Hong Kong School Ordered to Reduce Recess Noise

Hi Readers — This story seems outrageous: A Hong Kong school lost its fight in court against a neighbor who wants to hear less noise coming from its playground.  According to the article:

The school said it respected the court’s decision but asked how the hush order could be enforced on a playground full of young children.

“Asking a child not to make noise in a playground is like asking them not to blink or a rabbit not to eat lettuce,” the school’s lawyer was quoted as saying.

Can’t imagine the judge not agreeing (perhaps he was never a child?). Let’s hope this is just one aberration,  and that, world-wide, recess continues to be boisterous  — and girl-sterous! — and maybe even evolves into that cool new kind of recess I wrote about the other day, with the shed full of inspiring junk. — L.

Outrage of the Week: Don’t You DARE Throw This Woman in Jail!

Readers — I am SO SICK of our finger-pointing culture ever-ready to criminalize a normal, if tragic, parenting moment. In this case, a woman named Felicia Tucker is being charged in the drowning death of her toddler nephew Joshua because he got out of house and she didn’t realize it quickly enough. He drowned in a nearby lake. According to an article in The Courier Post Online:

Tormenting Tucker on Friday was whether Joshua had suddenly learned to open the front door or whether it had not been latched. Tucker said she and her sister had taken “every precaution” in recent weeks — such as emptying out a backyard pool and ensuring the doors to the home were latched — after a co-worker’s toddler son drowned in a Monroe pool in June.

Note to police, prosecutors, judges: This is hardly a woman who is negligent! What happened is HUMAN, NOT CRIMINAL! Quit pretending it isn’t, just to feel smug or safe or superior. You could be a wonderful, even saintly parent, and it could happen to you. How would sending this woman — a mom herself — to ten years in prison make anyone safer or rectify anything?

That’s easy — it won’t. It’ll just teach us all a lesson: Unless we are absolutely perfect, we have absolutely no business parenting. (Or even being allowed to set foot in the community.) — L.

LESS OF AN OUTRAGE! “Vehicular Manslaughter” Mom Gets Probation

Hi Folks — Here’s good news. The Atlanta mom who was convicted of “vehicular manslaughter” after her 4-year-old wriggled away from her and was killed by a drunk driver, does not have to do jail time. While she could have been sent away for three years, she will instead do a year of probation and perform 40 hours of community service. She also has been offered the option of another trial.

The driver, meantime, already did six months in jail and was released in October. He will serve  the remained of his five-year sentence on probation, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Here’s my original post on the topic. The case ended up getting a lot of attention — including on The Today Show — and over 100,000 folks signed a petition asking the powers that be to throw out the mom’s conviction and install a crosswalk instead. Whether or not the judge, Katherine Tanksley, was moved by the furor, she showed compassion and common sense.

That’s what we want from all our judges. Now let’s hope Atlanta builds that crosswalk.  – Lenore

Fantastic News (About a “Child Abuser”)

Hi Readers! Let us pause to celebrate a moment of sweet sanity. Remember Anne Bruscino, the young woman was put on New York State’s Child Abuse Registry for up to 25 years for the crime of accidentally leaving a toddler at a fenced-in, security-camera-monitored, daycare center playground for less than six minutes? (Here’s the original story, as reported by the Times Union.) Well now she has been officially taken off that list! She is free to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher!

Read the tale of this fantastic turn-around, just granted by a state appellate court. As the Times Union summed it up:

The state appellate panel’s decision [to de-criminalize the woman] underscores what some critics say is an inherently rigid system that can leave a person listed on a child-abuse registry for arguably minor errors involving children.

It was not just the the idea of minor errors getting a major punishment that appalled me, it was the reasoning behind this harshness. The original judge, Susan Lyn Preston, had argued this:

Clearly, Caitlin [the girl left behind] was at imminent risk of harm in this situation. The fact that the playground was surrounded by a chain-link fence does not eliminate the risk that Caitlin could have been abducted. A person with an evil intent could have easily gotten over the fence or lured Caitlin to the fence.

Easily?! As I wrote at the time:

Let’s see. What would it actually have taken for the girl to have been spontaneously abducted in the span of five minutes, as the judge so clearly believes was a distinct possibility?

First of all, a child abductor would have had to have been passing by the center at the precise time Caitlin was unchaperoned. Since, according to FBI statistics, there are only about 115 “stereotypical” abductions in the whole country each year (that is, abductions by strangers, intending to transport the child), this already would have been SOME rotten luck.

Then, that abductor would have had to immediately scale the fence, hide from the security cameras, avoid detection on the part of  anyone glancing out the office window, and pray that the child did not utter a single peep that might call attention to the crime. He’d also have to be out of there within about a minute, climbing back over the fence again.

This time while holding a 3-year-old.

Now, I’m not saying this could NEVER happen. If all the stars aligned AND the planets AND the world’s worst luck (and best fence-climber), there’s an extremely slight chance it could. Just like there’s a slight chance of getting hit by lightning in any 5  minutes you sit on your porch. But to say the child was in “imminent risk of harm in this situation” is the equivalent of saying that no matter how many fences, monitors and safeguards we put up, every child is at risk every single second an adult isn’t serving as a physical bodyguard. That’s a perception that is very common and really off-base.

Thank goodness the appellate court panel brought this case back to reality. The only unfortunate coda? Bruscino’s lawyer,  Kevin A Luibrand,  says he has seen at least  four similar cases in the past two years!

And so we fight on, for a world that does not believe our children are in terrible danger every time they are in public without an adult, no matter how briefly, no matter what the circumstances. — Lenore

Could School Have Prevented Injury…by a Paintbrush?

Hi Readers! This is such a disturbing story. A Scottish boy who was 10 was painting scenery on the ground for a school play back in 2003 when one of the other painters got up, bumping into him. This caused him to fall on another student’s paintbrush, which — this is so horrible — pierced him through the eye, causing blindness in the eye and brain damage.

Now a court has ruled that the teachers at the school should have “foreseen” that such an event was, if not likely, at least POSSIBLE. Wrote the judge:

When one looks at the whole circumstances of the use of the brush, a real risk of injury emerges as foreseeable. A reasonable person in the position of the teachers would have taken steps to prevent that foreseeable risk of harm…”

According to the BBC report, the judge said the painting could have been done with “safer” brushes, and at the kids’ desks, rather than on the ground.

As if the ground is so darn dangerous.

Now, obviously, what’s extremely upsetting about this is not JUST that the school has since outlawed “long” paintbrushes, and now sees painting as a dangerous activity. It’s the notion of “reasonable” foresight and how this encourages a totally paranoid way of thinking. If we are all supposed to have the foresight to prevent all freak accidents that might someday, somehow happen under the most mundane of circumstances, we would have to get rid of every item in every place any child could ever be. Because — hey — a child COULD choke on a lemon, or slip on a slipper, or impale herself on a toothbrush. Let’s ban them all now, before we’re on the line for millions, as this school might be.

What happened to the boy is a tragedy. No need to compound it. — Lenore

Bad News! Courts Are Rewarding “Intensive Parenting”

Hi Readers — This is so disturbing. Two professors studying family law have written a paper saying that “intensive parenting” is becoming the norm that judges expect good parents to practice. As Walter Olson explains on his blog, Overlawyered, “Gaia Bernstein (Seton Hall) and Zvi Triger (College of Management School of Law, Israel) say custody law rewards parents for greater involvement in their kids’ lives even if it amounts to over-involvement.”

And as the authors themselves say a bit more verbosely in the abstract of their paper (to be published in the U.C. Davis Law Review):

Today the child is king. Child rearing practices have changed significantly over the last two decades. Contemporary parents engage in Intensive Parenting. Parents devote their time to actively enriching the child, ensuring the child’s individual needs are addressed and he is able to reach his full potential. They also keep abreast of the newest child rearing knowledge and consistently monitor the child’s progress and whereabouts. Parents are expected to be cultivating, informed and monitoring. To satisfy these high standards, parents utilize a broad array of technological devices, such as the cellular phone and the Internet, making Intensive Parenting a socio-technological trend.

The professors go on to say that this is a trend that judges assume is healthy for the kids and hence indicative of good parenting. As if those of us who try to give our children a bit more freedom and responsibility are lagabouts who don’t love or care for our children as much. Ack. I’ve certainly heard THAT before.

I have nothing against parental involvement in their kids’ lives. I’d say I’m an involved parent myself. But when “MORE” involvement always equals “better,” that means the very BEST parents don’t let their kids do anything on their own! Having that type of  parenting lauded and legitimized in court is bad news for all of us, but especially for any Free-Rangers facing divorce. I’m very grateful to these law professors for noticing this trend and bringing it to light before it becomes set in stone. — Lenore

Outrage of The Week: Is This Really “Abuse”? Only To Deluded Judge

Hi Readers — Soon I will be compiling stories of Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day, which went well in parks around the world (well, not a TON of parks, but they WERE around the world and all the participants enjoyed the day). But in the meantime, I just got  this gut-kicking story by a really great reporter, Brendan Lyons, in the Albany Times Union:

Two years ago, Anne Bruscino was a 21-year-old college student studying to be a special ed teacher and working part time at a day care center for kids with disabilities. One morning, as she was about to bring in eight kids from the center’s playground — a playground that is fenced in, faces the center’s big office windows and is protected by security cameras — she got momentarily distracted by one child running off to greet a parent and ended up leaving a 3-year-old girl, Caitlin, outside by herself for five minutes.

After Anne realized her mistake of course she ran out and brought Caitlin in. She also notified her supervisor, and papers were filed. And at last her case — yup, it’s an actual “case” — came up before a New York State administrative law judge, Susan Lyn Preston. Judge Preston’s ruling?

Anne should be placed on New York state’s Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. She could remain there for 25 years (almost assuring she never works with children again),  because: “Clearly, Caitlin was at imminent risk of harm in this situation.The fact that the playground was surrounded by a chain-link fence does not eliminate the risk that Caitlin could have been abducted. A person with an evil intent could have easily gotten over the fence or lured Caitlin to the fence.”

Readers — this is when I lost it. As sick as I am of a society that insists on perfection in all dealings with children (deeming people “negligent” when they are merely human), it is when those in power buy into the “a child is in danger every single second, no matter how safe the circumstances” that I wonder when we are all going to end up on some registry or another.

Let’s think: What would it actually have taken for the girl to have been spontaneously abducted in the span of five minutes, as the judge so clearly believes was a distinct possibility?

First of all, a child abductor would have had to have been passing by the center at the precise time Caitlin was unchaperoned. Since, according to FBI statistics, there are only about 115 “stereotypical” abductions in the whole country each year (that is, abductions by strangers, intending to transport the child), this already would have been SOME rotten luck.

Then, that abductor would have had to immediately scale the fence, hide from the security cameras, avoid detection on the part of  anyone glancing out the office window, and pray that the child did not utter a single peep that might call attention to the crime. He’d also have to be out of there within about a minute, climbing back over the fence again.

This time while holding a 3-year-old.

Now, I’m not saying this could NEVER happen. If all the stars aligned AND the planets AND the world’s worst luck (and best fence-climber), there’s an extremely slight chance it could. Just like there’s a slight chance of getting hit by lightning in any 5  minutes you sit on your porch. But to say the child was in “imminent risk of harm in this situation” is the equivalent of saying that no matter how many fences, monitors and safeguards we put up, every child is at risk every single second an adult isn’t serving as a physical bodyguard.

That’s a perception that is very common and really off-base. Feel free to look at my previous posts on Stranger Danger, crime going down, and how TV alters our sense of danger, if you’d like to read more about all that.

Meantime, Anne is appealing the judge’s decision. If you would like: Please add a note of support, below, to send to the Times Union, asking that Anne, described by the paper as a successful student, “doting” day care worker  and volunteer with disabled children, be considered not an abusive person, but rather a young woman who sounds like she’d be a great asset to the teaching world.

She could watch my dear ones any day. — Lenore