Civil Liberties

Interview: Mom Handcuffed, Arrested for Oversleeping While Her Son Walked to School

'I got arrested for not being awake.'


Maria Hasankolli

On November 18, Maria Hasankolli of Wallingford, Connecticut, came home in the early hours of the morning after visiting a relative in the hospital. She slept through her 8-year-old stepson getting himself ready for school—and missing his bus. The boy, Lucan, decided to walk to school on his own, two miles away, and was about halfway there when a business owner spotted him and called the cops. The cops drove Lucan to school, then went to his home, woke Hasankolli, clapped her in handcuffs, and arrested her.

She was driven to the police precinct, had her mugshot taken, and was given a $2500 bond. Her court date is this Wednesday. The charge? Risk of injury to a minor.

As WFSB reports:

A Wallingford woman has been arrested after police found her 8-year-old stepson walking to school by himself.

The elementary school student missed his school bus and decided to walk about two miles to school.

A business owner on North Plains Industrial Road saw the child walking by himself and called police.

When they went to the child's house, they found his step mother, 38-year-old Maria Hasankolli, sleeping.

"She had to be awakened and the officer asked her where the child was. She said he's downstairs and they went downstairs and she couldn't find him and said he's not there," said Wallingford Police Lt. Cheryl Bradley.

In an interview, Hasankolli told me that as the cop was taking her in, he said, "'It's despicable that you're sleeping while your child needs you to get ready for school."

"I wasn't arrested for letting my son walk to school," the stay-at-home mom told me over the phone. "I got arrested for not being awake."

Is it a crime not to cater to a child capable of getting himself dressed and fed? Does this officer know that just a couple of generations ago, a child of eight might not only have been expected to get himself up, but might have gone out, pre-dawn, without a parent, to deliver newspapers? Hasankolli told me that she herself did this daily alongside her brother when they were seven and eight years old, respectively. "We delivered 320 papers!" she said.

Hasankolli is now a mom of six: she has three children of her own and three step children. She admits that she's not a perfect mother, but nor is she the monster the local news made her out to be: WSFB's reporter dredged up past calls to Child Protective Services that were made by her current husband's ex—calls that are all too common in custody disputes (Hasankolli's husband has sole custody of his kids).

The news report also accuses Hasankolli of previously duct-taping her child to the floor. That sure sounds bad, but the mother says that charge was never substantiated. Cops described her as a convicted felon with a history of assaults, probation violations, and conflicts with child services, but Hasankolli says her felony conviction was for failing to appear in court after a long-ago fight with her sister. She also concedes that she was previously arrested for assaulting her husband's ex; Hasankolli claims the woman was verbally abusing one of the kids.

She had a rough upbringing, giving birth to her first child at the age of 16. She eventually became addicted to heroin, went into rehab, and has been clean for years.

"I never claimed to be perfect, nor have I stated that I've never made mistakes," Hasankolli told me in an email.

But these past mistakes have little bearing on the case at hand: Hasankolli was arrested for oversleeping.

When the cops picked up Lucan, they asked him why he was walking to school—as if that activity is so outlandish—and he replied, "Because my mom's asleep and I missed the bus." That's the reason they came to her home with handcuffs.

"I asked [the police officer] to show me something that said it was illegal for Lucan to be unsupervised in the morning and he just kept saying to me that he has to be 12 years old," Hasankolli told me.

But the law is this:

Any parent, guardian or person having custody or control, or providing supervision, of any child under the age of twelve years who knowingly leaves such child unsupervised in a place of public accommodation or a motor vehicle for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child's health or safety, shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor."

To me, that sounds like a parent has to deliberately leave a child in a dangerous area. If "substantial risk" encompasses a child walking to school and a passerby thinking "Ooh! That's dangerous!" then all bets are off. Parents can be arrested for trusting their kids, for giving them independence, and for oversleeping.

Talk about a nightmare.