Free-Range Kids

Dad Banned from Son's Preschool Graduation, and the Really Weird Reason Is…

Only sex predators go looking for missing dogs in white vans.



Last fall, a man who was driving his van around Susquehanna University looking for his lost dog was mistaken for a predator.

Now he can't even attend his own son's preschool graduation, because the ceremony takes place at SU.

The man put up "lost dog" signs and even had his wife and teenage nephew with him when he went looking for the dog (who was sadly found dead). But he was still somehow taken for a predator—female students complained that they didn't like the way he was talking to them—and prohibited from setting foot on campus.

As Hilda Kate Lysiak—the nine-year-old wonderkid behind the Orange Street News—reported:

Susquehanna University has banned a Selinsgrove father from his own son's preschool graduation after mistakenly accusing him of being a creeper after he was spotted driving around campus in a van while looking for his lost dog.

"We are not going to stand for this. We are very upset," Candice Peterson told the Orange Street News. 

The trouble began last September after Peterson and her family lost their beloved family dog. The family drove all around Selinsgrove in their van in search of their beloved family pet, including the University where they believed their dog may have wandered.

But when students saw the van instead of helping the family find the missing canine they instead became upset and reported Peterson to the campus police, who put out an alert. Soon everyone was looking for the van, including police and many local news outlets ran with the story.

Last week, Candice Peterson—the man's wife—learned the eviction covers their kid's preschool graduation:

Candice Peterson was hoping it would all blow over, until last week when she found her son's pre-school graduation is going to be held at the University and that her husband still isn't allowed back.

I followed up on Lysiak's story to see if the Petersons had made any headway, and the email answer from Candice began with a recap of what had happened in the fall:

"We called the director of public saftey David Gardner at SU [Susquehanna University] ….We told him that we felt terrible about this misunderstanding hoping that he would retract the alert. Instead he… said for my husband to stay away from the school and he would be contacting us again. So we went to the Selinsgrove PD Chief Garlok who said he would talk to him. A few days passed and we went back to speak to the chief (chief Garlok) who handed us a " no trespass order."

She added that Garlok indicated the problem would eventually just blow over. But when she found out her son's graduation was to be held on campus, she spoke to Gardner again. And as she wrote in a note to me:

He said "we have sufficient evidence against your husband and he's not allowed on this campus as per our attorneys." I was in shock. I said wait, he was never questioned by police, or charged with anything. You never investigated anything you just wrote the no trespass order.

That's exactly where things stood until yesterday when I wrote to Gardner myself, explaining I write for Reason and And suddenly Angela Burrows, the Susquehanna University communications director, wrote back:

"The University strives to keep its private campus safe for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.  While privacy considerations dictate that we cannot share more information at this time, the University stands by its decision to issue a no-trespass order to Mr. Petersen.  We will provide a one-time exception for Mr. Petersen to come to campus for preschool graduation.  The no trespass order will otherwise remain in effect."

Woo-hoo! For one single day, the menacing dog-searcher himself will be allowed to set foot on campus. But after that, for reasons that are still mystifying, Peterson will be considered a trespasser.