Permission Slips to Photograph Your OWN Kid at Sports

Saved from a Fate Worse Than Buttons!

Hi Folks! This jacket was recalled because it is coated in e-coli, contains a colony of venomous spiders in the left pocket, and was woven from the fur of rabid jackals.

Oh, wait…no. It says here on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website¬†that it was recalled because its elastic waistband has “a toggle that could become snagged or caught in small spaces or doorways, which poses an entrapment hazard to children.”

Nice to know we are being protected from the terrible toggles! – L

Picture of recalled Boys Outerwear Jacket

6 Dumbest Things Schools Do to “Protect Kids”

Hi Readers — This “Dumbest Things” piece by the folks at Cracked is so perfect, click and enjoy. And remember, back when Cracked used to be the runner-up to Mad, I wrote scads of articles for it. (Just not recently, when it became brilliant social commentary.)

Favorite Dumbest Thing schools are doing to “protect” kids? Well, it’s a toss up between the school banning ALL photography (lest it lead to and/or become child porn), and the individual radio frequency i.d. tags that a school purchased to track kids…except that if a kid IS somehow abducted from the school grounds, the signal stops beeping 100 feet away.

Fight the madness, and enjoy the captions. They’re the best. — L.

Children’s Sidewalk Chalk Drawing Outlawed

Hi Readers! Get a load of this — little kids in Australia have been found guilty of violating graffiti laws with their chalk drawings on a sidewalk outside a cafe. This might not be such a Free-Range issue except for this:

Mayor Ben Stennett visited the cafe yesterday as anger mounted. Almost 200 people have signed a petition to support the drawings, which [cafe owner] Ms White is happy to erase each day.

“The mayor said they would like to issue us a permit but can’t because it raises health and safety issues, in case somebody fell over a child on the footpath or into the street,” she said.

Can we PLEASE stop catastrophizing this way in every situation? If the kids are an accident waiting to happen while they draw on the sidewalk, aren’t they an accident waiting to happen while they just stand on the sidewalk, too? After all, someone could bump into them! A car could jump the curb! A dog could chase them into the street! And inside the cafe, a patron could spill boiling tea on them. Every situation can be dangerous if you think about it hard enough. Why use THAT as an excuse to curtail childhood? — L.

Weds., Oct. 6, is International Walk to School Day!

Hi Folks! Yes, Wednesday is the day for kids to do what they used to do ¬†without it requiring a special event. And let’s hope your school signs on without all the shenanigans of my friend’s school. There, any parent who wants to help out by, say, acting as a crossing guard, must first undergo a background check. Because obviously volunteering for a single day, outside, and molestation go hand in hand. Also: While her school is ENCOURAGING “Walk to School Wednesdays” it is FORBIDDING Walk to School Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Fridays. That’s right. Kids along the bus route are not ALLOWED to walk to school any other day.

Sigh.

It’s amazing how easy it is to take a nice, straightforward idea and turn it into a bureaucratic nightmare. But here’s hoping your kids, school and/or district have their feet on the ground — so to speak — and simply get started! Here’s some more info on the day and how to do things like start a “walking school bus.” Happy trails! (I’d walk to school Weds., ¬†but it’s about 14,000 miles. Flying home from Australia soon, though!) — Lenore

Maybe Everyone in England DOESN’T Need a Background Check

Hi Readers — Things are roiling in England where it seems the powers that be are finally reconsidering their bizarre policy of requiring background checks for ANYONE having ANY contact with kids. That included authors coming to speak in schools, moms (or “mums”) volunteering to work as class parents, field trip chaperones — in all, 9 million people were required to get checked. Or they were about to be, anyway, until a few days ago when the “Home Secretary” made remarks to the effect of: What a paranoid policy! Let’s get dump it!

This unleashed a flood of comments, pro and con. So here’s where we pick up the story, via¬†The Guardian:

Headteachers also said the checks would “ruin school life” by putting in jeopardy foreign exchange trips and affecting parents who help out with school plays and sports teams.

The home secretary said she had halted the implementation of the scheme because it had become clear it was a draconian measure.”We were finding the prospect of a lot of people who do very good work up and down the country, were actually saying: ‘I can’t be bothered to if you are going to treat me like that’,” said May.

“You were assumed to be guilty, in a sense, until you were proven innocent and told you could work with children. By scaling it back we will be able to introduce a greater element of common sense. What we have got to do is actually trust people again.”

How I wholeheartedly agree with the home secretary! (And how I NEED a home secretary…but I think that’s another story.) Anyway, inevitably her remarks prompted a backlash, including the usual, “It’s a good day to be a predatory pedophile!” Also inevitably, the story ran with the adorable photo of two English girls who disappeared in 2002, and whose fate prompted the whole background check mania.

I can’t figure out exactly where things stand now, but I am very glad the “scheme” is getting a second look, rather than just steamrolling forward. The idea behind the checks is very much the same idea as in the post below this one, about the 14-year-old boy arrested for trying to help a toddler find her mom: Assuming the very worst motives of ANYONE involved with children in ANY capacity.

Makes for a dark world of suspicion, fear and false accusations. But I guess it’s good for the background checking companies! ¬†— Lenore

Kid Streaks at Football Game, Now Could Be “Sex Offender”

Hi Readers: Yes, one of two kids who streaked at his local high school football game could now be required to register as a sex offender. Same list you’d find Jaycee Dugard’s rapist on. But, hey, it’s only for 10 years!

Only 10 years of not being allowed to live near a school or park. Only 10 years of being turned down for most jobs. Only 10 years of being seen by anyone checking the Sex Offender Registry as a guy who regularly goes around exposing  himself to minors.

These registry rules are as ridiculous and inflexible as the rule that would have sent¬†the Cub Scout with the fork/spoon/knife off to two months of reform school for what was clearly a minor offense, if an offense at all. The over-the-top penalty¬†was no doubt cobbled to¬†keep kids “safe.”

They sure are safer now. All¬†hail inflexibility! — Lenore

You Can’t Bring THAT on the School Bus!

Hi Readers — Here you go. Latest overprotection nonsense! Enjoy (if that’s the word).

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought this little story might be of interest to you. My oldest daughter (12) recently tried out for her school softball team. She made the team, which was a real accomplishment. Not only were the kids selected based on talent, but on attitude and enthusiasm as well. They’re all good students, responsible, and respectable. It takes that type of kid to make it on the team.

Although the softball season does not start until April, open practice has. The first day of practice, my daughter hauled her gear onto the bus (we live in a rural area 5 miles from school, so walking really does not work well). She has lots of equipment, because she is a catcher. However, it all fits into one bag that she places in front of her on the bus. It does not cause a space problem. A day later, we were informed at a parent/player meeting that softball bats are NOT allowed on the school bus, because they MIGHT be used as weapons. Even zipped up in an equipment bag: not allowed. So now, on days that she has practice, I have to make a special trip after school to drop her equipment off.

After doing a little research, I found that this appears to be a common policy at many schools. Riding the bus is a privilege, so I try not to let it upset me too much, but I still can’t help but question how crazy this rule it. Selected to play on the school team, but not allowed to transport her equipment on the school bus?

Welcome to America, 2009! Can’t keep kids too safe! Better to make them believe that anytime anyone is carrying anything that is not a cottonball, they are a menace to society. That goes for girls with bats and boys with Cub Scout eating utensils.¬† And double for pen knives! — L

Saving Boy Scouts (And Everyone Else) From Joy

Rest in peace, possibly, oh ye International Boy Scout Jamboree. As you may recall,¬†readers, England’s excessive new rules require¬†everyone who has ever even BEEN a child (or at least, everyone who may¬†ever come in contact with one) to undergo a pedophilia background check. That being the case, the yearly jamborees¬†that have been a staple of English¬†scouting since the 1920s are now threatened.

Why? Well figure if you get 40,000 scouts together from a whole lot of countries, you need a whole lot of volunteers helping out. And if each of those volunteers needs to undergo a background check approved by Less-Than-Jolly Old England, we are talking about a bureaucratic nightmare.

In fact, we’ve been talking about bureaucratic nightmares alot, haven’t we? A bureaucratic ruling that throws a 6-year-old out of school for bringing a beloved eating utensil to lunch. A town that outlaws Halloween in order to save children from the non-existent danger of poisoned candy. And now a Boy Scout tradition¬†on the rocks because the people who want to make it happen are being bureaucratically disuaded from helping out.

All these rules were ostensibly made to keep children safe. So what are they now safe from? Show and Tell. Trick or Treating. And Boy Scouts.

That’ progress! — Lenore

Commonsense Rearing Its Uncommon Head. Yay!

Hi Readers — You’ve probably seen this story, closely mirroring the one in England where the two moms sharing a job TRIED to share babysitting duty, too — and found out this was against the law. Here in the States, a¬†Michigan mom takes in the kids of three friends each morning¬†before the bus comes. Suddenly, the mom — Lisa Snyder — was informed this is illegal, as she is not a licensed¬†day care operator.

Amazingly, she did not go to jail. The case got the attention of no less than the governor, who immediately instructed the child welfare agency to draft some kind of law making normal human decency legal again. Imagine that.

Meantime, my friend Chris Byrne, editor of timetoplaymag.com, had this to say:

It seems to me that what’s happening is that the very legal system that is supposed to establish and protect community standards is being so narrowly applied that it undermines them. The utter lack of common sense and the insistence on applying the letter of the law indicates much more than just misguided application, it’s a deterioration in the ability of people to think about the realities of a situation. Keeping a kid at home for an hour is not daycare!

I have always said, “Those who don’t read Dickens are doomed to live it.” This is the hidebound attachment to literalness that he decries as soul-numbing in “Hard Times.”

Well, I have to admit, I have not read Hard Times (I did read David Copperfield!), but I feel in my icy bones exactly what he’s talking about: The idea that using your own brain and heart is verboten, and that bureaucracy must be exalted. It’s the same thing we see when parents get hauled in for “negligence” for leaving their kid in the car when they go to return a Blockbuster video. Same thing we see when a parent is not allowed into the kindergarten Christmas party because her background check has yet to clear. Same thing we see when a teacher is chastised for hugging a pre-schooler. Rules were not only made to be broken, there are a lot of stupid rules out there that should never have been made at all.
Kudos to the governor of Michigan for wrestling this rigid rule right away, but how many more are lurking? How many parents will be persecuted because of draconian laws and brain-dead bureaucrats? (That’s a rhetorical question, of course. I guess the real answer is, “A lot,” which would be¬†dull way to end this post but…we are moving today and it’s chaotic around here and my brain is in some box with our cooking utensils. So — talk to you again soon, readers! We are off to beautiful Queens, New York!) ¬†— Lenore