Free-Range Kids

Court Upholds Dad's Conviction for Making 8-Year-Old Son Walk Home Alone

Every parent be concerned when the state makes it illegal for parents to trust their kids.


Mike Tang, the California father convicted of child endangerment after making his 8-year-old son walk a mile home alone, has lost his appeal.

Tang left his son outside a local grocery store as punishment for cutting corners on his homework. He told the boy he had to walk home. The child was familiar with the route. "I just wanted to reinforce that money is hard to earn and that, if he doesn't do a good job at school, he could end up sleeping…[with] the homeless" outside grocery stores, Tang told

In his appeal, Tang challenged a provision in California law that criminalizes placing a child "in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered." (Emphasis added.) That vague and sweeping language, Tang argued, effectively means that a parent could be arrested simply if "there was a crack in the sidewalk where the child could trip and fall."

But the appellate court saw no problem with the broad language of the law and rejected Tang's appeal.

David DeLugas, the executive director of the National Association of Parents, a non-profit whose mission includes fighting for the rights of parents to raise their kids as they see fit (so long as the kids are not harmed), told me that the California law at issue in the Tang case is unconstitutional.

It is unconstitutional, DeLugas says, because the law takes the decision-making rights from parents and gives them to the state, permitting the authorities to charge any parent, at any time, under almost any circumstances. For instance, DeLugas points out, "a parent who permits a child to play tackle football is subject to being charged under this same statute because the child 'may' be injured."

DeLugas has experience fighting these sorts of overreaching laws. He previously took up the case of Susan Terrillion, the Maryland woman who was arrested while on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, after she went out to pick up dinner, leaving her kids, ages eight and nine, home alone. In Delaware, DeLugas notes, child endangerment charges kick in only when a child is "likely" to be hurt, not when they "may" be hurt, as is the case in California. DeLugas gathered enough evidence on Terrillion's behalf to make it obvious that the children were not "likely" to be hurt, and the prosecutor ultimately dismissed the charges.

When the law allows the state to prosecute parents who trust their kids, DeLugas warns, "every parent should be concerned."

Unfortunately for parents like Mike Tang, the law remains against them.