In early March, an Ohio father wrote to parenting site Free-Range Kids to describe the harassment he had received from police for teaching his 6-year-old daughter how navigate their quiet suburban neighborhood and then having the temerity to decide on his own when she may do so unsupervised. After letting her walk to a nearby store, he discovered when she failed to return that the police had taken her:
Once I got to the police station they would not release her to me for over 20 minutes, though she was sitting behind bullet-proof glass just 20 feet away. When the police finally came to talk to me, I was told that they had responded to a call of a young child being unsupervised. They refused to identify a reasonable cause for her detention, or even what law had been broken. They insisted that they were waiting for CPS to respond before they would let me see my daughter, but then they later came back and said that they were releasing me to her because CPS had told them to give her to me, since I was waiting for her.
That sounds like resolution of sorts, right? Child Protective Services told the police to give her back to her parent. But the story took a turn for the worse, detailed again on Free-Range Kids today:
"Emily" and I are both walking back from the library. She wants to do it herself, so I let her walk separate from me some of the time. The cops get a phone call from a concerned citizen who says there's a strange guy talking to a little girl. Three officers respond and cite a concern for Emily's safety in crossing the street. I confirm that I am her father and give my name, as is required by law. They refuse to state any reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or say what law has been broken, and so, in accordance with my 5th amendment rights, I refuse to answer any questions. We are detained for over half an hour before being released. (I asked many times over the course of the detention whether I was "free to go" and I was told that I was not. We were told that we were being held for an "investigative detention.") The sergeant who responded to the scene stated over the radio that he wanted to "hook this guy" for child endangerment. (The recording of radio traffic during the encounter was later received through a public records request that I made.)
They were again reported to CPS, even though police say they haven't broken any laws. Later he deals with CPS directly:
I talk with the supervisor at CPS on a recorded phone call. I refuse to answer any questions or make any statements. Though he did relay that he was concerned about a child "roaming the streets of [Our City, OH]," he refuses to tell me what law has been broken. We go around and around for about 25 minutes. I find out through my employer shortly after the phone call that if I do not "cooperate" CPS is threatening to seek an ex parte order, which would allow CPS to take custody without a hearing, to separate us that Friday (and then keep Emily all weekend since a hearing would not have to be held until close of business on Monday). Note that I have cooperated to the full extent required by law. The Home School Legal Defense Assn. is very helpful in getting CPS to agree not to seek an ex parte order so long as Emily does not go outside again by herself.
Since then CPS has knocked on the door many times. I did answer the door when the CPS supervisor came by–I thought that he was a delivery guy or what not since he didn't have a uniformed police officer with him–but otherwise we have simply ignored them. There is no law requiring someone to answer their door, and since I had no interest in talking to them or getting detained by the cops simply ignoring them seemed the best course of action.
CPS has responded by filing a complaint alleging neglect and attempting to take the child into protective custody. They are also attempting to try to force the family to allow CPS officials into their home, search the house and interview their children.
Free-Range Kids is asking for pro bono legal help in Ohio to assist the family.
Our Reason TV interview with Free-Range Kids founder Lenore Skenazy is here.
(Hat tip to Popehat)