“Hunter,” a Deaf 3-Year-Old, Told Signing His Name Violates School’s Gun Policy

Hi Folks!  This is perhaps the most absurd story ever reported here — and that’s saying a lot! A reader named Rachel writes:

A Deaf child named Hunter is not allowed to use his name sign because the sign for “Hunter” (a dictionary word) uses the thumb and first two fingers in a gun shape and suggests a shooting motion. Here’s the story.

These school officials have lost their ability to reason if they believe stripping a child of his name is necessary for safety under a weapons policy. Educators who are unable to use logic and critical thinking have no business educating.

I just sent a letter to the school board expressing my outrage. Everyone else can too at  http://www.gips.org/contact_us

Thanks, Rachel 

Cops Collar 12 y.o. for “Walking Alone” in Downtown Toronto

Hi Folks — Now that the notion, “How could anyone let their kids walk alone outside?” is back in heavy rotation,  here is the blog post of a mom whose 12 year old son was brought home to her by the cops. He wasn’t  in any trouble. He was simply scooped up because the cops didn’t think a middle schooler should be walking, by daylight, in an urban area. It freaked them out.

I always worry when people in power are scared of non-scary, formerly normal childhood activities.

As this boy was picked up in pretty much the same area that I’ve been staying in while I film my “Free-Range” reality show in Toronto, I can attest that it is not a scary nabe. It is bustling. But even if it weren’t, since when do police pick up boys who are doing just fine, walking home? From the blog post:

“I just wanted to walk home” he said dejectedly. “He’s not in any kind of trouble” the first officer said cheerfully. But then more sternly added “but he was walking on the downtown streets”. “We live downtown” I said, becoming confused. “Where is his school?” asked the second officer. “He’s in a camp this week, at the Jewish Community Centre – it’s at Spadina and Bloor”, I said wondering why two policemen would think a kid was in school in the middle of July. “Well ma’am, we picked him up at Yonge and Adelaide” he says, looking all strong and concerned. “Yes, I said, he was walking home, is that a problem?”. “He was walking…. alone…… downtown……….!!!” the officer gritted his teeth at my stupidity and spat out. “He’s 12”, he added as if this would make it all clear. “Do you not see the issue” he spurted? “So are you trying to tell me that because my child was getting exercise, being environmental and increasing his geographical skills, rather than sitting in the basement playing a video game, or hanging out in a mall, or sitting in a fast food restaurant filling his gutty wuts with hydrogenated trans sugar chemical slop, you were worried about him? Do you realize that at 12 he is old enough to babysit?” I asked.

Her fight is our fight: The fight against irrational fear, and a Worst-First mentality that assumes if a child is outside, he is likely to get in terrible trouble. When, in fact, the opposite is true. A child outside is a great thing for a city, a family, a kid. — Lenore

OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK: Cops Threaten Mom for Letting Son Play Outside

Hi Readers! This mom, Kimberlee Morrison of kimleeisawesome, needs a pep talk from all of us — and perhaps some legal advice. You’ll see why. L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve been warned. Literally. By the police. My son left the park, went to El Pollo Loco and asked for water. A stranger asked him if he was hungry, the Boy, thinking the guy was being nice, said sure. The guy bought him some food — and called the police.

The police called me and insisted it was not safe for me to let my 8-year-old “wander the streets alone.” They hit me with the normal fear tactics: He could have been hit by a car, he could have been kidnapped. What if he had wandered off somewhere else and the stranger hadn’t been nice enough to involve the authorities?

To which I countered that there is no law against letting my son go to the park, and that the only problem right now is that the supposedly nice person HAD involved the authorities, even though my son was fine. My son was not lost, he wasn’t injured, he wasn’t afraid, he was just thirsty. I was told that since others thought something was wrong, I should too. Now I’m questioning my Free-Range philosophy.

By law, he is old enough to be alone, but the police insisted that the only reason I wasn’t going to jail is because they had decided it wasn’t necessary. They did, however ask to see where we lived, which I agreed to in the spirit of being cooperative.

Now we’re a little shaken up here, mostly by the threat of, “I could take you to jail right now,” and the fear that the Boy might not be allowed to go to the park anymore without me hovering. None of the other kids in our community are allowed outside the gate. So what do I do? Keep him locked inside? Hover? I want to be Free-Range, but not at the risk of my son being thrown into the system because of it.
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Oh, yeah, I asked what age would be appropriate for him to go to the park and was told 13 or 14. So he has to be a teenager before he’s allowed to navigate the world without me at his side.
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I’m so sad. Kids are supposed to be able to go outside and play. But everyone is so afraid. I don’t know what to do. I could use a pep talk right now, and some guidance. – Kimberlee
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Dear Kimberlee: I’m shaken up, too. My blood curdles when the authorities use their own fears and prejudices to decide what is “good parenting,” or even “safe,” rather than consulting the law OR the actual statistics, which show we are living in very safe times. (Crime has been going down for 16 years and is now back at the level of 1974. It was higher in the ’70s and ’80s, when most of today’s parents — and cops — were growing up.)
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The idea of curbing your son’s happy, normal childhood and locking him inside for the next five years is tragic. It’s ironic, too, considering that cops are supposed to MAKE the town safe, not tell people, “We can’t! Just stay inside.”
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I know, that beyond this site, many folks would say, “The boy CAN go outside! She just has to supervise him.” But since when do adults spend from 3-6 p.m. outside, then come in for dinner, and then head outside again? And spend all day Saturdays outside? And Sundays? A summers? The idea that parents should be in the same place as their 8-year-old children all the time is a new one, born of unreasonable fear.
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So what should this mom do?
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Well, I’d certainly arm my son with a note from me that says I approve of him being outside, and that he knows how to contact me, and you, concerned stranger, can, too.  Then I’d include my phone number. As in my Free-Range Kids membership card (you can find it in my book), I’d add some statistics about things like the fact he’d be more in danger IN MY CAR than in the park.  And I guess I’d go Xerox any local ordinances that say a child of his age can legally be outside, unsupervised.
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Then again, I actually did that when my younger son was 10 and taking a commuter train. I gave him a phone, I printed out the Transit Authority’s home page that said children age 8 and up are allowed to travel unaccompanied, and I still got a call from the police after the conductor felt “nervous” about seeing a boy traveling alone and called the cops. They ended up letting my son go (after asking me the inevitable, “What if some guys had tried to abduct him?”), but the whole thing was unsettling. And who wants the threat of legal action going any further?
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After that episode, we continued to allow our son to travel solo, but it became a little nerve-wracking. And Kimberlee had an even closer police encounter regarding an even more everyday activity: playing. I’d like the cops to think about what the parks are for if NOT for kids to play? No wonder so many playgrounds are empty!
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So my suggestion, heart-in-mouth, Kim, is to let your son go back outside. If he can find a friend to go with him, so much the better. If you want to give him a phone so he can contact you, I guess that might make some sense (even though, if he’s anything like my own sons, then he’ll spend at least part of his outdoor time fiddling with the phone).
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Our Free-Range goal, when you get right down to it, is to change this terrified society. I am pretty terrified of the authorities myself. But I am really terrified of a society that keeps children locked inside — just like the kidnappers it is obsessed by — for no reason other than misplaced fear.
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I wish you and your son everything good. And, for what it’s worth, I am in your corner and will support you whatever way I can, if and when you need it. But I sure hope you don’t. — Lenore

A Boy, A Dad, A Tragedy and A Big Question

Readers — I just read this story and am sick to my heart. A dad brought his 5 year old son to the park then crossed the street to talk to some friends. The boy ran after him. He got struck by a car and died. Now the father is in jail and the charge has just been upgraded from “felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery” to involuntary manslaughter.

I cannot imagine how that father would feel even if he weren’t in jail. It’s boggling. This is a tragedy pure and simple. But the issues are not so simple at all.

We live in a society that does not believe in accidents any more, or bad luck, or fate, or even, when it comes to children’s safety, “God’s will.” That’s good, in the sense that it makes us strap our kids into car seats, and take some basic precautions. But it’s corrosive in that when anything bad does happen to a child, we almost always blame the parents. The media does it, the DA does it (perhaps for political gain), and the neighbors may well do it, too. Sometimes we do it almost reflexively, as if to protect ourselves. “Well I would never do that so nothing bad will ever happen to my family.”

As if none of us has ever lost track of our kids for a sec.

Now, certainly, it makes sense to keep watch over a young child at the park. But if we slip up for a minute, if we do something human and not  intended to hurt anyone, especially our beloved child,   should that count as “cruelty”? What if it’s something that normally is NOT particularly dangerous? What if we go to the basement to put in a load of laundry and our child follows us and falls down the stairs? What if throw a ball to our child and, trying to catch it, he runs into a tree? What if we go across the street to say hi to a neighbor and unbeknownst to us our child follows and is hit, like this boy, by a car?

Is there no split-second that a parent is legally allowed to not be physically protecting his kindergartener from every possible danger? That’s a tough precedent to set. Think about even a child on a swing. Can we watch him there, knowing he COULD fall off? Or must we sit on the swing and hold him on our lap?

And didn’t a lot of us walk to school on our OWN, starting in kindergarten? I did. My husband and his siblings did. If we’d been hit by a car, no one would have arrested our parents. They would have grieved with them.

Right now, I am grieving for that boy and his family. And I am grieving for a society that is so convinced nothing bad ever happens to the children of GOOD parents that it is willing to put this man on trial.  A man who is already in hell. — Lenore

 

It's hard to think of any kid dying.

 

Boy, 11, Saves Family! (So Why Won’t Many Folks Let 11-y.o.s Babysit?)

Hi Readers! Here’s a terrifying but wonderful story of what happened when a mom going about 55 miles an hour suddenly blacked out  — with her three kids in the car. Thank goodness one was a very smart, quick-thinking young man. Let’s remember the things our kids are capable of instead of treating them all like precious little dumb-dumbs.

Have a great week! — Lenore

Outrage of the Week: 14 y.o. Arrested for “Abduction” Of Toddler He Helped

Readers — Once again, I’m just at a loss for words. Here’s the story of a 14-year-old boy named Edwin who was shopping with his mom at a Burlington Coat Factory in Florida. When he saw a 3-year-old  girl looking lost he took her around to try to find her mom. His own mom saw him go looking and said she would try to help, too.

Then Edwin saw a group of women leaving the store and thought the girl’s mom might be among them. So he went out of the store and finally took the little girl’s hand. When he realized the mom wasn’t among this group, he returned to the store. He met up with his mom and the girl’s mom. He handed the little girl over and proceeded to shop for shoes with his own mom.

And then he was arrested for “attempted abduction.”  The press arrived as he was lead out of the store in handcuffs. This wonderful column by Mike Thomas in the Orlando Sentinel says it best:

Edwin is quite the kidnapper. He brings his mom along. He hangs out in front of the store until the victim’s mother shows up. And then he returns to the store and starts shopping for shoes.

That’s one cool customer.

Detectives arrived and investigated. They then slapped the cuffs on Edwin and paraded him out in front of television cameras by now waiting outside.

“We tried to be sensitive to the fact he was 14,” said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson. “We made an effort to keep direct questions out of his face.”

Hardly. Two reporters shoved microphones in Edwin’s face without any objection from the detectives escorting him. One of the investigators probably could have bitten one of the reporters on the arm.

“Can you tell us why you’re in handcuffs?” a reporter shouted out. “Did you try to kidnap someone?”

Despite his young age, one television station identified Edwin and put the video of his arrest on its website…. But look at the evidence.

We have the little girl’s mother losing track of her daughter.

We have Edwin’s mother not taking the girl from Edwin and turning her over to a store employee.

And we have Edwin in handcuffs.

I’m not sure the problem here is with the 14-year-old.

Interestingly enough, the girl’s mother never did press charges. But the Sheriff’s Office decided it would, ultimately settling on a charge of false imprisonment.

“He was in custody of the child and had no authority to be so,” said Capt. Angelo Nieves. “The thing is to make clear we have not charged him with an offense that did not occur.”

Congratulations.

Let’s recall, meantime, what happens when it becomes the norm to suspect any Good Samaritan, of any age, under any circumstances, of the most disgusting of motives. Recall the story of the man in England who also saw a lost toddler, this one on the side of the road he was driving by. He thought of stopping the car, scooping her up and driving her around till he could find where she’d wandered off from. But then he thought, “What will it look like if I’ve got a little girl who’s not mine in my car?” He knew exactly what it would look like.  So he didn’t pick her up.

And then she drowned.

I hate that story (but can’t find it on Google — can you, readers? Please provide a link!) And I hate the one above it. When we react to our fellow human beings with the very worst, most vile assumptions first, we are less and less apt to reach out and help each other.  That’s not a safer world.  It’s the opposite. — Lenore

P.S. A reader named Fred did find a link to the English tragedy.

Moral of story: Avoid forlorn children!

Let’s Hear it For a 9-Year-Old Samaritan!

Hi Readers — Here’s a nice little story. Nine-year-old Richard “Rashad” Scott  came upon a lost, crying 5-year-old and flagged down a police car, in the rain, to  help them both. Good work! And how great to read a story that reminds us: Most of us, even youngsters, want to help, not hurt. — Lenore