Free-Range Kids

Little Boy Skips Church, Goes to Dollar Store, Police Arrest His Father for Child Endangerment

Police arrested Justin's father and charged him with child endangerment.

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Church bus
Flickr

Eight-year-old Justin Williamson of Blanchester, Ohio, was supposed to board a church bus taking him and his siblings to service at Woodville Baptist Church. Instead of getting on the bus, Jusitn wandered half a mile from his home and entered a Family Dollar store. Someone at the store notified the authorities.

Police arrested Justin's father and charged him with child endangerment.

WCPO Cincinnati has the full, awful story:

The trouble started when a bus from the Woodville Baptist Church came to pick up 8-year-old Justin and his siblings, Williamson said.

"My kids run in the house in the living room here and tell me, 'Hey, Dad, the church van's here. We're leaving. We're going on to church,' " Williamson said.

"I said, 'OK.' "

Williamson said he didn't know Justin didn't get on the bus.

"He just wanted to go play in the neighborhood," he said.

Once the cops had returned Justin to his home, an officer arrested Williamson over the tearful protests of his children. After a story about the incident ran in a local newspaper, Williamson lost his job.

Over at Free-Range Kids, Reason contributor Lenore Skenazy writes that at least the incident is garnering significant media attention. Situations like this are rare, however, and parents should not be afraid to let their kids roam, she writes:

It is good that these stories of petty minds and police badgering get out to the world, as a way of perhaps, somehow, keeping power in check. But I don't want you to now fear your own 8-year-old walking to the Dollar Store, or playing in the nabe. These stories are rare and outrageous enough that they MAKE it to the news. I report them here to remind us that there is a power structure we MUST FIGHT that can take away our rights as parents, kids and citizens. But not that any time an 8-year-old goes to buy a $1 squirt gun, he's going to get his parents arrested. (Unless, of course, he brings that squirt gun to school.)