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Government Education

Federal Law Now Says Kids Can Walk To School Alone (fastcoexist.com) 545

An anonymous reader writes: There's some good news for "free-range" parents and fans of children being allowed to walk places on their own. A recently approved federal education law will allow students to take alternative forms of transportation to and from school with parental permission. Fastcoexist reports: "Relax, parents. Now you can allow your kids to walk, ride a bike, or take a bus to school, without you or your children getting arrested. The recently-signed Every Student Succeeds Act contains a section (858) that protects the rights of kids to walk or go out alone. The act was sponsored by Utah senator Mike Lee, who is a supporter of the Free Range Kids movement, and provides some hope for parents who feel that their kids should be allowed some autonomy to get by own their own." One can only hope that children will be allowed to go to the park on their own soon as well.
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Federal Law Now Says Kids Can Walk To School Alone

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @06:33AM (#51285301)

    Land of the free my ass. It's a nation of lunatics ruled by fear.

    • I was going to say...

      I'd estimate that at the school I went to between the ages of 11 and 18, in a major UK city (and not all that far from some pretty rough areas), around 75% of the pupils made their own way there, usually via normal commuter buses (and then walking the last half mile or so). Even now (a couple of decades and a good few abduction panics later), I think the norm in the UK remains for most children aged 11+ to make their own way to school, based on what I see on the streets, train stations

      • Pretty much the same in Scotland. And admittedly it's a few decades since I was at school but if one was observed being dropped off there by one's parents rather than getting there on your own then that was a ticket to abuse from one's peers.

      • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @08:34AM (#51285709)

        This is not really aimed at kids that old. Unless you live in a very scary place, or a place with no safe place to walk, a kid that age is more autonomous. You can even hire one as a babysitter.

        This is meant to counter some overactive local authorities in a few states who have started harassing parents who let their younger kids walk to school (or home from the park). I still walk my 9 year old, partly because of my wife's insistence, and partly because as a girl she really needs to walk with a buddy. That buddy could be her 6 year old brother, but they have enough sibling rivalry that I can't quite leave them alone yet. Next year she'll be taking the bus, so I'd better (and my wife more so) get used to some independence :)

        • by Shawn Willden ( 2914343 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @09:27AM (#51286013)

          as a girl she really needs to walk with a buddy

          Why?

          • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @09:44AM (#51286119) Journal

            because society places a premium on girls. Boys and men are generally considered to be comparatively disposable. This has deep roots in survival instincts.

            A tribe that suffers the loss of to many young women would be unable to propagate itself, efficiently. The harm from that could last generations. The loss of almost all the young males however could be more easily survived. Older males remain fertile longer than females, and one male can easily impregnate large numbers of women. Its pretty simple really.

            Our instincts are what they are. We generally instinctively protect all of our children pretty enthusiastically. Giving into our more base desires to afford our female offspring a little extra safety is probably harmless. We have plenty of other instincts that don't fit the environment most of us live in to focus on fighting.

            • by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @11:23AM (#51286931)

              because society places a premium on girls. Boys and men are generally considered to be comparatively disposable. This has deep roots in survival instincts.

              A tribe that suffers the loss of to many young women would be unable to propagate itself, efficiently. The harm from that could last generations. The loss of almost all the young males however could be more easily survived. Older males remain fertile longer than females, and one male can easily impregnate large numbers of women. Its pretty simple really.

              Our instincts are what they are. We generally instinctively protect all of our children pretty enthusiastically. Giving into our more base desires to afford our female offspring a little extra safety is probably harmless. We have plenty of other instincts that don't fit the environment most of us live in to focus on fighting.

              Depends on which society you're talking about. There is a severe dearth of girl babies in both China and India, relative to the population. My no doubt imperfect understanding is that in China this is largely because of the old one child law where boys would be earners and so were more desirable than girl babies, and in India where Hindu requires a boy for the death rites of the parents in addition to the boys being earners.
              http://www.scientificamerican.... [scientificamerican.com]
              http://www.theguardian.com/wor... [theguardian.com]
              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl... [bbc.co.uk]

          • I'm a man, so maybe I don't "get it", but I never understood the problem that women have with walking alone. Are women really more likely to be attacked by random people on the street? Just giving a quick read through this article (from Canada, where I live) [statcan.gc.ca] it seems that the majority of assault on women happen in a residential setting, and "Men are physically assaulted in a public place outside the home more often than women" and "Women more often physically assaulted by a spouse, men by a stranger". It

            • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @10:40AM (#51286611)

              Are women really more likely to be attacked by random people on the street?

              No, because they travel in groups. Men are more likely to walk alone, and therefore are more likely to be targets of street crime.

            • by thejam ( 655457 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @10:50AM (#51286709)
              Outside of immanent violence, women walking alone must deal with the pervasive catcalling, ogling, etc. that is both intrinsically distasteful and implicitly unsettling, even threatening... a feeling somewhat like being a fresh steak lying in front of a clan of drooling hyenas (to paraphrase my wife).
              • by LaurenCates ( 3410445 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @12:07PM (#51287309)

                Disclaimer: I am a woman who grew up in the ghetto.

                Catcalling may be distasteful, but it isn't threatening in and of itself.

                If you catcall me and you stay put when I walk away, it isn't a threat.

                If you catcall me and follow me in your truck for a couple blocks, I'm bound to duck into a store or veer towards somewhere I know where people are at. And I don't normally walk alone at night where there aren't people.

                If your wife feels like a steak "lying" in front of hyenas, perhaps she needs to adjust her perspective to determine whether or not she's going to be attacked. I sincerely hope she hasn't, and you haven't indicated that she has been.

                But let's not go overboard. If a bunch of men are hooting at you but aren't doing anything to directly endanger your safety, get a grip. If you think being "ogled" is a problem, never leave the house, so such a "threat" never befalls you.

                • You must be new around here, I haven't seen noticed your posts until today and, now, I've seen several and replied to two. You seem very well grounded, which is not a good fit for what Slashdot has become lately; I welcome you to stick around despite that and, maybe, help turn things around.

                  With that out of the way, I'd also like to point out that it happens to men, as well. Hell, it happens to men in front of their wives! So yeah, it's not just an "issue" women have to deal with, it's a societal "problem
            • It's because humans are completely useless in risk assessment. Like you wrote Men are more likely (and much more so) to be assaulted by strangers than Women, but it's the Women who are afraid while close to no male is afraid. And I've heard that more people died due to them driving since they where too afraid of flying after 9/11 than actually died on 9/11.

              And I guess that it's the same with the kids from TFA, they are probably many times over more likely to die or get injured in a car crash due to them bei

          • as a girl she really needs to walk with a buddy

            Why?

            Because her father is sexist. A more appropriate answer would be: because she's 9.

      • Hopefully somebody is going to tell me that this Federal Law was just designed to stop one or two particular states/counties from implementing nutty policies.

        This part of the law is just designed to prevent isolated municipalities from nutty interpretations of existing law.

        There have been a few recent examples of private citizens reporting unaccompanied children to the police. Generally, the kids are walking short distances (~1 mile). Once the police get involved, they often feel the need to charge someone, and generally find a way to fit "leaving your 8 year old child unattended for 20 minutes" into some form of neglect or endangerment. I'm not sure if any o

        • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @10:08AM (#51286325)

          This part of the law is just designed to prevent isolated municipalities from nutty interpretations of existing law.

          There have been a few recent examples of private citizens reporting unaccompanied children to the police.

          I don't think you appreciate the scale of this problem. Yes, only "a few recent examples" probably reached the attention of the national media, but they are indicative of a much more widespread and more common problem. This site [freerangekids.com] is obviously biased in one way, but it's dedicated to tracking stories like this. It's pretty common to see some rather outrageous intervention at least every couple weeks or so... somewhere in the U.S.

          Generally, the kids are walking short distances (~1 mile).

          Or an 11-year-old sitting alone in a car [wfsb.com] outside a store.

          Or, ya know, an 11-year-old playing alone in his own yard unsupervised [reason.com]. Parents arrested on felony charges. Apparently your kid doesn't even need to be walking alone.

          Once the police get involved, they often feel the need to charge someone, and generally find a way to fit "leaving your 8 year old child unattended for 20 minutes" into some form of neglect or endangerment. I'm not sure if any of these have resulted in actual conviction, but they have certainly resulted in handcuffings, arrests, and (perhaps most importantly) court fees.

          This shows a gross misunderstanding of the worst issue for most parents. Yes, some parents end up held in jail for a day or something, and there are court fees.

          But that's the relatively mild part and only the beginning of the nightmare that often follows. In many cases, Child Protective Services removes the kids from the parents, from anywhere to a few days to weeks to months in some cases. And even when parents fight to get their kids back, they are often subjected to various indignities -- mandatory parenting classes where they are taught how "not to neglect" their kids, periodic "check-ins" by CPS services at their homes, who have been known to find ridiculously minor "violations" or "concerns" (like a cluttered living room where kids have been playing -- too messy for CPS).

          Poke around a bit and read the kinds of things that can happen. Also, keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of kids are removed by CPS to foster care in the U.S. every year, statistics compiled from CPS show that in somewhere around 1/3 of cases (about 100,000 kids), investigations eventually show that there was no credible threat at all to kids. That's not even covering cases where there was an "apparent" threat that was determined not to be significant enough to warrant removal -- these are thousands and thousands of cases where CPS takes kids and later says, "My bad. Turns out the removal wasn't really necessary." (Actually, of course, they never admit it that in those words. But they basically determine whatever evidence was used to justify removal was incomplete, a misunderstanding, or just a bogus report.)

          And let's not even get into the stats on abuse and neglect in foster care, which tends to happen at higher rates than in homes with parents. So CPS is often removing kids from a safe house without investigating thoroughly and putting kids in places where they are more likely to be harmed. (Obviously, CPS also takes action in many, many cases every year where there IS serious abuse, and they should be commended for that -- but tell this to any parent whose child is taken away for no apparent reason.)

          Perhaps this is getting a bit off-topic from TFA, but these are related issues. We have a culture that tends to assume any child alone (and by "child," states now often mean kids up to

          • by Ed Tice ( 3732157 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @11:03AM (#51286795)
            The funding that CPS gets is based on how many kids they put into foster care. Now I'm not saying that every CPS worker is thinking about that all of the time, but it has slowly affected the culture such that everybody has the reaction to put kids into foster care. Once a kid is in foster care, the standards are much lower. No kid would be removed from a foster family for any of these violations. The case worker would address it verbally and leave it out of the report and or decide that they've resolved it with the foster family and no further action is taken. If their funding were inversely proportional to how many kids ended up in foster families we'd see a much more sane approach. Only the most egregious cases should result in a removal of a kid from their home.
          • It sounds like the CPS should be sued for mistreating children. In general it has to be pretty bad at home for a child to be better off taken away from its parents.

            My 9yo often enough comes home from school by himself. Walks down to the train station with other kids, then takes the train one stop, and walks the 15 minutes back home. Good for him, this way he can get a bit of self confidence and independence. It's also pretty safe, two roads to cross, both with pedestrian lights which he knows to wait for.

            Re

      • The cases mentioned in the article involve children between the ages of 6 and 10. It was quite a while ago but I was walking to/from school right from grade 1. Also it's Canada so that's different too.

        In Ottawa I know that they bus the younger students that are further than a certain distance from the school. For the older students (those in high school I think) they give them a city bus pass and the city adds some extra routes for the students. I live a few blocks from an elementary school and do see so

    • This is the same country which has an act called "Every Student Succeeds"...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It wasn't outlawed in law. Look at the links provided. There were specific people / police / social services etc. that were detaining kids and threatening their kids under general "neglect" laws which exist almost everywhere in the world. Neglect is rightly a relative standard.

      The problem with treating the US as lunatics is that normally we in the "civilised world" end up doing exactly the same thing ten years later. Instead, look and learn from the people in the US fighting for freedom and learn to re

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EmeraldBot ( 3513925 )

      Land of the free my ass. It's a nation of lunatics ruled by fear.

      The law was stupid, there's no doubt about that, but every country in the world has some stupid rules. The reason why most people in the US don't care isn't because they agree with it, but simply that it doesn't affect them - when your school is 30 miles away, you have to take a car or a bus, and so it wouldn't really appear in their daily life.

      While the US certainly does some crazy things, and the policy towards children is absolutely ridiculous, every country has one area that is crazy. You should be a

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @07:57AM (#51285581) Journal

      Land of the free my ass. It's a nation of lunatics ruled by fear.

      It was never outlawed; but if some neurotic busybody called the Podunk PD because they saw a kid outside and decided that they were either about to be abducted by pedo-terrorists or on their way to delinquency, and Podunk PD decided to throw some spurious neglect/endangerment charge at you, it would still ruin your day. That's the real problem. Even if the first judge who sees it tosses the case in disgust, you'll still have a lousy time until then.

      • by james_shoemaker ( 12459 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @11:22AM (#51286925)

        I doubt many cases actually happen in Podunktown USA, only larger cities have the resources to waste on this sort of idiocy. I know this because I live in Podunktown and most kids are on the free range plan here. If you would call the police on a kid playing in the park alone they would say, "So what's the issue? Is he/she valdalizing park equipment or beating up on other kids?"

    • I think this is more to do with protecting parents from the fuckwittery (Every occupation has it's fuckwits, however, some can let fuckwits get people arrested for no good reason) of social workers.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @09:42AM (#51286105) Homepage Journal

      I think of this situation as being in part like the hygiene hypothesis for the rise in allergies: without the level of exposure to infectious microorganisms that would have been normal throughout most of human evolution, our immune systems go haywire. It is now so safe for children our normal protective instincts go haywire. Back when kids routinely worked in textile mills or as powder monkeys in mines nobody's eyebrows would have been raised by some kid walking a few miles to school. Now that kids are very safe indeed bad things that happen to them walking down a well-traveled street in broad daylight are a relatively greater fraction of the overall risk, even though that risk is very, very small.

      Then there's the way that our information filters affect our perceptions of risk. Take school shootings; in the three years since Sandy Hook, 555 children 12 or under have been killed by firearms in the US; but as shocking as that is, you have to put it context; there are roughly 29 million children 14 and under in the US. In comparison about 2600 babies die each year from low birth weight; while in a global context the US infant mortality rate is relatively low, compared to similar wealthy countries it is shockingly high, which suggests that man of these deaths are preventable. Likewise the comparable number of children who die from influenza and pneumonia in that period isn't on the radar screen because it isn't news when a child dies from a commonplace but largely preventable infection. In 2014 there were 32,000 cases of whooping cough in the US leading to 20 deaths, and pertussis is an entirely eradicable disease.

      Don't get me wrong; insofar as school shootings are preventable by practical steps we should take those steps; but we ought to prioritize causes of mortality and injury based on hard data, not our information filters.

  • by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @06:37AM (#51285323)
    Isn't law meant to say what you "can not" do, rather than what you "can" do ?
    • Usually that's true. State laws forbidding neglect or endangerment of children were being used (for example) to charge parents who let their children walk to the park with a crime. So the law isn't so much to say that parents are allowed to do X but that states are not allowed to charge parents who do X with a crime.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bad phrasing in the summary:

      IN GENERAL.—Subject to subsection (b), nothing in this Act shall authorize the Secretary to, or shall be construed to - ‘‘(1) 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 ‘‘(2) 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."

      So it is ph

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <`delirium-slashdot' `at' `hackish.org'> on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @08:25AM (#51285673)

      This law is a carve-out from previous laws that specify what you can not do. There's a very general law prohibiting parents from endangering their children. This one amends that law to clarify that letting your child walk to work doesn't constitute endangering children.

    • Isn't law meant to say what you "can not" do, rather than what you "can" do ?

      Right. This law says that obsessive SJW neighbors and social workers can't ruin your family's life for allowing your children to walk a few blocks to school.

  • Surprised by this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattsday ( 909414 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @06:51AM (#51285367)

    In most countries it's very common for children to walk to school in the mornings, especially when they get to 10/11 years old.

    I understand the US is less pedestrian friendly as a general rule (outside of larger cities) but walking/cycling to school was one of my fondest memories, not to mention both healthy and social!

    What is the motivation for having this banned in the first place?

    • In most countries it's very common for children to walk to school in the mornings, especially when they get to 10/11 years old.

      I understand the US is less pedestrian friendly as a general rule (outside of larger cities) but walking/cycling to school was one of my fondest memories, not to mention both healthy and social!

      What is the motivation for having this banned in the first place?

      It breaks the pattern of accustoming children to a future life behind bars. The schools are operated as prisons as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      the motivation is the moral panic about stranger danger

      while statistics say the actual risk of abduction has gone down, public perception says it has gone up
      you can thank mass media for that

  • Sudden, but moderate outburst of common sense.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Someone must have seen this quote:

      "Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy."
      - Robert A. Heinlein

  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @07:18AM (#51285445) Homepage

    When I was in kindergarten I walked to school every day, it was only around 3 blocks away. Going to the park alone was also normal. The sad thing is that it is a lot safer today than it was back then. I consider myself quite liberal, but I detest the whole nanny state. I've also read numerous articles about parents who are arrested for leaving young children in the car, in the shade with the windows open while running into the grocery store.

    Hell, reading this article [salon.com] reminded me about how my mother would go into a local supermarket to do some quick shopping while I watched my younger sister in the car. Today my mother would have been arrested.

    As a kid I ran around all over the place without my parents hovering over me every second. I got out and got exercise and explored, something many parents won't allow today. That was before the days of the Internet or before cell phones or bike helmets. The only difference I would have with my own kids is to make them wear a bicycle helmet when riding (due to experience with how it saved the life of a relative several times) and possibly a cell phone.

    Kids need to be kids and also to learn responsibility, not be coddled like crazy.

    • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
      Good post. I'm from the era where my mom would yell out the door for us that it was time for dinner because she didn't know which of our neighboring friend's yards we were playing in. I agree, the coddling has gone far too long.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, I'm not sure how commonplace people getting arrested for letting their kids to school actually is. When these things happen they become national causes célèbres -- and with good reason. But I wonder whether this isn't the mirror image of the "stranger danger" hysteria, that is to say something that does occasionally happen but much less often than we imagine it does. I see elementary school kids walking to school or the local park in my town all the time. If you visit New York City it's

  • If someone gets arrested for child neglect, what relief does this law provide? I doubt it would, but I would like to see it do two things:

    1. Provide for both civil and criminal relief against the police.
    2. Provide for civil relief against the anonymous caller, including a provision that allows the police to be sued if they don't take reasonable means to ascertain the identity of the caller.

    Anonymous callers should not be anonymous. Many times, it's malicious people claiming to be good samaritans. They need

    • by n6kuy ( 172098 )

      .. and "mandated reporters" need to be mandated cross-examinable testifiers/witnesses in the event that the abuse/neglect investigation results in a case that gets before a judge, because often these mandated reporters don't really have a reasonable concern for the safety of the child, but just want to cover their butt "just in case."

  • There's some good news for "free-range" parents and fans of children being allowed to walk places on their own. A recently approved federal education law will allow students to take alternative forms of transportation to and from school with parental permission.

    "Alternative" methods? Uh, walking is the default method. That's the only one we're born with. Driving is the alternative method, idiot. (Is the idiot here the submitter or "editor"? No way to know.)

  • In Switzerland (at least in my home Canton of Zurich), the children's way to school ("Schulweg") is pretty much sacred: Walking to school alone teaches the children to deal with the world around them, and it builds confidence. During the first year of Kindergarten you can bring them, but then they go alone.

    When children live too far away from school, there is a bus service, but they make a point of letting the children off the bus some 1000ft from school, so that they still have their "Schulweg."

  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @08:20AM (#51285653)

    I walked to elementary school every day until we moved farther away, at which point I alternatively either road my bike or took the bus (and occasionally walked anyway). That continued through middle and high school, and that was up in NY.

    Now it's 40 years or so later, I live in GA, and my kids are not allowed to ride their bikes to school. Walkers at my daughter's middle school require permits that they have to pay a fee for.

    It's ridiculous.

    At the same time, for whatever reason, walking to Elementary school was just fine, and walking to the high school is fine... so it's obviously up to individual school. If you're planning on having kids, and can't afford private schools, do yourself a favor and DO NOT move to GA.

  • The utter irony is that the federal government has no legal basis for making a law like this.

  • Unconstitutional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @08:29AM (#51285685)

    Please show me where in the Constitution the federal government is given the power to address such things such as education or children walking to school. I seem to remember that if it isn't listed there, those powers ARE RESERVED BY THE STATES.

    • Mod parent up. We get the government we ALLOW. The federal government has no charter whatsoever to regulate this kind of thing.

    • I think you're right. The SCOTUS in United States v. Lopez ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ) ruled that Congress cannot constitutionally regulate who can walk into a school zone carrying while a gun, because this is not interstate - commercial activity. It seems likely the same reasoning would apply to walking into or out of a school zone at all. But who's going to challenge the constitutionality of this kind of law?

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      No, because this is obviously Interstate Commerce, of course.

    • Re:Unconstitutional (Score:5, Informative)

      by Insightfill ( 554828 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @10:15AM (#51286387) Homepage

      Please show me where in the Constitution the federal government is given the power to address such things such as education or children walking to school. I seem to remember that if it isn't listed there, those powers ARE RESERVED BY THE STATES.

      A closer reading of the Act (see pages 857-858) says that the parents can't be held criminally or civilly liable if they let their kids - with permission - get to school in an "age appropriate manner." It also says that the Act itself doesn't supersede any local laws.

      So: if a state or locality has decided or later decides to specifically make a law specifically against "unattended kids going to school," that law would take precedence over this act. "States rights" are still in effect here.

    • Re:Unconstitutional (Score:4, Interesting)

      by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @11:15AM (#51286871)

      those powers ARE RESERVED BY THE STATES.

      Let's look at the actual Tenth Amendment [wikipedia.org]:

      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      Here, you forgot a very important party, the people. I think walking to school is exercise of a people power not a state-granted privilege. Personally, I don't think the federal government has a place in education, K-12 or higher education, except as a sponsor and propagator of educational standards (which I think is a legitimate role of the Commerce Clause). But they do have a role as a protector of the people which I think this law imperfectly attempts.

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