Outrage of the Week:Mom Sentenced for Letting Her 4 y.o. Draw with Chalk

Well, readers, from what I can tell from the news reports I’ve just read and watched in utter disbelief, a 29-year-old mom in Richmond, Va., was found guilty of letting her 4-year-old daughter draw with chalk on some park rocks. For this the mom received 50 hours of community service to be spent weeding the area around 200 boundary posts like the one you see below, then scraping the peeling paint off them, then re-painting them. The operative word for me being “paint.” If the county is so concerned about her daughter’s crime, shouldn’t she just have to chalk them? After all, the cop and judge acted as if the girl had permanently damaged the rocks, with her mother goosing her on.

The mom was convicted two years earlier of actually painting on the rocks. In the TV report below, it says that this time when the mom was confronted by the (same!) cop, she said, “You must hate your f***ing job.”

How about hating a f***ed up system that is allowed to treat childhood like a crime? – L

84 Responses

  1. These enforcement officers and judges must hate Mothers. and children.

  2. Thank goodness that officer was there to deal with this pressing, dangerous issue. A child in a park with chalk? The horror! Next thing you know, she’ll want to do something crazy like go on a swingset or bounce a ball.

  3. Because we have nothing else to worry about in this world, we must be on the lookout for chalk-wielding parents and their kids. Shouldn’t the police be on the lookout for real crimes in process? DUIs, speeders in residential neighborhoods where children should be playing, shoplifters at the store, domestic abuse, etc? Like you, Lenore, I am in utter disbelief. I am such a criminal.

  4. So sad to see everything natural in life, for children especially, is basically a criminal act now.

  5. Re: chalk.
    This seems like as good a time as any to mention that the after-school program my daughter attends requires kids to wear lab *safety goggles* when drawing on the asphalt of the playground with chalk.
    I have yet to find anything official and printed explaining why, but my daughter says it’s something about a fear of dust in the eyes.
    I think there’s very little chalk drawing going on.

  6. While I agree that it seems very excessive for a little chalk, I do think she could have handled herself better, and she had been ticketed before for painting on the same rocks. It sounds as if she doesn’t have much respect for authority. Telling the officer to f**k off isn’t the way to change the rules. It is however a surefire way to annoy the officer and get yourself in a whole lot of trouble.

  7. I am so confused by this entire incident…..

  8. I think pressing criminal charges was excessive, but at the same time, why couldn’t the mother and daughter have just drawn with chalk in their own driveway at home?

  9. This seems like a great petition for change.org…

  10. I think the fact she was painting on the rocks two years earlier has more to do with this. I think the mom was pushing her boundaries due to her prior arrest – which I agree she should have been arrested for. It is sad that people think they have the right to destroy natural beauty.

  11. Sounds like the child is a pawn in her mother’s war with authorities. With her mother’s inspiration and example, she can grow up to be a great graffiti artist.

  12. Sounds like the child is a pawn in her mother’s war with authorities. With Mom’s urging, she can go on to become a great graffiti artist.

  13. There must be something else going on here. I agree that it’s probably more about what the mom did than the child. And since it’s the same rocks, I’d also say that it was premeditated chalking by mama and the child was just going along with it. It’s bad when kids can’t be kids, but it’s also bad when parents coerce their kids into doing things to make a statement.

  14. She’s defacing public property. That’s not good. Yes, chalk washes off but still…..I agree with Emily. You want to draw with chalk do it on your own property.

  15. Lisa, how can a rock be public property? Can the state somehow have property rights over it. What if someone took a pebble away? Is that theft.

    As with everything in life, there are degrees. Paint stays relatively longer than chalk which washes off. At the very worst, the policeman should have asked for the mother to wash off her daughters chalk, not cite her. The rocks are on the edge of a river.

    And how much damage is a bit of paint or chalk. Both wear off, especially next to a river. And how much garbage comes down the river and is trapped in the same rocks.

  16. […] wrote a little bit more the case on my site. What I forgot to add there that I’ll add here is that the mom is not even allowed to enter a […]

  17. Wow, maybe I was wrong when I told my kids it was OK to bang and scrape the rocks together at the nearby park. There wasn’t any sign forbidding it.

    On the “hate moms and kids” note, I was so happy yesterday when I saw a mom’s comment that my state was the most child-friendly one that she’s ever been to (in the USA). I didn’t realize we had such an advantage. I’m glad to hear it.

  18. @TRS With *chalk*?? I think maybe you’re using a different meaning of the word “destroy” than I’m familiar with.

  19. “Lisa, how can a rock be public property? Can the state somehow have property rights over it. What if someone took a pebble away? Is that theft.’

    If it’s a public park, it’s public property. If people walked off with landscaping rocks from your yard, would it be “just a rock?” Or would it be “your rock?” Same thing.

    This is definitely more about the mom’s history and the mom’s attitude than some four year old with chalk. I think Lenore’s missing the mark on this one — if this were a story about someone being arrested solely because a four year old innocently put some chalk on a rock, it would be outrageous. Since it’s a story about a woman with a history of *conviction* for public defacement enabling her child to engage in more public defacement and then mouthing off obscenely at an officer, it’s at worst dubious.

  20. pentamom…. I agree with you 100%. And sorry Lenore…. this women is teaching her child to deface public property. Those rocks where in a park…. would you like someone to come into your yard with some paint and start doing that on the decorative rocks you have in your garden? Same thing. I think this mom got what she deserved and her foul language isn’t a very good example for her daughter.

  21. Are you serious?! Chalk washes away. I remember once at Pinecrest Gardens the kids were drawing with chalks, and we got in trouble. They told us we had to clean it up…..guess what, it started raining, and the chalk came off right away. No permanent damage.

  22. I agree that this incident has more to do with the mother’s behavior than the actual act. Yes, chalk washes off, if the mother had not had a prior incident and had rinsed the chalk off before leaving the park then it would have been ok. Even though it’s just chalk that isn’t a playground and people who go there to appreciate the beauty of nature probably don’t want to look at rocks that have been colored on. I think an important lesson for kids is being respectful of others and her actions are not teaching this.

  23. haven’t the police got better things to do with their time.. ?

  24. Generally I get outraged by these, but I see a couple issues on this one, she had been previously convicted of the painting, she was now encouraging her child to do the same thing… sure chalk but essentially the same.

    I would bet that if it hadn’t been the same cop (not really a surprise many places keep officers on the same beat so they are known by the locals) and no prior on it, that she would have just been warned that this was not allowed. and given a chance to wash off the chalk.

    Again parks are considered ‘public’ property but not in a ‘you can do anything you want’ kind of way.

    And the mother’s behavior (on multiple items)

  25. I’m sorry, Lenore, but when people go to a state or national park, they expect to see the natural beauty of the place, not children’s drawings or graffiti on top of that beauty. Defacing the rocks at the park, even with just chalk, is something that should be strictly enforced. Just like you don’t pick flowers at the botanic garden or take away a tiny bit of petrified wood you might find at the Petrified Forest National Park; if everybody did that there would be nothing left to see. It is about respect for the place and for other’s enjoyment of it, and clearly this mother did not get that memo.

  26. Boil it down: woman is caught for second time involved in rule-breaking defacement of public property. (Not only is it a second offense, but the fact that it is a second offense implies that it was not an innocent mistake of ignorance.) Woman displays aggression toward officer who confronts her. Woman is sentenced to community service involving preserving the same space of public property.

    Regardless of how you feel about the right of kids to put chalk on public rocks, this is “outrageous?” Hardly.

  27. The consequences are out of proportion to the “crime.” She should have been told to wash it off right then, and then maybe told that she can not return to the park or she would be trespassing. Parks, and public places do have that option of banning people who are causing problems. Mom taking the kid to the park to do the drawing could be said to be causing problems.

    The way this panned out, someone has to supervise her for those 50 hours. It would have been better to get a youth group to come in and do all the painting in one shot, and only have to “supervise” for a much shorter time.

  28. she should live in our town – we have three huge rocks here in our town square where people are allowed to paint on, plus we have an annual chalk walk where everyone who is interested is given free chalk and can chalk all over the sidewalks in town!

  29. I agree that this woman seems to have “issues.” But when someone is tried for a crime, you don’t convict based on what kind of person she is or what she’s done in the past. The question here is whether it is, or should be, a crime for a child to write on a rock with chalk.

    I understand that we want parks to be pristine, but it could have been easily washed off with water (preferably by both mom and daughter). And, the fact that this mom didn’t treat the cop like the god he thinks he is does not move me.

    When I hear of things like this happening, my thought is, thank goodness that there is so little else for the cops to do that they have time on their hands for this sort of nonsense.

    I would also note that when I was a kid, I was taught that marking the trees / rocks while on a hike was a survival technique. I would hate to teach kids that it’s a crime and potentially increase their chances of getting lost.

  30. I watched the video, and this woman makes me kinda stabby. She is clearly one of those people who thinks she should be able to do what she feels like, wherever and whenever she feels like doing it, completely disregarding others, and she’s teaching that attitude to her 4-year-old. If this park were more of a recreation-type park (with swings, slides, benches, picnic shelters, etc.) it’d be a different story, but it looks more like a nature preserve to me. The whole point of those being to preserve and protect nature. People go to them to admire nature’s beauty and take a break from a paved-over environment, not to see more signs of human encroachment and disrespect for nature.

    If she’d been asked to wash off the rocks, she probably would have copped an attitude and forced them to write this ticket. Clearly, getting a ticket last time didn’t sink in with her. Maybe having to give up a couple of afternoons a month for the next half-year will imbue a little respect for nature and the environment in her. Probably not, but at least this park will get their markers repainted thanks to her idiocy.

  31. Ok, I just have to comment. I disagree that using chalk on a rock is equal to “defacing public propery”. Paint (which is permanent) and chalk (which is not permanent) are not the same thing.

    Also, I went to Bell Island for the first time about two months ago. My brother lives in Richmond and he jogs and hikes there often. We hopscotched across the rocks on the river and almost every indentation had trash of some kind in it and the little beach areas were filthy. If the police are truly concerned about the park, then please, by all means, ticket the litterbugs who leave beer cans, cig. butts, and other miscellaneous trash all over the place. It could be a really beautiful place.

    Littering is a pet peeve of mine. If it were up to me litterbugs would be breaking rocks all summer as punishment. 🙂 It just drives me nuts.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents worth and now I must return to work. 🙂

  32. @tramb10 (and everyone else), I lived in Richmond for several years, and Belle Isle is not a “park” in the typical sense. There’s not a playground or ball fields. It’s in the middle of the James River (which is in the middle of the city). People generally go there to walk/run/bike, and in the summer, swim. It’s sorta dirty, you’d be pretty bold to be there after dark, and a lot of homeless people live in the wooded parts. There are a few abandoned buildings/train sheds that are covered in graffiti. So I think it’s pretty obvious that this happened SOLELY because of the woman involved. Also, to those who said why didn’t she draw on her own property/driveway. If you live in the middle of Richmond, you probably don’t have your own driveway and little to no yard. Everything is very tightly packed (like a typical older city on the east coast). So long story short, I don’t think this was a case of a cop being a d!@k. I think the woman probably provoked it.

  33. Here’s a good pic: http://365richmondva.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/belle-isle-rocks.jpg. Or go to this site to see more pics of the buildings, etc.

  34. How do the police have time to care about these things?! Last week, my dad’s car got stolen, and the police did NOTHING. My dad had to go to the mall and ask for the tapes to the security cameras in the parking garage himself. He then watched his car being stolen, identified the kid, (Through sheer luck the kid owned a dog and used my dad as his vet) went to the kid’s workplace, stole in back, and the police refused to even arrest the kid.
    So basically, the police will care about children’s chalk drawings, but don’t care about cars worth thousands of dollars.

  35. My daughter’s school banned drawing with chalk on the asphalt because it is apparently the gateway drug to becoming a delinquent graffiti artist. 😉

  36. Also, Slaughterama, a “bicycling festival”, used to take place on Belle Isle. So like I said, it HAD to be because of this particular woman. Police in Richmond have MUCH more to worry about than graffiti or litter. Check out the pics here (http://rvanews.com/entertainment/slaughterama-2/14080) to see how concerned they are about litter at Belle Isle. (Side note: I wholly condone events like Slaughterama, so don’t think I’m trying to say it’s bad.)

  37. ” you don’t convict based on what kind of person she is or what she’s done in the past. ”

    You don’t convict, but you do sentence, based on past offenses. And you CAN use past behavior as an indicator of whether this was an honest mistake or a knowing defiance of the rules.

    And for those who say “don’t the police have better things to do,” I doubt this cop was following this woman around. He probably encountered her, maybe when he was doing something “better” like watching for more serious criminal behavior. And when the police *encounter* someone violating a known law or posted rule on public property, yes, confronting the person is what they’re supposed to do. It probably *wouldn’t* have escalated if she hadn’t copped such a ridiculous attitude — even if you don’t think this was a big deal there was no need for her to respond that way.

    If you have a problem with the rule, complain to the people who make the rules, not the police who catch people breaking them or the judges who sentence people for repeated recalcitrance.

  38. Funny story….my daughter once wrote on someone’s truck with a rock. She was young, the truck was dirty and she didn’t see the difference between a rock and a piece of chalk.

    Not really a comment on this story, but in retrospect it was funny and I wanted to share!

  39. I’m reading on Wikipedia about the broken window theory, which is a legal theory that not enforcing laws against vandalism encourages bigger crimes such as theft. It seems like over the past 20 years, broken window theory has found its way into law enforcement, which is why we now have quality of life laws with zero tolerance enforcement: grass must be mowed, houses must be painted properly, no non-running cars in the driveway, etc.

    This mother and child were simply swept up in the tidal wave of the criminalization of small vices. Chalking rocks and sidewalks is now the same as graffito tagging a building in the eyes of law enforcement and city officials.

    It’s unfortunate, it’s sad and it’s also very much something we brought on ourselves when we wanted crime prevention and safety. Now every social vice is a crime that must be prevented or punished.

    Congratulations, America! You wanted a police state, now you have it!

  40. – “Congratulations, America! You wanted a police state, now you have it!”
    Sadly the police state is not confined to America. This nasty virus has spread around the western world. Lenore may be the only cure.

  41. How terribly sad that a child can’t draw on a rock with chalk. Don’t her parents pay taxes that provide for that policeman’s salary and for the park upkeep? How sad that a mother was told by her neighbors that they didn’t like her daughter drawing happy faces, flowers and printing her name on their cult-te-sac street. At least the child was outside playing instead of inside watching tv. Chalk washes off with water. Someone like me, a retired sp. ed and kinder teacher, might have been interested in what the child was drawing – or happy that a child was expressing and enjoying herself with chalk in a park.

  42. THIS IS CRAZY!!!!! The cops can waste their time and taxpayers money harassing little kids for being uh…… I don’t know kids.

  43. I live in Richmond and that park is full of dog poo and broken glass. Last time I was there with my kids a herd of rude teenagers cursed and bumped into everyone they could, trying to start fights. Someone was shot there this summer. BUT CHALK IS BAD OMG!!! We should have a chalk-in…

  44. What upset me about this was the mother said her daughter no longer liked chalk. Sounds like the mother made a HUGE deal about this in front of the kid and has traumatized a four year old. Had the cop said, “Hey, your daughter can’t draw on the rocks with chalk.”
    and she said, “Oh, I didn’t see the harm, I am so sorry.”
    I bet the cop would have let it go. Instead, she swore at the cop, in front of her daughter and made a deal over it. Paint those barriers and think long and hard about what you did. . .to your daughter.

  45. Some of these comments seem to assume that the cop himself was not part of the reason for this mom’s “attitude.” Haven’t you ever been stopped by a cop who is stinkin’ obnoxious? Because I have, more than once. The last time it happened, my 4yos were right there listening. What’s so strange about saying a guy who would write a ticket on a little kid with chalk must hate his job? Do we know whether she made the comment before or after the cop decided to issue a ticket?

    The thing about the daughter’s chalk aversion – do you realize how scary cops are to little kids?

    Without being there, I don’t think we can assume the encounter got ugly only because of the woman’s demeanor.

  46. What does this have to do with free range kids? Sorry, but I didn’t think this movement was about condoning vandalism. Chalk on your sidewalk is one thing, defacing the natural world in a public park is quite another!

  47. I can’t believe she got 50 hr community service, ridiculous. Check this out

    & this mom only got 80 hrs for what she did which was horrible, I wish the mom that did this lived in Richmond, VA. I personally think she got off way too easy.

  48. OK, now that I’ve had time to read the comments my head is spinning. First I am shocked at the judgement from this community. It seem that many of you somehow know exactly how this incident went down as if you were there & you have decided based on one past event in her life that she must some how be a horrible criminal of a mother who is teaching her young child how to be a vandal. Also while I don’t condone her attitude since when it is a crime to be rude. After looking at the pictures it was just a few scribble on the ground. I’m starting to wonder what they are smoking in Richmond? Why would they need to cover up a chalk drawing, didn’t they know they could have poured some water on it & it would have disappeared like magic? There is no way she could complete the work they want done in 50hrs. I think they are being completely ridiculous. The punishment should fit the crime. It sounds like it’s possible the officer might have an attitude problem himself.

  49. At least three people posting above have familiarity with this specific park….anyone read those comments? (Side pet peeve, people who say “I don’t have time to read all the comments” but expect the rest of us to read their pearl of wisdom…) This does not sound like a place where the natural world is even relevant. Maybe it is the broken window theory and the cops just happen to be starting with chalk on rocks, but bemoaning the defacing of the beauty of nature doesn’t seem appropriate in a place where it appears there is litter everywhere.

  50. A woman in Virginia was given 50 hours of community service pulling weeds and scraping/painting border posts at a park for “allowing” her 4 year old daughter to “vandalize” the park with chalk (the nerve!). If she doesn’t finish the 50 hours by January 3rd she is going to be given a $2,500 fine. Since Richmond, VA feels that those 50 hours are worth $2,500 I have started up an IndieGoGo fundraiser to raise just that much and pay her for her time.


  51. As I said, I’m on the fence–yes, the police officer’s reaction was excessive, but at the same time, I was always taught as a child that you don’t take/draw on/otherwise alter things that aren’t yours, unless you have permission.

  52. Freedom is gone. The question to be faced is how bad life in America will become. Only a small percentage of Americans support freedom on principle, while the rest support it conditionally, if at all.

    “I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.” — H.L. Mencken

  53. A neighbor stopped by the other day with her three children and the littlest one picked up a piece of chalk and drew all over my brick steps. I was fine with it. 4 giant rainstorms later, the chalk is still there! I thought it would just wash away too. Perhaps it is because it’s brick?

    It would never occur to me to let my kids draw with chalk on a rock, in a park/nature preserve. I look at it like littering and just…tacky.

  54. Recently some little girls who live a few door down were playing with my son in front of my house & chalked my sidewalk. Maybe I should have called the Police?

  55. Our park has a sidewalk drawing contest! It’s a great way to get kids outside, meet parents, have some fun and promote creativity. But then Denton was named the most Fun Town in America.

  56. Do people not understand that chalk washes off? A tenant in my parents’ condo building let her little girl draw with chalk on her terrace (which NOBODY can see unless they are on the terrace next door), and the building management had a fit over it. It WASHES OFF people!!

  57. I think the point that Lenore is making is that we can’t even let our kids use chalk, a very temporary medium, to draw on rocks in a public place. It’s not spray paint people!

  58. So in the US packing a semi-automatic is OK and packing chalk is bad – really!!!

  59. I know chalk washes off, but there are some places that demand a certain level of decorum, and I think a nature preserve is one of them. So, while it’d be fine to chalk on one’s own driveway, or even a public playground or schoolyard, I think that that’s pretty much it–nature preserves and public gardens are more “subdued” parks, and they deserve to be treated with deference. So, if it was my child, I’d have left the chalk at home that day.

  60. I am not sure I’d let my kid write in chalk on those stones (it would depend on the surroundings and whether my kid had any other place to chalk). But even if I wouldn’t let my kid do it, the outrage here is that it’s been criminalized. I mean, I don’t “let” my kids do a lot of things that are not illegal. I don’t let my kids wear tattoos and purple nail polish to church, but if someone else did, I wouldn’t expect her to be arrested and sentenced to community service.

  61. Lisa, if you have a concealed carry permit, sure, you can carry. Pack your chalk, fine, but you don’t have to use it in a nature preserve, unless maybe you are doing it in the paved driveway of it.

    When I lived in MT, we went to Yellowstone often. We stopped going during the middle of summer because we got pissed off every time we went. We saw people walking off the trails (stupid,because you can fall into boiling water,) and doing things like carving their initials in things. Now, the carved initials were generally in areas that when the water flow picked up in the winter, the minerals would be deposited over it, and eventually get rid of them. But, it still pissed me off that I had to see that stuff on “my” visit. We saw people actually doing this, and we usually yelled at them. Some were US citizens. Many were not. Yellowstone is kind of like a temple to me – I wouldn’t go to their country and deface their temples.

    Now, as I said earlier, I think that the mom should have been made to clean up on the spot, and then been banned from the park. That would have been more appropriate.

  62. While I don’t think someone should get community service for chalk drawings (nor do I think most people would since this is clearly based on her prior history), I’m a little bothered by the attitude here that it doesn’t matter because it is just chalk and washes away. I don’t necessarily go the park to see your little imps drawings, chalk or otherwise. Even if it washes away in the next rain, it doesn’t help people who are there BEFORE the next rain and would like to enjoy the park without a 4 year old’s chalk scribbles all over the place. A more appropriate response would have been to give her the option of washing it off or getting the ticket, but the drawings need not be considered okay simply because they are chalk.

  63. Is chalking a crime? Even I as a German woman can only laugh about this decision.. 🙂

  64. I live in Manhattan, don’t have a driveway and have been told in several playgrounds that kids could not draw with chalk on the ground. Didn’t get a ticket, but I told my kids to stop drawing with chalk. (In other playgrounds kids draw with chalk).

  65. I don’t get the outrage here. This isn’t about drawing with chalk being a problem, it’s about defacing a park being a problem (and by somebody with a history of defacing the park).

    Yes, technically, the chalk will wash off when it rains. How long will that be? (I’ve lived places where it can be months.) So the rest of us who visit the park have to see it covered (even temporarily) children’s graffiti?

    My free range kid gets a pretty strong message that his freedom does not come at the expense of anybody else, including their enjoyment of public parks.

  66. Folks, this is yet another proof of one of my rules – NEVER take media reports at face value.

    The media is talking about a “city park” and “drawing on some park rocks,” right? Well, here’s the description of James River Park, from the park’s website:

    “The James River Park System, a unique part of Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, includes over 550 acres of shoreline and islands in the capital of Virginia, extending in 14 sections from the Huguenot Bridge in the west to a half mile beyond the I-95 Bridge in the east. It includes most of the fall line of the James River. Rocks, rapids, meadows, and forests make for an area of unspoiled natural beauty — a little bit of wilderness in the heart of the city.”

    IT’S A NATURE PRESERVE! This isn’t some monkey-bars-and-swings ‘city park,’ it’s (quoting again) “kayaking and canoeing, biking, fishing, rock climbing, rapids, scenic views, walking trails, wildlife, historic sites”, and more than a few “kids should be supervised” venues.

    How many of you would go to your local nature preserve and start chalking it up? Come ON…

  67. It looks like the mother has authority and anger issues, and is using this to challenge authority. Not the right thing to do; it puts her girl in the crossfire.

    Also, if it is a shoreline and nature preserve, then yes, chalking should be banned. Any defacement of the area should be banned. The mother should read up on “Leave no trace” and teach her daughter accordingly. That would be much more useful than namecalling a cop.


  68. One poster made a good point upthread…. chalk doesn’t always wash off. I’ve had this happen with sidewalk chalk also. It has rained several times and the drawings/writing are still there. We have a unilock brick driveway which isn’t the easiest to draw on anyway but my son did and I didn’t mind. But that is MY PRIVATE PROPERTY. This is a park, people !!! Bottom line… no matter whether you were this mother being charged, or anyone…. you don’t just whip out chalk or paint or whatever and start defacing park property… even if it washes off !!! That’s some pretty fractured logic right there.

  69. @sliver fang Your explanation of the legal basis for the behaviour of the police is probably absolutely correct. It has to do with taking social science research a way bit too seriously and over-extending it to the max.

    Re police: I was talking to a lawyer friend once about an over the top police response and she reminded me that the police force’s entire purpose is to arrest people. If they get an opportunity to make an arrest, they will. We the people have to make sure that the bases on which they can arrest citizens are fair, reasonable and will make the country a safer better place.

    Re people’s describing the child’s behaviour as vandalism, I guess people want to win an argument, so will go as extreme as necessary to do so. Vandalism is a crime. Children of four are not generally regarded as criminally liable. There was once a time when we thought what little kids did was cute and not a matter for police involvement.

    In truth how much would people be bothered by a little kid’s drawings? Maybe I am weird but I’d just think how cute and smile a bit, think it was nice that a child had played there and enjoyed herself, see it as a sign of life and hope, actually, like I do when I see sandcastles at the beach and chalk drawings on the pavement. I would not start thinking ‘defacement’ ‘vandalism’ etc. Maybe I like kids too much and am simply not cranky enough.

    America got to be America by disobeying unjust laws. What happened?

  70. Judging from what’s been published here, it sounds as if the mother in this story forgot the old New England saying, “The whale doesn’t get harpooned ’til he comes up to spout.” Or how about:
    Be careful of the words you say
    And keep them soft and sweet.
    You never know from day to day
    Which ones you’ll have to eat.

  71. […] Outrage of the Week:Mom Sentenced for Letting Her 4 y.o. Draw with Chalk (freerangekids.wordpress.com) […]

  72. @wesmorgan1, so you’re saying that the several posters above who are familiar with this park and its litter, filthy beach, and graffit-covered abandoned buildings are lying?

    I’m sorry, but if the cops are going to arrest for sidewalk chalk, they should be vigilantly patrolling and arrest the litterers too.

  73. I can certainly understanding leaving a place better than you found it, “leaving no trace” as with campfires and litter, and even not drawing with chalk in a national park when people are there to experience the most natural image possible. I do think city parks are different. Many children do not have a sidewalk, driveway or safe street on which to use chalk. I see no harm in a child expressing themselves with chalk in a city park or playing hopscotch. Our park encourages children to have fun and feel welcome at the park. Birthday parties are given there and children can use chalk, throw water balloons, hunt Easter eggs, etc. We always clean up our mess – except for the chalk drawings and no one cares. We enjoy seeing children experience childhood. We’re glad they are having fun and playing outdoors, giving the electronic devices a break.

  74. Just to be clear, I think it’s reasonable to argue that the use of a small amount of chalk on a rock in a less than pristine park should not get anyone into trouble, period. I don’t necessarily agree — I don’t find “well, our intended natural park is trashed so we should just let people keep disrupting it without even asking them to stop” is a really strong argument. But that’s beside the point.

    What I object to is the characterization that the mom got arrested because her child “drew with chalk” (without regard to the location or the rules in place when she did it) one time. That’s really NOT what’s going on here.

  75. @beth – It’s a 550-acre park of shoreline and islands. The fact that parts of it may be less than pristine doesn’t suddenly makes the park rules/policies null and void.

    Go read other reports on this incident. You’ll see quotes from park personnel who spend their time cleaning graffiti–both paint and chalk–from the rocks. You’ll see reports that the problem is so bad that park management asked law enforcement to pay closer attention to the matter. You’ll see explicit references to pornographic graffiti done in both paint and chalk.

    Incidentally, the person who posted the Slaughterama photos didn’t mention that the organizers of the event clean up the entire site AND turn all those cans in for recycling; one local TV station reported, “James Lipton, a 5-year veteran of the Cutthroats, was in charge of the cleanup process. He said it’s a team effort that takes thousands of volunteers. “We usually finish up by 8 pm that day, come by the next day, then again a week later. It’s something we’ve always done. All these cans go to the James River park service. They recycle them, and they get to keep and they get to use it for whatever they want. It’s really rad.”

  76. @Susan Case: You said exactly what I was trying to say, in much fewer words. Yes, I learned about “leaving no trace” when hiking, camping, or visiting a nature preserve or similar environment, from the time I was quite young. Different parks have different rules–the neighbourhood playground or public schoolyard is a place for running, swinging, climbing, cartwheeling, singing, shouting, blowing off steam, or even drawing with chalk if you want to, but the nature preserve is a place to be quiet and respectful, and clean up any mess you make. I was taught, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time,” from the time I was probably not much older than that little girl. After all, the nature preserve is really home to all the animals and birds and plant life that live there, and the people who come to the park are visiting THEIR home.

  77. i think the heavy sentence is silly. that said, what kind of yahoo lets their kid paint and draw on rocks in public parks?

  78. “Just to be clear, I think it’s reasonable to argue that the use of a small amount of chalk on a rock in a less than pristine park should not get anyone into trouble, period.”

    I disagree completely (and understand that pentamom is just paraphrasing other arguments and not actually arguing this herself). I think that it is a completely idiotic argument. You are essentially saying that the fact that people still do things despite them being illegal means that you can’t prosecute those crimes when you catch someone in the act. It is the same as arguing that many people speed on this road therefore you can’t give me a ticket for speeding.

    I am sure that many people deface this park and are not caught. The city likely doesn’t have the resources to scrape paint, wash chalk and pick up litter constantly. That does not mean that the police must turn a blind eye when they CATCH someone in the act of defacing the park.

    “There was once a time when we thought what little kids did was cute ”

    And there was a time when parents understood that not everyone considered every little thing done by their children cute and actually made an effort to respect others. There is a time and place for everything. A nature preserve is not the place to bring your kid to color with chalk. It is not a place that it has to be accepted as cute.

    “In truth how much would people be bothered by a little kid’s drawings?”

    At my local playground? Not a bit. On the street in front of my house? Not a bit. At my local botanical gardens? VERY MUCH!! At my local nature preserve? VERY MUCH!! Just like I find boisterous kids running, yelling and playing perfectly acceptable at Chuck E. Cheese and not so cute and cuddly at Olive Garden. Sorry, but you do not have to be “cranky” to not find everything kids do just oh so cute because they are kids. Parents need to teach their children the what, wheres and whens of acceptable behavior.

  79. Donna, I do agree with you. I guess all I meant was that someone could make that argument (though I would disagree with it almost as vehemently as you do, for the same reasons) without necessarily being guilty of a total lack of understanding of the situation.

    But to say that someone was “sentenced for letting her 4 year old draw with chalk,” which is the headline of this post, is really misunderstanding or misrepresenting the totality of what occurred in this situation.

  80. @wesmorgan1, you’re right. I shouldn’t have characterized the Slaughterama event like they were the ones littering. Like I said, I fully support the event. I was more trying to make the point that Belle Isle isn’t your typical park. I’ve read more about this case, and the city has stated that they’re trying to clean things up at Belle Isle. That being said, the officer made the point in court that the woman was belligerent and cursed at him. I would say that her actions, after he confronted her, are the main reason she got the ticket. I know I have no better idea than anyone, but we’re all just speculating. If we heard about it happening multiple times, then maybe we should get up-in-arms about it. I know we’re getting off topic, but here’s a good article sorta describing Belle Isle (and JRPS) and the issues with litter, graffiti, etc. http://www2.richmond.com/lifestyles/2012/mar/30/top-10-ways-richmonders-are-ruining-james-ar-1801861/

  81. Donna,
    God I hope you never make it to being a judge. A child drawing with chalk. Why couldnt the cop just say that’s a pretty drawing, but when you’re done I need you to wash it off, the park doesn;t allow this stuff.
    Any four year old would have been more than willing, and felt good about it. The law is the law is the law, is getting real old.
    Too much law and not enough common sense.

  82. That seems a pretty excessive punishment to me. How about “just clean it off?” That might have worked well, too. Seems that the cop was just angry that he was called on being a busybody with nothing better to do than harrass a four year old child and her mother.

  83. I do not believe USA is a 4 year old child friendly state

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