“Leiby’s Law” Would Not Have Saved Leiby

Hi Readers — This post was sent to me by Mendel Klein, a Brooklyn father and a pediatric occupational therapist who writes about the benefits of letting children fail over at, yes,  Let Your Child Fail. — L

Leiby’s Law Wouldn’t have Prevented Leiby Kletzky’s Death

Here we go again. While Leiby Kletzky’s parents and sisters were still sitting the seven days of shiva,  mourning the brutal killing of their son, politicians in our community were already announcing a law in reaction to the terrible tragedy that struck them.

No need to guess what the law is called. It’s Leiby’s Law. The politicians are proposing that homeowners and store owners be able to voluntarily  submit themselves to criminal background checks and, if cleared, get a large, bright green sticker symbolizing that location as a safe-haven for lost children.

It has now become customary to propose and pass laws in reaction to tragedies that involve children. Some of these laws are helpful, but others, like this one, aren’t.

In reaction to Caylee Anthony’s death, or rather in reaction to her mother’s acquittal, there’s been a push for Caylee’s law, which would make it a crime not to report a missing child. As was pointed out here, Caylee’s law could make many of us criminals. And as Lenore wrote, next people are going to propose a law against mothers buying duct tape.

Here’s what’s wrong with Leiby’s Law. Levi Aron, young Leiby’s confessed killer, would have passed a criminal background check with flying colors. The New York police commissioner, Ray Kelly, made it clear that Aron had no criminal record. Even Aron’s ex-wife was saying how great he was with kids.

I don’t want to accuse politicians of opportunism, so I’ll stay away from that angle, although you may fill in the blanks. Still, this law (if you even want to call it a law) is ridiculous.

In the aftermath of tragedy people propose new regulations thinking that if only that law had been in effect at the time, the tragedy wouldn’t have happened. But in this case, while little Leiby Kletzky could have gone into a store or home sporting a green sticker on its window, that store or home could have been owned by a killer with no previous criminal record.

That is actually what happened.

Levi Aron was a person of Leiby’s community, my community. He looked like a community member to Leiby. Leiby likely trusted him. It’s exactly the same as if he had a green sticker. And that unfortunately didn’t prevent Leiby from being kidnapped and killed.

And yet, I can already imagine people starting to say, “Oh we only shop at stores that have green stickers, you know — the good stores. We are supporters of Leiby’s Law.” Or, “That store owner must be a child killer. Why else doesn’t he have a green sticker?”

Passing laws might boost politicians’ profiles. Petitioning for these laws might make us feel good. But reacting in these ways also boosts our fear and paranoia, while making our children no safer. It’s time to vote nay on these retroactive, post-mortem, feel-good laws, no matter whose name is attached. — M.K.

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself!

So I didn’t. I’m simply reprinting this great comment here, to share with all and sundry. There is so much to chew on  and a whole lot of insight.  Thank you, commenter Lloyd Gray, whoever and wherever you are! (He wrote this under the post about the mom who let her son walk to soccer and got slammed by the police.)

“There has been a concurrent rise in concerns about automobile crash survival (read: airbags and SUV’s), and municipal water (bottled water being sold in places where what comes out of the tap is not only safer than the bottled stuff, but tastes fine as well) .

“We, as a society, have decided to embrace all fears, and protect against them equally. The issue is twofold: the inability to do reasonable risk assessment on one hand, and the ability to pay for increased levels of vigilance on the other. Where they meet is our current society: people who pay for stuff they don’t need to avoid doing risk assessment, and to avoid upsetting peer standards. The question is, ‘Who benefits?’

“With SUV’s and bottled water, the answer is obvious: corporate interests (with SUV’s, selling high profit, inefficient vehicles; with bottled water, selling something that 10 years ago was essentially free).

“I think Free-ranging your kids is also a feminist issue(and I say this as a man who was a stay at home parent until my son was in grade one). Every one of these articles (that I have seen) has been about a MOTHER allowing her child to do something which someone else decided could put the child at risk. It is about increasing the burden on women: of denying their right, and fitness, to make judgments about their children’s abilities; making supervision of children an onerous full-time occupation(or at least a MORE onerous one). It is about creating artificially high standards as a salve to couples who have two careers and have to pay for care. 

“This is a political issue, and it’s about much more than the security of children. It’s about how our society allocates it’s resources, and about how corporations encourage fears and capitalize on them. It is all the more interesting as we move from a period of unmatched prosperity and uncontrolled consumption to the era of financial uncertainty, peak oil,  and global warming.

“In the 1940’s our parents went through World War 2 and the horrors and deprivations it brought. Genocide, displaced populations(if you’re a European reader), military service and the potential of death or disability, food and gas rationing, and the reduction of access to consumer goods. Yet we are told not to accept the tiny actuarial risk of traveling in a small car or allowing our child to walk to school by himself.

“Over the next few years, the costs of these choices will come into true perspective, and perhaps we’ll see change. To summarize: Free-ranging your child is a political act. It’s green, it’s anti-corporate, and it’s feminist. Those who are against it have an agenda, and I’m pretty certain it’s different from mine (and, with any luck, yours).”