Victory! 5th Graders Allowed to Enjoy Unsupervised Afternoons Again!

Hey Readers!! Here’s great news! The school in Davidson, N.C., that had suddenly prohibited fifth graders from leaving the school on Fridays to walk down to the village green has reversed itself! On Friday, even as a big bunch of kids and some parents marched to “Occupy the Green,” the new principal (not the one who imagined the kids meeting up with internet predators) declared that parents need only sign a waiver absolving the school of any liability and — they’re off!

If a slightly obsessive, overkill waiver is what it takes to give kids back the best part of being fifth graders, so be it. As one of the kids told David Boraks, the dogged journalist who broke this story and rode it to its fairytale ending, “There’s just a lot of good stores in Davidson and a lot of great people.” The boy added that he likes hanging out at the soda shop.

If that’s not the most wholesome thing in America, I’ll eat my hot fudge sundae. (Actually, I’ll eat it anyway.) Hooray for a halycon childhood…even if, these days, it requires a permission slip. — L.

Now the only jerks in this story are the ice cream soda kind!

34 Responses

  1. Hooray!

  2. Victory!!! Once again at least some of our kids have got their childhood rights back!!!

  3. Best part is the handmade signs that the boys were holding at Occupy the Green. One said “Trust, it’s a tradition” and the other said “We can take care of ourselves”.

    I feel for these kids that are totally capable and worthy of trust, but are being thwarted from any independence by “safety measures”. Good for these kids and parents for fighting back.

  4. That is awesome!

  5. Woo-hoo! A victory for common sense — something we’re seeing all too little of these days.

  6. Good news!

  7. Permission slips for everyone:

    I hereby give permission for my kid to be a kid

    and release the nutjobs at the non-education center in my community of any liability for allowing my kids to do so.

    Signed,

    Sane Parent

  8. So, do the parents still have to submit permission slips for their kids to go to the Green, or is it just like it was before?

  9. i, melissa, give my children permission to learn safety, responsibility, independence, and confidence through living and experiencing it.

    furthermore, i give myself permission to worry from a distance and to not anticipate their every need while allowing them to become creative, productive, and contributing members of society.

  10. I love to read about a happy ending. Kudos to everyone who persevered!

  11. You have to love a happy ending.

  12. Hmmm. In 5th grade, I was taking the bus downtown (4 miles, to downtown Hartford, Connecticut). By myself. To go window shopping. I guess my mother (a public health nurse, for crying out loud) was irresponsible and should have been arrested.

  13. Thumbs Up! A triumph. Keep at it!

  14. This is such encouraging news! And I agree on the trust issue. If we don’t give kids our trust, how will they ever learn to trust their own judgement?

  15. YAY!! Good one everyone invovled here!! So So glad that these kids get to continue to learn and grow!

  16. I’m really glad for the kids, their families, and the town.

  17. woohoo!!!Way to go!

  18. In this day and age were there are people who are willing to throw blame at anyone but themselves, I think a permission slip is a good middle ground. That way a parent can’t go to the school and say “This horrible thing happened to my child during school hours and it’s all your fault.”

    Basically, it’s putting the decision for how much freedom a child is to have in the hands of the parent, which is fine by me.

  19. Hooray!!! Keep posting those individual victories…they make a welcome contrast!

  20. My Dad went to St. Thomas Choir School. In 5th grade he was riding the train from NY to CT and back every week. And he had money for a cab to the school but he wanted to keep it for treats so he’d walk. He survived!

  21. Hi there,

    I read this blog daily and I really enjoy the free range attitude Lenore displays here, even more since I leave in France and it’s very interesting to compare the good and the bad in different countries.
    I just wanted to point out that I always have a hard time picturing the situation when you talk about school grades, because they doesn’t mean anything to me and I don’t know how old the usual 5th grader is!
    Would someone be kind enough to make some kind of charts with grades and ages so I can keep it and use it whenever I don’t get the point?

    Thank anyway for sharing all of this interesting stories. I have to say that it seems to me that kids still have more freedom here in France than what I usually read on this blog, but it tends to change for the worst, and that makes me worried. I hope we don’t get so extreme.

  22. Emilie, 5th grade is about 10 years old. Ages depend on where the child’s birthday falls in comparison to the beginning of school year in August/September, but the grades/ages are approximately:

    Preschool- 2-3 (very optional)
    Pre-K- 4 (optional but at least in my state offered free as part of public education)
    Kindergarten- 5
    1st- 6
    2nd- 7
    3rd- 8
    4th- 9
    5th- 10
    6th- 11 (often the beginning of middle school or junior high)
    7th- 12
    8th- 13
    9th- 14 (the beginning of high school)
    10th- 15
    11th- 16
    12th- 17

    Like you I love to compare parenting and education in different countries and cultures. Hopefully you will post your thoughts on different posts.

  23. Lenore,

    Have you ever given any thought to creating a freerangekidsscore for communities, something like the http://www.walkscore.com/ that puts a number to how walkable a community is? Yours could be a free range kids score for how safe it is for kids to explore their community. The score could factor in the number of parks and greenspace in a given community, the number of stranger abductions in the last 10 years (my guess would be zero in almost all places), other rates for crime against children, etc. Data like these might help illustrate your point about safety and help reassure frightened parents.

    –Paul

  24. @ Lollipoplover: They should have also had signs that said “It’s not us…it’s you.” and “Don’t ruin our childhood because your afraid of lawsuits.” lol

    @ Emily: It sounds like a one time deal, in which the parents only have to sign one permission slip for the rest of the school year, or as long as the child attends that school.

    @ Rachelle: That’s what they should have done in the first place (permission/waiver forms). It would have been the easiest thing to do, they don’t break tradition, children are free to be children and do children things, and at the same time, would cover the school from any liability. It’s just too bad that some authorities seldom use common sense until it hits them in the face. But at least they got the point. lol

    Slowly but surely. Hope all communities start reverting back to the calmer, and ease of mind days of yester years.

  25. Can’t imagine not being allowed to wander around unsupervised after school in fifth grade.

    And it reminded me how, in sixth or seventh grade, we would be usually done with all the projects in our sewing class by late April, which meant that those two hours a week would be free all May. The classroom was on the first floor, in the corner of the building. Our teacher would let a few of us slip out (through the window, because the principal’s office was by the front door and she did not want the principal to know we were being let out) and go the ice cream shop about five minutes away, on the other side of the main city square (required crossing at least two busy streets). Usually four or five of us would go, and come back carrying several cones each, enough for everyone in the class and the teacher.

    Surely most of today’s American school officials would have a fit at the thought.

  26. Thank you very much Heather, this will be very helpful🙂
    I also hope I can find the time to write about it for all the nice people in here!

  27. Has anyone seen this? But if you don’t go to school, watch out kid, you might get shot!
    http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/news-general/20120312/OHIO.stun.gun/?cid=hero_media

  28. Paul, while I love the idea of a free-range score I think it would be incredibly difficult considering the factors that make rural areas free-range friendly are very different from the factors that make cities free range friendly and suburbs, etc. I think something more like Kaboom might work where users can add their neighborhood and rate it based on several criteria with links to things like crime stats (even better if people would include them in their reviews). If someone had a way to combine the two ideas that, of course, would be ideal.

  29. What I don’t understand is why a permission slip would be needed. Don’t they do this after school hours? When do we need to start have permission for our kids to do what we let them on their own time? I can see if it was during school, but come on. Does this mean when have to send a permission slp for them to go to their friends house? Do the parents have to sign them out each day?

  30. In the original article it mentioned that the kids were dismissed early. Also we require that parents put in writing how their kids will go home. (After a teacher was assaulted for sending a child home on the bus per parent instructions. They changed their minds, called at 2:30 pm and left a message. Students were already on the buses at that point.)

    I have a student that rides the bus home on Mondays and Fridays and is a pick up on other days. They wrote a note when things changed.

  31. “Grades” basically equal “years”. First grade generally starts at six, but the cut-off date varies from state to state – in some states you have to BE six by the start of the school year, in others you can be as young as 5 and a half to enter first grade.

    The grades are divided into 3 main groups – elementary school (also called grammar school or primary school in some areas, but not very often), middle school/junior high (sometimes also called intermediate school, and I’ll say more on this in the next section), and high school.

    Elementary school generally runs until either 5th or 6th grade, however, some schools (especially private schools) run k-8, and in some areas elementary school runs up only until the 4th grade. In this stage children usually have one main classroom teacher (in some areas the last year or two of elementary school have TWO teachers, to prepare them for switching classes in the next stage) and possibly a few special subject teachers for music or art. They go to these special classes in a group, not individually – the entire class does art together, gym together, and so on.

    Children go into the next stage (middle or junior high) generally in either the 6th or 7th grade (but in some areas the 5th) and usually leave in 8th grade. In some areas middle schools (junior highs) run until 9th grade. In this stage kids have a different teacher for each class, but often (more on this at the bottom!) they spend most classes with the same group of students.

    And then the last four years (or three in some areas) are called high school. The grades in high school have special names. 9th graders are called “freshmen”, 10th graders are “sophomores”, 11th are “juniors” and 12th are “seniors”. These terms are also used in college, and to differentiate you’d call one a “college sophomore” or a “high school senior”. In high school, students have separate teachers for all their classes, and the classes get mixed up every period – they don’t go from class to class in the same group, not usually.

    Clear as dirt yet?

    As far as “middle school” or “junior high” goes, there’s a good reason we have different terms. ORIGINALLY Junior high meant “high school for younger kids”. However, in the middle of the last century the “middle school model” came into vogue, the idea being that students that age learn better when their academics are interconnected. But nowadays people just use the terms to mean “the grades in between elementary school and high school” no matter what the teaching style is.

  32. Uly,
    We didn’t have kindergarten when I started school. I went into 1st grade when I was 5. Didn’t have any problems with it until after I graduated High School at 16. I had to wait for my 17th birthday to go into the Navy and I kept getting harrassed by the Police and Truant Officers wanting to know why I wasn’t in class. After reading that one post, I’m glad they didn’t have stun guns.

  33. Emilie, a very simple rule of thumb that gets you close is that age is grade plus 5 or 6. American kids used to graduate (finish) high school (ordinarily) at 17 or 18; now it is more like 18 or 19 since people more commonly delay sending their children to school for the first time.

  34. Given that kindergarten work now is more like first grade was when we were kids, that’s probably a wise choice for many parents, pentamom.

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