School administrators in Tampa, Florida, are insisting that parents pick up their kids from the bus stop after school lets out. And if they fail to comply, they could receive a visit from child services.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, district policy forbids kindergartners to walk home and requires bus drivers to bring them back to school if their parents don't appear on time. The story treats child autonomy as an obvious evil and punishable offense:
It happened about 1,600 times in the last school year: Bus drivers in Hillsborough County arrived at the bus stops in the afternoon with kindergarten students who had no parents or guardians to meet them. …
More than half the incidents involved repeat offenders. And they happened most often on Mondays, Fridays or the work days before and after a holiday. …
They've drafted an "initial KG bus letter" that school administrators can use as often as they like to get the message across. If the violations continue, a second letter orders the parent to come into the school for a meeting to try and pinpoint the reasons.
As a last resort, the district's chief of security will get involved. After sending out yet another letter and meeting with the parent, the chief will determine whether the district can handle things or child welfare officials need to get involved.
When parents merely forget to pick up their kids, that causes a headache for school personnel. I can understand why officials want to do something about that.
But it isn't a crime—or shouldn't be a crime—to let your child walk home on his own if you live just around the block. As Reason's Lenore Skenazy frequently points out, contrary to media hysteria, we do not live in uniquely dangerous times for kids. In fact, the great outdoors is a safer place for children than ever before in human history. On this specific story, Skenazy writes:
Parents who trust their kids and their communities are being treated like criminals. And yet, the way to solve this whole problem is so obvious: Scrap the policy and let the PARENTS decide if their kids are ready to walk home from the bus stop.
Regardless, the worst thing the district can do for children is sic child services on their parents.
More from Reason on the war on moms here.