Outrage of the Week Update: Teacher Who Let Kids Climb Cliff on Trial

Hi Folks! Remember the case of Lia Grippo, the California mom who runs a day care center with a focus on nature? Her plight constituted our first Outrage of the Week. She let three of the kids in her care — two of them her own — climb a cliff while on a field trip to the beach. (The cliff was not above the water.) Though her kids had climbed this cliff before (as have kids since time immemorial — climbing used to be a normal part of childhood), onlookers freaked out and called the cops. Child Protective Services was alerted, and pretty soon Grippo’s day care license was suspended. Now here’s an article about her from the local paper, the Santa Barbara Independent, bringing us up to date. She is due in court this Monday. According to the paper:

At a time when parents are encouraged to allot sufficient outdoor activity for their children, Grippo said she has been stripped of her childcare license for hosting a program which embodies outdoor exploration. “I think that there is a growing trend toward risk aversion in our society that has really gone over the edge,” Grippo said. “We live in a time that both our children and ourselves must be as safe as possible, rather than as safe as necessary.” According to the allegations by the DSS, Grippo violated the personal rights of children in her care by “not providing adequate care and supervision” to three children while they were “climbing a cliff approximately 125 feet high while naked or partially clothed.” Additionally, the DSS allegation states that Grippo allowed children in her care to be “expos[ed] to natural hazards (cliffs and ocean fronts), thereby placing the daycare children in substantial danger.” Grippo claims the children climbing—two of which were her own and one, a child of a close friend—are avid child climbers who had scaled the beachside cliff before.

…Lizelda Lopez, Public Information Officer for the Community Care Licensing Division of the DSS, said the department will continue to seek the revocation of Grippo’s license in spite of the appeal. “What happened could have killed these children, so we take this very seriously,” Lopez said. “That’s why we are seeking the revocation… she failed to protect these children from the potential of becoming seriously hurt.” Currently, there are 50,000 licensed childcare facilities in the state. The DSS only pursues revocation against only one percent of these facilities on average per year. “It is not our goal to shut these programs down,” Lopez said. “It’s our goal to make sure that our children are in safe environments.”

…Grippo has fashioned her career by emphasizing exploration of nature in her programming for children. “When we keep children from testing their own abilities at a young age, I think we are doing them a great disservice,” Grippo said. “Our culture has become so litigious… children aren’t being allowed to get muddy, climb boulders, or play in the creek.”

No one at Free-Range Kids wants to see children get hurt — especially not plunging off of cliffs. But if these kids have climbed this thing before, AND Grippo was watching them AND we agree that there is a difference between sending our kids off to the beach without any supervision versus encouraging them to do some of the things children (and animals) have done since the beginning of time, like climb and explore, under our gaze, THEN we have to wonder why the state is so dead set on ending this nature-based program. Especially since the parents of the kids IN it have supported Grippo.

The state is right, “What happened could have killed these children.” Then again, so could tripping over a Thomas the Tank Engine, or falling down the stairs at Child Protective Services.  Can we please remember that not everything a child does has to be on a mat? — Lenore