC setting up camp in a gazebo on Village Green? If not, back off. Children playing in their town square is NOT a school function. It is THEIR playtime. They need adults to trust them. Why don’t you?

    A Pennsylvania mom of three

  27. Those suggesting that the parents pick the kids up and then let them walk to the green are missing the point and giving the school exactly what it wants. The school doesn’t actually care if the kids go to the green after school everyday as long as they don’t walk from the school.

    Schools have no authority whatsoever to tell parents how their children must get to and from school ANY DAY. The school can’t stop kids from walking to the green after school Mon through Thurs either. Parents have given them that authority by following their stupid rules without arguing. I’d suggest that the parents instruct their children to go to the green on Friday and refuse to pick them up or tell them not to get on the bus. The parents need to wait at the green and then call the police to report a kidnapping when the kids don’t show up. Or let the school call CPS for 100 kids not picked up from school when the parents are waiting a short distance away.

    The schools will take the power if you give it to them. Don’t give it to them.

  28. Donna, my thought was it would be a temporary measure, a way to prevent the kids from suffering (while at the same time giving the school a big “screw you”) until things could be changed.

    I think it would make at least some difference if parents, while picking their kids up, let the school know every day, “I disagree with your policy, and as soon as we are off school grounds, my kids are walking to the Village Green without me. And we DON’T NEED your permission.”

    Also, I was thinking about the part where the principal said, “The world is just a different place nowadays. I just imagine that a child could be on the Internet or Facebook with someone and arrange to meet them there. That would just be a concern that I would have as a parent.”

    Why are people still reacting to the internet with fear and suspicion? My husband has been online since he was a kid in the 80s. (And back then, everyone you talked to was local.) I, and most people I know, have been online since the 90s. My kids have been online their whole lives. How long do people need to learn how to safely navigate the online world without freaking out about every shadow around a corner?

  29. Just read an update on DavidsonNews.Net that the new principal is discarding the interim principal’s policy so the long standing tradition will be continued. As a Davidson resident whose two kids participated in Friday walks to the Green when they were in the 5th grade, I am very happy that other kids will have the same opportunity. On their behalf, I would like to thank Lenore and the readers of this blog for joining the fight with us.

  30. If Ms. Nivens worries about what could happen to her children and has concerns as a parent, then by all means, she should not allow HER children to go. She should also have enough respect for the parents of all the children to allow them to make their own decisions on what they deem safe and acceptable for their own children.

    If you want to make rules about how to raise and shelter your children, by all means, go ahead. They are your children to raise as you see fit. If you want to make rules about how I have to raise my children, you are overstepping your bounds. They are my children, not yours, and I will raise them how I see fit. As long as that doesn’t include illegal activities, causing physical harm, or being a public nuisance, then I really don’t see where it is the business of the government, the school, or my next door neighbor.

  31. “The world is just a different place nowadays. I just imagine that a child could be on the Internet or Facebook with someone and arrange to meet them there. That would just be a concern that I would have as a parent.”

    This sounds like a quote from someone who has never used a computer. OMG, not just the Internet but this “face book” too, that 5th graders are borrowing from the library and meeting nefarious individuals and arranging meetups with them? Yikes!!!!!

    I’m glad to see that the tradition will be continued. It’s ridiculous for a school to try to mandate kids’ leisure activities outside school grounds. It’s up to the parents, what they feel comfortable with. If some parents feel their own kids can’t handle the freedom, or are too sketched out by what *may* be occurring on the green, it’s their call to keep their child home. But for the school to decide FOR EVERYONE that they can’t have some unsupervised, unstructured playtime is just an outrage.

    In fact, given that people are so concerned with government intruding in private life, I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more press.

  32. This makes me want to cry. I have a fifth grader who walks home from school. She’s very capable and responsible. I would love for her and her friends to walk downtown and hang out in the park there after school on Fridays. I wish we could go down there on the weekends and find people there but no one is. I can only imagine it’s because the parents are busy and won’t let their kids go alone.

  33. wow how times have changed. I grew up in central CT and I remember being in 7th or 8th grade on a field trip to NYC where we were dropped off in Chinatown and told to be back at a certain corner in 2 hours. That was 1990.

  34. That is great news that the new principal overturned Ms. Niven’s policy. Long live the tradition of Fridays on the Green and kids playing outside freely.

  35. @ Lindsey, could you provide a specific link please. I’m not seeing anything more than the 4th Friday with Chaperone business.

    As for the facebook quote. I would argue that ending Friday’s on the Green make kids less safe from creeps they meet on the internet. If they offer to meet said creep in a public setting while surrounded by friends, and the creep refuses the kid will get a hint that the person is a creep. And luring a kid away from their friends in a busy setting, surrounded by people who know him/her would be difficult. Not to mention the kid is likely to find it suspicious.
    Now take these same kids and disperse them to their individual homes with everyone doing their own thing and the kids are more likely to get lonely. They are going to spend more time on line looking for a ‘friend.’ Furthermore the time away from parents that they might pick to meet this person is less likely to involve a large pack of friends. So… by working to end Fridays on the Green the principle has done the creep’s work for them by separating the child from his/her friends. And eliminated a major warning for the kid that the person is creepy and trying to get said child alone..

  36. I would like to have Ms. Nivens spend an hour with my fifth grader….

  37. My kids don’t go to school, thank God, so I don’t have to deal with stupid teachers or stupid principals. However, I still run into this kind of idiocy in other places. For example, my teenage daughter is a very creative entrepreneur who designs and creates stuffed animals to sell at craft fairs. She decided to sign up for the winter farmers’ market in our town, which is hosted by a number of local churches on a rotating basis. The market is held indoors at whichever church is hosting it that particular month, on a Saturday morning. There are people everywhere, and it’s in a CHURCH, for heaven’s sake… but apparently that’s not safe enough, because she has to have a parent or legal guardian there with her at all times. She’s grown up enough to run her own business and do all the work herself, but she can’t be there alone to sell the things she makes, because it wouldn’t be safe for a kid who’s almost 17 to sit in a crowded church foyer on a Saturday morning unless she had Mommy or Daddy there with her.

    When my daughter was younger, she used to participate in a summer theater program for kids. The director had a rule that when parents came to pick up their kids, they couldn’t just wait outside the theater for them; they had to park their cars and come inside and get their kids. However, if a child walked or rode his/her bike, he/she was allowed to leave when the day’s rehearsal was over. The age range of kids in the program was first grade through middle school. That meant that if you were 6 years old and you walked or rode your bike, you could leave independently as soon as rehearsal was over. But if you were 13 and lived far enough away that your parents had to drive you, you couldn’t leave the theater until Mommy or Daddy came inside to personally escort you out. I hated this rule on general principle, and also because it was so hard to find an empty parking space anywhere near the theater, so I had my daughter tell the folks in charge that she walked. At the end of the day, she walked from the theater to a nearby convenience store and got herself a snack, and I drove over there to pick her up.

  38. She decided to sign up for the winter farmers’ market in our town, which is hosted by a number of local churches on a rotating basis. The market is held indoors at whichever church is hosting it that particular month, on a Saturday morning. There are people everywhere, and it’s in a CHURCH, for heaven’s sake… but apparently that’s not safe enough, because she has to have a parent or legal guardian there with her at all times.

    In fairness, churches aren’t actually safer than any other place, are they? God, remember that awful one a few years ago, a girl killed by her best friend’s mother, her own Sunday School teacher?

    Luckily that was a freak incident, I’ve certainly never heard of a similar case in my life and don’t expect to, but with that said, if you’re committed to the idea that the whole world is dangerous and just filled with murderers and rapists, well, murderers and rapists go to church as well. God doesn’t actually strike bad people down for stepping onto consecrated ground.

    Hell, lots of bad people put on a veneer of religion because they think it makes them look good!

    The policy is as crazy as you say, but not because it takes place in a church. It’d be pretty darn crazy if it took place nearly anywhere else as well.

  39. You know what sounds most ridiculous about this whole thing…the interim principal goes on and on about how dangerous it is for 5th graders (who are 10-11 years old) to walk to the green. But all the articles I read said the rest of the town were happy to see the kids. This sounds like one of the safest things these kids could do. Dozens of kids walking to the same place where there are tons of shops (presumably with caring adults manning them) and other pedestrians, cops that occasionally stop by to check on the kids (probably more to keep them from causing trouble) and the parents give their permission. What is the principal’s problem?

    I would have loved that…as a kid and as a parent. I remember being in 5th grade and walking home every day in my [very close to] inner city neighborhood in Chicago. A few parents came to pick kids up, usually the little ones without older siblings or that lived too far to walk, but the rest of us walked. My brother was in 3rd grade and he walked home with his friends and I walked a different way with my friends.

    The last year we lived in Chicago my kids were in 4th, 2nd and 1st grades. They spent most of the year walking themselves to school. But I still had to go pick them up every day because the school didn’t allow them to leave on their own until 5th grade. It’s hard to get around these “rules”. You can’t tell your kids to just leave because the teacher’s won’t let them. You can’t send a note or try to get around it because the school considers you negligent and informs DCFS that you are allowing your small children to wander around the city alone and next thing you know family services is up your ass.

    I used to walk over to the school, get the kids from their teachers and then send them home on their own while I walked to the store in the opposite direction. It really sucked the last few months we were there because I was in my 3rd trimester and I was so tired from all the walking. There were so many days I wished they could just walk themselves home.

    Luckily we’ve moved to a very free-range friendly area. My kids take the bus home but they are free to walk from the bus stop. And to roam all over the place.

    Just yesterday my 3rd grader came home, made a sandwich and said she was having a picnic at the park (a couple blocks away). When she got back she said just about everyone she knew was there. This was spontaneous and planned completely by the kids as they rode home on the bus, no adults involved. Just as it should be.

    My 6th grader told me she needed a poster board for a project the other day. I told her she was old enough to walk herself to Rite Aid a mile away and get her own poster board. She ended up getting one from her teacher but no one around here would have batted an eye if she went to the store on her own. I see it all the time.

  40. “my thought was it would be a temporary measure, a way to prevent the kids from suffering (while at the same time giving the school a big “screw you”) until things could be changed.”

    Michelle, but why would things change if you do exactly what the school wants? Whatever the interim principal says, the school couldn’t care less what happens on the Village Green. The kids could be committing murder on the Village Green for all the school truly cares. The school only cares how children get off their grounds – that they can be in no way connected to the activities on the Village Green. As soon as the children are escorted off grounds by the parents, the school is 100% satisfied. It can then say “We have nothing to do with whatever goes on down there and we do not endorse it.” That is all the school cares about. Not about the safety of the students but in their own deniability in case anything goes wrong.

  41. I am glad to hear that the principal ended up withdrawing that stupid directive. If she had not, I think it would have been time for the kids’ first lesson in ‘civil disobedience’ to stand up for their rights..

    I wonder it this kind of interfering attitude of lots of schools may in fact be caused by the increasing number of helicopter parents? They may be looking at the school for advice and bombard them with questions about their kids safety? I notice that at our school. In often little ways, but it’s there. Just a couple of small examples.

    When I went to the information night before my child started school, most of the question time was taken up by a parent who wanted to know how the school dealt with the schoolyard not being fenced. I rolled my eyes at her first question because I figured that if she had not taught her 5yo to not just run off across the oval and then across the road without looking at traffic, maybe she should be sent back to school for some common sense parenting lessons.

    Another even smaller example was when I met my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher at the start of this year. I was there with another parent when the teacher explained that the kids now had to wait outside in the courtyard until the bell and the other parent asked immediately: “What if it rains?” I looked outside and the first thing I saw was a whopping big undercover area. I was thoroughly confused about this parent apparently expecting the teacher to tell her 7yo what to do in case of a few rain drops.

    Is it actually parents who are forcing the schools to come up with more and more ridiculous “safety policies”?

  42. “Michelle, but why would things change if you do exactly what the school wants? ”

    I don’t think dropping the kids off two feet from the property line is “exactly what the school wants.” I think they don’t want the kids going to the park unless they first disappear from the school’s sight in the custody of a parent.

    It seems to me it would be a valid form of protest that would send a message.

    I do get what you’re saying, though — it is to some degree cooperating rather than resisting. But it is an in-your-face, defeating the purpose kind of cooperating, so it might be effective, if enough people got together and did it in a very deliberate sort of way.

  43. @Havva – when I posted earlier, I was citing a status update on the FB page. There’s a full article now:

    BTW, the local NBC affiliate was at the Town Green today and will have a report at 11pm. This has got to be a huge embarrassment to the school board. I hope the *interim* principal who had the nerve to change a longstanding tradition is disciplined for her overreach. I feel sorry for the new principal who walked into this firestorm.

  44. Pentamom – Okay, it’s not exactly what the school wants. However, while the principal might be a bit pissed at first, I truly don’t think the school cares if the parents leave the school by one step or a mile before the kids are turned loose. Once the child is in the custody of the parents, the school’s sole interest in this matter is served. There can be no claim whatsoever that the school is endorsing this activity if the school sends out a letter forbidding the activity and forces the parents to pick up the children from school, regardless of what the parents choose to do later.

    In fact, I think doing this type of protest actually hurts your cause rather than helps. The shopowners and others who disapprove of the ban would stop speaking after awhile. The shopowners complaint is that kids are not coming to spend money, but kids would be coming to spend money again so their interest in the issue would wane. Townspeople are speaking out against the ban because they like kids frollicking on the green, but kids would still frollicking on the green so their interest in the issue would wane. The only people who would be unhappy about this set up are the parents of the 5th graders who have to report to school to walk their children of school property.

    A school administrator who is a bad strategist will react to being pissed and go into battle with the parents. A good strategist would shrug her shoulders at this tactic. The school gets most of what it wants – your kids are exiting school property under your control and your subsequent actions are directly against the plainly stated wishes of the school. And the school will likely eventually win 100% because the parents will get tired of doing this and the whole tradition will die a natural death due to a lack of parental interest.

  45. I’m glad the parents fought back and got the rule changed. And apparently ANY kids can now walk ANY day and not just 5th graders on Friday. So kuddos to the Davidson parents!!

    Now if only we could get rid of this pesky rule about schools being notified in advance of any changes in mode of transportation (my child’s American school requires notice in writing in the morning that cannot be changed via telephone during the day). I’d like my kid, who lives within walking distance of the school but is authorized for a bus, to be able to decide on a day-by-day basis how she wants to get home like I did as a kid. She should be able to say “it’s a beautiful sunny day so I’ll walk home” or “it’s storming so I’ll take the bus today.”

  46. Glad to see it rescinded!

    My youngest has an after-school exercise club two days a week, run by the school. There is no activity bus for elementary schools so the kids must find their own way home: Bike, walk, leave with another student, or parent pick up.

    I marked them all. I don’t know from day to day what the choice might be. My statement was basically: She is free to leave the school once it’s over, whether I’m there to pick her up or not. If she wants to go home with Leah, she can call me and that’s all I need; her dad picks them both up. Done, easy, no crisis. On days I’ve been late, she’s walked part way home. Sometimes she walks all the way home. It all depends on the day and what it entails.

  47. I really can’t believe this is going in Davidson. I lived not far from there just a few years ago, and I would have said Davidson is one of the most idyllic and one of the safest areas in NC–not to mention beautiful and pedestrian-friendly around the college. Plus, the town had a reputation of being pretty progressive and thoughtful. This is incredibly disappointing.

  48. Ok, so what kid will still find this enjoyable after all this?

  49. “Ok, so what kid will still find this enjoyable after all this?”

    Well, it’s all pretty annoying, but how much do you think 10 year olds care about the politics surrounding their play at the park, as long as they get to go play at the park?

  50. I need to write an article for FRK about how I work in at an inner city school with no school buses and many kids walk to school every day. Fourth and fifth grade students are old enough to care for their siblings.

  51. I so want to hit those … people … with a clue by four. One of their fears is of Facebook. It’s obvious that they can’t use a computer without help:

    15. A person needs to be 15 to be on Facebook. (I will not comment on if they are on it, just that Facebook TOS say 15).

    Isn’t a 5th grader 11ish?


  52. Jeff, the whole idea of that excuse was that the administrator doesn’t think the parents are capable of deciding what is safe for their own child. (It’s my understanding that) Parents signed notes giving their children permission to walk to the Green prior to the ban. But that is unsafe. Parents decide how much access to the internet and monitoring their children receive at home. But that is unsafe. See the pattern?

    Honestly I don’t think the whole thing was about the previous principal wanting to separate the school from the children being on the green. I honestly think it was an overzealous administrator thinking they know better than parents what children should and shouldn’t be allowed to do and using the only method, rules about how kids leave school, to make it happen. If it really was about separating the school from the activity there would have been communication with the city, police, businesses and parents prior to action being taken.

  53. Actually, FB TOS says 13 for Facebook. And we’ve always enforced that for our kids. But same point, if you’re talking about fifth-graders.

  54. And it was one principal who was afraid of Facebook. Not “those people” or “their” fears.

  55. […] Lenore Skenazy: Ugh! Now 5th Graders “Can” Go Play – Once a Month, If Chaperoned […]

  56. Now I’m wondering if the interim principal was from this town. It reminds me of the new superintendent when I was living in San Angelo, Texas. He was from up north and quickly go on the wrong side of residents. First he tried to ban PE, recess, and sports practice when it was over either 90 or 100. San Angelo is in WEST TEXAS. The average high in August is 93 and September 86. He was sure the kids, who grew up in this heat were all going to keel over and die. He back down on that.

    Then come winter there was an ice storm. DPS and the highway department ordered people to stay off the roads. The new superintendent refused to close the schools and ordered the schools to discipline teachers that didn’t come in and mark absences by students unexcused. He made very derisive remarks publicly over shutting down the down over such a little storm.

    Now granted most of you from more northern climbs would have found it funny that this small amount of ice shut down a large section of the state, but you would understand we simply didn’t have the equipment to sand the bridges in this unusual weather. Also in that area a lot of bridges are “hidden”. They are low water bridges over dry creek beds. They ice up quickly and people forget they are actual bridges. The board members nearly handed him is head over that. No one was disciplined and the absences were excused. The board ended up taking over weather directives.


    Hooray for the kids in Davidson, NC.
    The school completely lifted the restriction
    thanks to a groundswell of community pressure.
    The 5th graders are free to go to the
    green any Friday, withough chaperones!

  58. Mea Culpa, I misread the age in my ire. It still is no excuse for the overreach here.

  59. Davidson College’s motto is (translated) “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen.” Ironic.

  60. So the kids are going somewhere on their own after school off school grounds and the school is trying to stop that? Am I getting that right? Yeah they have no authority there.

    I am so tired of schools trying to have authority over what happens off school property not during school hours. Their authority ends at the end of the school day and once you cross over the school property line.

  61. Actually, Ms. Herbert, I’m from a very cold and snowy part of the U.S., and I totally get that southerners SHOULD shut down when they get unusual weather with snow, ice and extreme cold. I get irritated when people from around here mock Southerners for this, unless they’re clearly just joking.

    Y’all don’t have road-clearing equipment and salt stockpiles, many people don’t have proper clothes or boots, and only transplants know how to drive properly in snowy/icy conditions. Insisting on keeping things running normally is a recipe for disaster — even up here, weather conditions kill some number of people every year, who are “used to” coping with things.

    There should be a law that Yankee transplants have to write a paper explaining that they understand why cities in the South should not “tough out” winter weather conditions before they’re given any position of public responsibility. 😉

  62. I don’t think they care about the politics. I just think something becomes less fun when the adults explicitly and specifically give limited permission to do it.

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