|Not a crime
First, I'd like to thank everyone who read the post about the police being called when I let my daughter play in the front yard for a few minutes. Thanks to you and the folks at Life of Dad it's become my most read post ever.
I was surprised that with as many reads as it's had I've received very little negative feedback. In the back of my mind I wondered if someone would think I was overreacting in terms of my fears about how it could turn out. I wondered about it myself. Maybe I was being over the top.
Today I saw this article from Free-Range Kids. They report that the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will be signed into Federal law today, will include the following
“…nothing in this Act shall…prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the parents of the child have given permission; or expose parents to civil or criminal charges for allowing their child to responsibly and safely travel to and from school by a means the parents believe is age appropriate.”This is a good addition to the law, though it also includes a caveat that this provision will not supersede state or local laws regarding kids traveling alone.
The most interesting part of the article for me though was a link to a previous story about a family who were charged with criminal neglect and had their children removed from the home by CPS because their 11-year-old was left to play in the back yard alone for 90 minutes. In contrast to my situation, the parents weren't home. Still, the kid was 11 and playing basketball in his own yard. This was in Florida where there is no state law regarding when kids can be home alone. This kind of story is what sticks the minds of parents when the police show up.
A little more digging through the links uncovered this story from June, which details a new ruling from Maryland CPS. The new ruling states that children walking or playing outside is not enough of a reason to involve CPS. Knowing that is a relief, but only a little. We know that police officers aren't always aware of the law, and typically are granted a lot of leeway when faced what they perceive as a criminal situation. So I don't think my fears were unwarranted.
As exciting as today's signing and the ruling from Maryland CPS are, there's still risk involved for parents when the police are called. Please, if you see a child who you think is in danger, approach the child and talk to them. Knock on the door and check in. Be a neighbor. Be a friend. It will strengthen your community.