Kids These Days

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It's widely thought that the world is getting more and more dangerous for kids, even though that perception isn't always accurate. (See "Child-Proofing the World," June.) But now many cities are giving parents a new reason to keep their kids indoors: daytime curfew laws.

The laws are meant to be a more powerful way to stop truancy and curb juvenile crime. But some parents, especially those who home school or use private schools with unusual schedules, think the laws are harassing their kids. In April, some of them filed a suit challenging a Monrovia, California, daytime curfew law.

Dozens of California cities have enacted such laws, which give the police power to stop school-age kids seen in public during school hours and question them–and fine them or give them community service if they are supposed to be in school.

Robyn Nordell leads a grassroots campaign against such laws. She has succeeded in getting some California cities to reject them and the Orange County Board of Education to issue a resolution against them. She is especially alarmed about how some of the laws recruit private business owners into enforcing the law by making it "unlawful…to assist, aid, abet, or encourage" anyone in violating the law.

Many other cities, in California and elsewhere, are considering such laws, and California is considering a statewide daytime curfew. Even President Clinton has said good things about the idea.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is one of the parties in the Monrovia lawsuit. That group's vice president, Mike Smith, says that daytime curfew law are "un-American. They violate parents' rights to control the upbringing of their children, and they violate the children's rights to travel."

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