Warnings, Waivers & Wild Worries! Like the Pre-K That Keeps Kids’ Photos in a “Secure Location”

Hi Folks! I’m trying to gather examples of warnings, waivers and official worires that annoy, amuse or outrage you, especially regarding your kids. For instance, over in England  schools are forbidding parents from taking pictures at plays. One sports program requires shutter-happy parents to wear a special ARM BAND if they’re going to snap pix. In this amazing article, Josie Appleton, head of The Manifesto Club, writes that the “Robin Hood primary and nursery school in Nottinghamshire says its photographs are stored in a ‘secure location’ for not more than four years, after which they are ‘privately destroyed.'” Like government secrets!

I’m speaking at a conference about this kind of stuff in November and I’ve got a lot of wonderful examples from you already. But if you’ve got any more — let’s hear! L.   (who can’t quite figure out why, at the end of this video, you go right into my next-to-latest video…but so be it) 

This is NOT a Crime! Cops Charge Dad Who Let Kids Play Alone in Park for 2 Hours

Readers! As we approach our third annual, “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day” (Saturday, May 19), this story is outrageous. Apparently a dad let his two kids, ages 6 and 9, play in a local suburban Pittsburgh park on Saturday morning for not quite two hours while he did some shopping and took a shower. That is, while he went about the tasks of everyday life.

Meantime, a woman noticed this unusual thing: Kids playing without an adult around! That this fact was “disturbing” to an onlooker is what is so disturbing about our culture. For millennia, kids kept themselves occupied while their parents were otherwise engaged. A 9-year-old watching a 6-year-old was NORMAL, not a REASON TO CALL THE COPS.

But call the cops she did. And when they got there, they charged the dad with two counts of child endangerment. Meantime, of course, child protective services is investigating, too. Because any time you trust your children or your community, YOU cannot be trusted.

That’s what we’ve come to. You are punished for believing in your kids’ self-reliance and the neighborhood you chose to raise them in. Hence, the Free-Range Kids movement. Hence this Free-Range Kids blog. Hence…I wish I knew. We have GOT to turn our country around or children will be prisoners of their parents, and vice versa, all in the name of “caring.” Ask me, that word is missing an “s” at the beginning. – L.

UPDATE! “Police Chief Defends Charges Against Dad”   

Do you suppose the parents of these kids were charged with endangerment, too? I don’t see them hovering.

School Alerts Parents: Local Man SeenTalking to Kids!

Hi Readers! This is the kind of story that makes me bite off little pieces of my own arm in frustration (almost. Ok, let’s just say it makes me nuts.)

An elementary school in Toledo, Ohio sent home a note that said a stranger had been speaking to some of the students at a popular bakery on their way to school.  According to this story on WTOL:

The letter said, “The situation is now in the hands of the police. Fortunately for us today, all of our children are safe.”

The letter also tells parents to remind their kids to report suspicious people. Parents were shocked.

“That makes me nervous. I want my kids to come to school and be safe,” said Gail Hodson, a Harvard Elementary parent.

Excuse me, m’am, are you shocked by the idea that your kid might someday encounter an adult male you did not personally vet first? Maybe it’s time to move to another planet.

But wait — the story gets a little weirder. Turns out that the man is a regular at the bakery and it was when he was there that he offered some kids some donuts.

Pretty terrifying!

School administrators left those facts out,  and defended themselves later by saying that the alarm was, if nothing else, a “teachable moment,  and they sent the letter home to be proactive, before misinformation spread.”

Um…doesn’t that sound like exactly what they made happen? This letter WAS the misinformation, and the school spread it! As far as teachable moments go, this one taught kids to be suspicious, scared and unfriendly no matter how unwarranted. Worst-first thinking in action!

Then again,  just maybe it taught them that their school has gone absolutely ape with fear and can’t tell the difference between a sweetroll  and Sweeney Todd. If so, that letter has done some good. – L

ADDENDUM: While we’re on the subject of stranger danger, here’s another little tidbit: A man in a van asking a little girl if she’d seen his puppy turns out to have been (sit down) LOOKING FOR HIS PUPPY. Here’s the story. Weird,  right?

Donuts! Men! Arghhh!!!

Parents! Kids! Beware of…Palm Sunday?

Fresh from the annals of, “What If?” and, “Worst-First” thinking comes this timely tidbit:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday was Palm Sunday and at my church there’s a tradition that goes all the way back to my own preschool days of the little Sunday School kids leading a processional into the church waving palm branches and singing. They had always used either artificial plastic palm fronds or real ones if someone had some to donate and seeing the little ones waving their branches was always a highlight. Well, this year I waited eagerly for my three-year-old daughter to come in with her class and in they came waving………green paper streamers?

When I picked her up later I asked the teachers what had happened to the palm branches. I’m sure you can guess the answer. Yep, didn’t want anyone to get poked in the eye. Feeling just a little naughty, I feigned shock and asked who had gotten poked in the eye last year. Anyone want to guess again?

You’ve got it, no one got poked in the eye last year, no one has ever been poked in the eye in the last 35 or so years that the church has been doing it. Yep, someone MIGHT get poked in the eye. Sigh.

Lenore here: A sigh from this end, too. Because once again we are treating this generation as the most vulnerable, endangered, fragile and, I guess,  uncoordinated generation EVER.  — L. 

Victory! 5th Graders Allowed to Enjoy Unsupervised Afternoons Again!

Hey Readers!! Here’s great news! The school in Davidson, N.C., that had suddenly prohibited fifth graders from leaving the school on Fridays to walk down to the village green has reversed itself! On Friday, even as a big bunch of kids and some parents marched to “Occupy the Green,” the new principal (not the one who imagined the kids meeting up with internet predators) declared that parents need only sign a waiver absolving the school of any liability and — they’re off!

If a slightly obsessive, overkill waiver is what it takes to give kids back the best part of being fifth graders, so be it. As one of the kids told David Boraks, the dogged journalist who broke this story and rode it to its fairytale ending, “There’s just a lot of good stores in Davidson and a lot of great people.” The boy added that he likes hanging out at the soda shop.

If that’s not the most wholesome thing in America, I’ll eat my hot fudge sundae. (Actually, I’ll eat it anyway.) Hooray for a halycon childhood…even if, these days, it requires a permission slip. — L.

Now the only jerks in this story are the ice cream soda kind!

Outrage of the Day: Coffee Banned from Mother’s Group for “Safety”

Hi Readers! Here’s one to get your blood (and water) boiling, direct from The Mirror, in England. – L.

Mums have been told they cannot have a cup of coffee while looking after their toddlers at a children’s centre – because it’s against health and safety rules.

Council officers told the group to change its name from Coffee and Play to Baby Play – and swap biscuits for fruit and breadsticks as snacks – because it’s against health and safety rules.

No children have been hurt in the five years the group has been running but the council said hot drinks were dangerous – even in special safety flasks.

How I remember the months when I was home on maternity leave and our giant Manhattan apartment complex had a community room. What brought many of us down there was the joy of having someplace to hang out with our kids (and by kids I mean “other adults”). What kept us sane was: Free coffee!

I don’t doubt that coffee presents a hazard. I just think that NO coffee presents TWO hazards: 1 – Insane parents. 2 – Insane law creep. When we start taking age-old, pretty darn safe practices and squinting at them them through the danger microscope, we will start outlawing everything normal and good, including moms drinking coffee….

Oh wait. – L.

Arrest this dangerous hussy?

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.