Does Teacher’s Pet = Pedophile Alert?

Hi Folks — Here’s another little story that reminds us how  Worst-First thinking has become de rigeur when it comes to kids in the company of adults: A young Teach for America teacher took a student out for a hamburger and was immediately reprimanded by the school.

Yes, rules are rules, and he probably should have signed a lot of forms first, but sometimes — weirdly enough — a moment comes up that is not pre-scheduled and pre-approved and pre-notarized. It’s what we used to call “spontaneity.” (Now we call it “actionable.”) So off he and the kid went, got burgers and came right back.

The child’s mom sounds livid. As reported in the Houston Chronicle, she said, “He walked right out the front door with my child…This was not a role model.”

A better role model would NOT take an interest in her son?

I GET that we are terrified of adults grooming our kids into Sandusky  submission. The Miramonte stories shake me, too. But do we really want to treat every teacher-child interaction as prelude to perversion? My mentor, social studies teacher Genevieve MacDougall, took me out of high school for a few days, with my parents’ permission. She wanted me to drive her from Chicago down to Southern Illinois to check out a one-room school house she was thinking of buying. She paid for my meals and my room at a little hotel, and it is still one of the fondest memories of my life. I dedicated my Free-Range Kids book to her!

I doubt she’d be allowed to do that today. As the teacher in the hamburger story was quoted as saying:

“I care for my students and am trying to make a difference in their lives,” he said. “I try to build positive relationships with my students, and in that effort, I bought a student in my class a hamburger for lunch that we ate back at the school with others. I regret this mistake, but I am proud of YES Prep, and the work that I do there. I am glad that Yes Prep investigated the situation and found no reason that I should not continue to teach my students.”

As parents, we must (I say it every time this topic comes up) teach our kids to recognize, resist and report abuse. But we can NOT treat every teacher who dotes on our darlings as dangerous. Let’s bring that pendulum back to the middle, where it belongs. — L.

“Pervy Principal Means I’ll Never Go Free-Range”

Dear Readers:  As the new year begins, I’m looking back on things I meant to comment on and here’s a piece from November that gets my goat. It’s an essay by a mom who declares she would like to be more of a Free-Range parent, but she simply cannot. How come? Because she recently heard the story of an elementary school principal in some city not her own, who secretly videotaped boys using the bathroom.

Now, this sounds like a disturbed and disturbing guy. Yecch. But the mom strikes me as disturbed as well. She seems to be saying that since sometimes some people in the world are bad to children, she simply MUST assume the worst first. And hence she will never be “Free-Range.” As if…Free-Range parents posit there are no bad people in the world?

That is not our position at all. In fact, our position is that since there ARE rotten people and situations — always were and always will be — the best thing we can do is prepare our kids to be street-wise, confident and self-reliant.

The other thing the writer seems to believe is that one single incident is enough to indict the entire human race. That’s a problem I encounter all the time:  The belief that ANY travesty, ANYWHERE in the world means that all bets are off EVERYWHERE, for EVERMORE, for THEIR kids. It is overreacting in the extreme and somewhat self-absorbed, too because it boils down to: I don’t care if the odds are a million to one. If something is going to happen to anyone in the world, surely it will happen to MY child and therefore it is MY job to be constantly on guard duty. (It also confers superhero status on the parent.)

Finally, while I think the principal sounds like an absolute creep, the essayist’s description of his crime seems to be that he videotaped the boys, period.  This is an invasion of privacy and certainly revolting. But let’s not conflate it with molesting or rape.

Yes, let us teach our children to recognize, resist and report abuse. But no, let’s not look at every adult as a probable pervert, and every moment as quite possibly our children’s last. Free-Range parents don’t clip terrible stories from the newspaper as proof that our kids need our constant supervision.  We figure that if those terrible stories make the paper, they must be  rare enough to be noteworthy. In other words, we try to keep things in perspective. That is indeed a Free-Range trait. — Lenore

Perv Alert! Man Seen Photographing Boy at Park!

Hi Readers — This just in! A creepy old guy was seen taking pix of some young boy in Idaho. The cops were called! The media alerted! Hearts pounded, rage burbled, all because…

Um, a grandpa was photographing his grandson.

He left when some crazy lady started yelling at him. Here’s the story.  — L

A Divorced Dad Sick of Being Taken for a Perv

Hi Folks! Here’s a note from a free-lance writer in Australia who had to vent. I see why! – L.
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Dear Free-Range Kids: I would like to share with you my experience of danger lurking in many suburban supermarkets. I’m the type of modern father  you certainly wouldn’t see on television 40 years ago. I go shopping with the kids, I can use a washing machine and fix a loose button without accidentally sewing my pants to the tablecloth. A few days ago, I take my three children (13,9,3) on a regular trip to our local supermarket when my little one starts a tantrum in the candy aisle. I direct my older kids to another aisle while I take Lucy aside to get over her craving for Snickers bars and disappointment that I won’t purchase a hundred. I don’t expect anyone to know this, so to anyone else I’m just a guy in a supermarket holding a crying toddler.
For the next few minutes I’m observed by some other creepy looking guy. That disapproving glare all parents feel when their child is acting up in public.  It feels like a menacing thundercloud and you can almost hear the slow rumble beneath, “MY kid wouldn’t behave like that, for shame…” We eventually make eye contact and creepy guy demands to know “Where’s her mother ?” Awkward, since we’re divorced. I reply “Somewhere else. I’m her father.” Indicating my child.

I appreciate people looking out for my kids’ safety but there’s a difference between a protective community spirit and a belligerent, accusatory busybody. Creepy guy’s attitude gets deadpan. “I just want to be sure, ya know?” Sure of what exactly ? And what evidence should I supply to a complete stranger that I’m innocent of whatever concern he has ? Of course, I’m a potential predator simply because I’m a guy. It must inconceivable for a man to comfort his own child, so the obvious conclusion is I’m attempting to abduct a kid in broad daylight and pick up some half-price noodles and toothpaste at the same time. Slightly less offensive is the notion a woman can be automatically granted a free pass.

IN THE UNDERWEAR AISLE, I BECOME A PERVERT

The life of a potential predator is difficult sometimes. It’s adorable when I take my daughter shopping for a new dress, but as soon as we turn into the underwear aisle I become a pervert. I’m a cool dad to cheer my kids at soccer, but the local swimming pool is another story. I enjoy the condemnation, the stares and  mistaken assumptions. I enjoy the inconvenience and discrimination. I enjoy it because every little petty indignation I overcome gives me that little more dignity so my kids can look up to me a role model for principle.

So if anyone you know ever needs to confront a suspected predator, I recommend some diplomacy. I know its unlikely, but there’s just a small chance that guy isn’t a child molester or the orphan catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” or a serial killer looking for the next ingredient of delicious kid soup. Some of us are good dads just trying to make our way in the world.– Byron

What is that man doing to that poor child?!

Outrage of the Week: Law Will Prevent Adults from “Staring” at Kids. UPDATED!!

Hello, Readers: If we are ruled by fear, fear will make the rules. And by “fear” I mean mass hysteria.

Here is the latest assault on sanity and rights: A law is being proposed in Maine that will make it a crime for adults to stare at kids.

You read that right (with those eyes you’d better keep to yourself). Those who peer at children in public could find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Maine soon. Here’s the story, from Seacoastonline.com:

A bill that passed the House last month aims to strengthen the crime of visual sexual aggression against children, according to state Rep. Dawn Hill, D-York.

Her involvement started when Ogunquit Police Lt. David Alexander was called to a local beach to deal with a man who appeared to be observing children entering the community bathrooms. Because the state statute prevents arrests for visual sexual aggression of a child in a public place, Alexander said he and his fellow officer could only ask the man to move along.

“There was no violation of law that we could enforce. There was nothing we could charge him with,” Alexander said.

Oh darn! You mean we couldn’t throw him in jail for just standing there, giving us the willies? What kind of country IS this? It’s like the place is crawling with civil rights!

…Under the bill, if someone is arrested for viewing children in a public place, it would be a Class D felony if the child is between 12 to 14 years old and a Class C felony if the child is under 12.

“Hey bud, what are you in for?”

“Me? I murdered my boss and fed him to my dog. And you?”

“I looked at a kid in public.”

“Pervert!”

The law was, of course, prompted by fear for our children. I fear for them, too: They could grow up and spend their whole lives in jail for doing nothing more than opening their eyes, in public. — L

P.S. I didn’t realize when I posted this that the article was from 2008. Thanks for the alert, readers! And also for the delving into what it may or may not entail. I am very sorry to report, however, that “Visual Sexual Assault” is a real crime in Maine and I even wrote about it, after interviewing a mom whose son was convicted of it. Here is the piece. — L.

I sure hope the degenerate who took this photo is doing hard time.

Outrage of the Week: Mandatory Fingerprinting for Little League Vols

Hi Readers! What kind of society are we going to have when anytime anyone volunteers to do anything with kids, we treat them as pedophiles until officially proven otherwise?

Probably the kind of society they have now in Tenafly, N.J., where Little League is requiring all adults who work with the team — from coaches to t-shirt vendors — to get fingerprinted. According to this article from NorthJersey.com:

“It’s time to make sure everybody’s covered and we know the children are safe,” said Recreation Department Secretary Lisa Sherman said. “It’s something that a lot of towns in the area started instituting.”

I’m sure they are. But there is an alternative, and it actually ensures safer kids all around. Teach your kids “the three R’s” of abuse: Recognize, resist and report. That is, teach them how to recognize what abuse is (“No one can touch what your bathing suit covers”), and resist and report it. And vis a vis reporting, as I’ve said before, tell your kids that even if a grown up tells them not to say anything, they should always tell you and you will NEVER BE MAD.

Basically, the same way we teach kids to stop, drop and roll on the off-chance they are ever in a fire, we should teach them to be aware of the possibility of abuse. That makes kids safer because now they know what to look out for and do in any situation. Because the chances of an actual pedophile having a police record are pretty slim anyway. So the fingerprinting isn’t doing much.

Ah, but what does it hurt to ask volunteers for their fingerprints if they, as one dad told CBS,  have “nothing to hide”?

It changes the basic fabric of society from one of trust to distrust. It’s the difference between the United States and the former Soviet Union. It makes us think we should look askance at all adults who love children. In fact, just typing that sentence made me realize how far society has already changed. It felt a little weird to write about people who “love children,” because immediately it brought to mind pedophiles.

That’s a perverted way to think, and yet that’s what’s being encouraged. How ironic. — Lenore

Field of fiends?

Cutest (Perv) Comment of the Day

Hi Readers! As the day winds to a close, I am happy that a whole lot of people read the Wall Street Journal piece about treating all men as potential pedophiles. There were about 200 comments over there. And this is one of the cutest ones I read right here. — L

Dear Free-Range Kids This brings me back to about 1973, when I was a wee little preschooler, sitting around on the sidewalk (unsupervised—gasp!) in front of our house on a summer day. My mom came out and said, “Now Mollie, if a man comes over to you and shows you his penis, I want you to come home right away.” I think I looked with anticipation at every single guy who walked down the street for years after that. “Is this going to be the one?” I would wonder.

It just seemed so outrageously unlikely that anyone would do that, but hey, it does happen sometimes… it happened in 1973, it happened in 1573, and it will happen in 2073 (if the polar ice caps don’t melt off and drown you first).

Point being: why is it that back in my childhood, when the density of per-capita pedophiles and perverts was the same as today, we all just carried on about our business, and today, we are all acting as though it’s a certainty that if we take our eyes off of our kids for one second, the creep in the bushes will spring out and grab them?

Seriously. This is textbook hysteria. I’m sick to death of it.

Will today be the day?