Free-Range Kids

Moms Fed Up with School 'Stranger Danger' Paranoia


Marcus Quigmire / Wikimedia Commons

Mention this trend to any friend with school age kids and most will likely say they have seen it: A note from the school warning parents and children that there was a car, a stranger, or—worst of all—a van spotted near the bus stop. A reader, Kate, sent me a message about the note her son's school sent home with him. Kate lives in Canada, but the trend is strong in the U.S., too:

Today's alert was to let us know that the police were contacted "regarding a suspicious motor vehicle seen between 8:15 and 8:30 AM" near one of the schools this morning, a "white work van with an orange flashing style light on top that was not operative" operated by "a male approx. 50-60 years of age with a full white beard and wearing an orange construction style shirt and ball style hat."

Of course, there isn't enough detail included to explain what on earth is so suspicious about a work van driven by a workman in a small Canadian town on a Wednesday morning. Instead there are tips about setting up 'code words' with parents and kids and never going into strange places out of public view. 

These notes are not benign. By adding to the belief that our kids are in constant danger the minute they leave the house, they make it seem too risky to send kids outside unsupervised. That's how we end up with cops collaring moms who let their kids walk to the park or play outside. It is equated with negligence. After all, there was an unfamiliar car in the neighborhood! Here's the rest of Kate's letter about the note:

The local schools have this 'partnership' program with the local police where a notice is sent home with the schoolkids whenever the police receive a complaint that touches on a threat to one of the schools or to schoolkids. Mostly, what this means is that we get to hear about it every single time a kid reports that someone made them uncomfortable on their walk home and every time a local resident sees a 'suspicious' vehicle near one of the schools.

Last year, I rolled my eyes at these notices and filed them in my recycling bin. But


 this year, I'm fed up. I'm fed up with hearing my kids and their friends talk about how strangers could have weapons or want to grab kids. I'm fed up with trying to explain to my neighbors why there's no danger at all to my 9-year-old son to bike the 1.2 km to his school—and that it won't be any more dangerous for their daughters to walk or bike the same distance at the same age.

It's hard enough to raise Free-Range Kids in a paranoid world without the school and police adding fuel to the fire…. So, I'm going to write to my kids' principal and the local police chief to ask whether it is really necessary to send reports home about every unsubstantiated complaint, considering these negative effects on the school community.

If they do feel it is necessary to send these reports, I want to insist that they include follow-up reports so that the community can see how many of these complaints are unsubstantiated or substantiated. I'd like to include statistics to reinforce the true likelihood of abduction or assault so I can compare the costs of this policy against the putative benefits.

Help me shed some sanity!

Let's all help. Let's follow Kate's lead and ask the local cops and schools to report when the suspicious man or van turns out to be absolutely nothing more than—surprise—a perfectly harmless man or van. And let's ask school principals why they feel compelled to spread fear based on nothing more than Spidey sense.  

NEXT: Secret Service Chief Resigns

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  1. Fake boobs are inferior and the brown hoardes are coming to get us! Everybody run!!!

    1. Fake boobs are inferior

      You shut your mouth. As long as I’m not paying for them, I think they’re just great.

      1. Hush, I’m trying to live up to my new image of brown horde fightin, fake boob hatin, xenophobic fear monger.

        1. Keep it up and someone’s going to start stalking you with Salon links.

          1. My wad’s just fine, thank-you-very-much.

            1. Meant this for AC’s comment below, aargh.

              1. Well, OK then… I said, “stalk” and then you said, “wad” and then I wondered…

      2. Great boobs are cheap anymore, you fucking tightwad.

        1. Hey, look, I like boobs in general. Real, fake, big, small, whatever. No way I’d pay to improve upon something that’s already pretty friggin’ rad.

          Wait, how cheap are we talkin’?

          1. You can buy great boobs for around 2500-3500 a boob. My sister had them done and my wife is looking into it later this year- at no behest of mine by the way. I’m a loving member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee but you know how these women are when they go thong.

            1. Why would you only get one done?

              1. Well, you don’t. Just. Get one. Boob. Done. Droid.

              2. Get FOUR of them done while yer at it, ya CHEAPSKATE, fer Chriss-sakes!!! See ?.

                1. Ooooh do you get a discount if the wife and the girlfriend get ’em done at the same time!?!?!

            2. Why would you only get one done?

          2. Not quite DIY cheap. Best wait a while.

  2. In the same vein…

    Children photographed without consent at West Vancouver park, police say

    While making it clear that taking photographs in a public place is not a criminal offence, police say they are looking for public assistance to clarify the circumstances surrounding the photography in order to address public safety concerns.

    Police are advising parents to closely monitor their surroundings when in a public place with their children, and to contact police if they see anything of concern.

    1. This is how this story should end:

      “Police learned the name of the photographer at a West Vancouver park this morning when the deparment and numerous newpapers and TV stations were simeulaneously served with a lawsuit alleging defamation on the part of police officers and the press organs who repeated and spread officers statements.”

    2. So they should be out in public to be safe. But they should not be seen in public. Because being seen in public makes them safer more endangered safer more endangered taste great less filling something.

  3. a perfectly harmless man or van

    There’s no such thing. Especially in combination!

      1. I lol’d at that.

      2. Oh look at this… the Lord is going full bore 4chan on us.

        1. That looks like a clip from the new season of True Detectives.

          1. There’s a school on Hwy 98 in Appalachicola, FL that looks exactly like the abandoned school in the first season. My wife will probably shit herself the day some goober is driving a riding lawn mower around the place.

            1. And probably a bunch of others that look exactly like it too. The schools in a given area tend to be built within a short time of each other on the same model, and frequently on the same model as in other places.

              1. P.S. 83 looks exactly like P.S. 108, for instance.

  4. I just got one of those calls this week. The best one was last year, they locked down the school because someone saw a guy in camo, with a backpack, wearing a mask, near the school. Turns out he was in the military and wearing a mask to simulate high altitudes while training for an upcoming deployment in Afghanistan. He just happened to jog past the school. We still laugh about that one.

  5. This always makes me think back to when I was a kid 5-6 years old. There was this ice cream truck and the ice cream dude was this really strange guy with greasy hair, I swear he never washed his hair and he smelled like spoiled milk. He would always scowl at us when we were getting our ice cream and then we started tuanting him. We would run down the street behind his truck and would yell this name we were calling him, I can’t even remember now what it was. He would get really pissed off and yell at us and even got out of the truck and chased us sometimes. We never thought to be actually scared of the guy or thought he was a mass murderer or anything, we just thought he was the weird old ice cream guy.

    Back then, I had never heard tell of all these evil predators lurking behind every rock and tree. I wonder where they all suddenly came from?

    1. I think about my life, “Oh, you want to ride your bike to and from kindergarten crossing at least one major road and covering 2 miles both ways? Have fun!”

      “Oh, you want to do after school activities at 13? Great, but sometimes there’s no late afternoon bus and you just have to hoof it 5 miles home.”

      Of course, my father said he never got me fingerprinted because “it only helps cops identify bodies faster, not rescue kidnapped children.”

  6. Brilliant idea about demanding followups, Lenore. Please do let us know what type of response you get. Cheers.

    1. Props for playing the strong cards too.

      Leaves room to follow up demanding an opt-out.

  7. Keeping kids logically safe is about letting the world exist around them without us adults varnishing and smearing it into contorted realities that mirror adult weaknesses.

    Lenore, rock on, babe. You bring another angle to the Libertarian table.

    1. ^This. Soccer moms* have traditionally been hostile to libertarianism, but when they start getting arrested this may change.

      (*)Yes, I’m stereotyping. I blame Everclear.

      1. I get hammered on Wednesdays also… but… well, you get a Badass Nigga award for the Everclear. We both know Thursday morning will not treat you like the loving lad you deserve, kind inebriate.

  8. Even without a potential murdering perve somewhere in the state, the typical parent today is insane….

    Stuck behind a school bus today on the way to work. It was drizzling, so all of the precious little ones were sitting in mommy or daddy’s cars, a good 50 feet back from the corner. The bus stopped, and the line of people behind the bus waited.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    Evidently, the kids were not ready to get going as soon as the bus arrived, but at that point must have started to say good byes or whatever. And then, since these were grammar school kids, they took their sweet times getting to the bus. Then of course, nothing happened until everyone had sat down. At 2 – 3 minutes per stop, you can see why I was rather late.

    Gone are the days when everyone stood at the bus stop regardless of weather, ready to go. The bus arrived, the door opened, kids clambered in, the door closed, the bus got moving, kids worked to find a seat. A kid 30 seconds late could expect to have to go find someone to drive them, or, if older than about 10 or 12, start walking or got get a bike.

    We are raising a nation of wimps!

    1. This started with my generation. If it was really cold or wet, the neighbors would pull the car to the end of the street (two doors for most of them) and wait for the bus. My parents were a bit more old school… They made sure I was in earshot while they made fun of the neighbors for being pussies.

    2. I have this amazing invention that could utterly revolutionize the morning wait at the bus stop! It would allow children to wait at the stop, out of the car, ready for the bus — and NOT GET WET!

      It’s called an umbrella.

      Seriously. My kids are thrilled when they get to go out in the rain and take an umbrella. It’s the highlight of their week.

  9. How did my name not come up in all of this?

    1. Because you were asleep you fucking whore. Like always.

      1. The little bitch was asking for it.

  10. When I was a kid, and walked over a mile to and from school four times a day because our school had no cafeteria, we were able to carry pocket knives with us. My 14 year old daughter is not allowed to even have a 1″ blade on her key chain when she goes to school. I am having a hard time reconciling the idea that we must perceive every stranger as a threat to our children while at the same time disarming the little dears.

    1. Other people are a threat to them, and they are a threat to other people, duh!

  11. LOOK OUT! A vehicle on a public street!

  12. Reminds me of how nuclear energy and other tech have been vilified. Rumor builds on rumor. You adopt measures to alleviate concerns expressed by a few. Then the fact that those measures have been adopted alarm the many, because they’re evidence something is dangerous or wrong. The technology becomes more costly because of such requirements, and then the activists point out that the tech is costly, which makes it less popular, which makes it more of a concern, which makes it more costly…positive feedback.

    Similarly, children must be in danger because measures are being taken for their safety. Which means measures must be taken for their safety. Which means there’s danger.

  13. my classmate’s sister makes $71 hourly on the internet . She has been out of work for eight months but last month her check was $14880 just working on the internet for a few hours. look at this website ….


  14. A while ago I was driving somewhere and needed to consult my GPS, so I pulled over. Turns out it was near an elementary school. Ready to drive, I see a teacher walking up to me.

    “Can I ask what you’re doing?”, she asks.
    “Sure. Checking my GPS”, I reply.
    “Well”, she says, “would you mind not doing that in front of the school? It worries us.”

    I was so taken aback I just drove off. I wish I would have said something clever, or even just told her to fuck off.

    Really though, if our school teachers are that afraid of a slightly pudgy 40-something white guy driving a Hyundai; then this country is done for.

    1. “It worries us” reminds me of the definition of harassment that is in effect around here: anything that someone the supposedly harassed person perceives as harassment is harassment. By that definition, if I feel harassed by someone who works harder than I do, they should have to work less so that I don’t feel bad.

    2. Bet this wouldn’t have happened had you been a woman!

  15. Am I too paranoid to imagine that the actual motivation of Leviathan Government is to make us each distrustful of each other? Makes herding us a lot easier if we are suspicious of everyone. ?

  16. Absolutely! The schools should be required to follow up with a note about how that “suspicious man” was just a grandpa picking up his grandkids from school. How many notes like that can they send home before the parents start rolling their eyes about how it must be all the “other” parents who are paranoid?

  17. We need to ban free candy now to protect our children!

    And thus begins the War on Halloween!

  18. Isn’t running dangerous? Don’t kids stumble and fall and hurt themselves when they’re running? Kids should be made to stroll at a leisurely pace when in the playground.

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