Free-Range Kids

Utah's Free-Range Kids Bill Would Give Kids More Freedom

While putting parents at ease

|

Kids
Nullplus / Dreamstime

To prevent parents from being arrested for simply letting their kids play outside or walk home from a park in these remarkably safe times, Utah is considering a "Free-Range Kids Bill."

To become law it must pass a senate committee (into which it was introduced by Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore), then the senate itself, then the state House of Representatives. But yesterday it passed its first hurdle—unanimously.

As Fox 13 Salt Lake City reported:

A bill that makes it no longer a crime for parents to let their children walk home alone from school or play outside alone has passed a Utah Senate committee.

Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, modifies child neglect law in Utah to allow for so-called "free range kids."

"As a society, we've kind of erred as our pendulum has swung for children's safety a little bit too much to the side of helicopter parenting, right? We want kids to be able to learn how to navigate the world so when they're adults they're fully prepared to handle things on their own," Sen. Fillmore told FOX 13 in an interview.

"Free range kids" and "free range parenting" is a pushback on the concept that children are constantly in danger.

Happily, cops bearing down on decent parents has not been a big issue in Utah. But the fear that someone calling 911 when they see a kid outside could prompt an investigation is something no parent should have to worry about.

Naturally, some authorities don't like the idea of non-worried parents. The Associated Press reported that Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill showed up to offer the following testimony: "Right now, parents have pretty much all the liberty they need to parent as they see fit." If such a law isn't worded carefully, it could become a defense for parents in child abuse cases, he said. "We want to be careful this … doesn't comprise our ability as prosecutors to hold abusive parents accountable."

But under Fillmore's law, cops and child protective services retain the right to investigate cases of real abuse or neglect. It just reassures parents freaked out by stories of overzealous arrest—like the Meitivs of Maryland, investigated twice for letting their kids, 10 and 6, walk home from the park—that allowing their kids a modicum of freedom would no longer be considered suspect. An old-fashioned childhood would be re-normalized.

Utah believes in letting parents raise kids with some resourcefulness and self-reliance. Let's hope the this bill becomes law.

NEXT: Donald Trump Supports School Choice. Here's Why You Should Too.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. To prevent parents from being arrested for simply letting their kids play outside or walk home from a park in these remarkably safe times, Utah is considering a “Free-Range Kids Bill.”
    To bad the courts don’t recognize the Constitution as enough of a law to keep politicians from ordering parents, under threat of death, how to raise kids.

  2. “We want to be careful this … doesn’t comprise our ability as prosecutors to hold abusive parents accountable.”

    You’ve abused your discretion, so now it’s being taken away.

  3. Text of the bill can be found here

    1. Given that this is Lenore’s at least second post on this topic, it’s surprising she doesn’t engage in the specifics of the legislation. The relevant language is the change to the definition of “neglect”:

      309 (c) “Neglect” does not include:
      310 (i) a parent or guardian legitimately practicing religious beliefs and who, for that
      311 reason, does not provide specified medical treatment for a child;
      312 (ii) a health care decision made for a child by the child’s parent or guardian, unless the
      313 state or other party to a proceeding shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that the health
      314 care decision is not reasonable and informed;
      315 (iii) a parent or guardian exercising the right described in Section 78A-6-301.5; or
      316 (iv) permitting a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and
      317 maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities,
      318 including:
      319 (A) traveling to and from school, including by walking, running, or bicycling;
      320 (B) traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities;
      321 (C) engaging in outdoor play;
      322 (D) remaining in a vehicle unattended, except under the conditions described in
      323 Subsection 76-10-2202(2);
      324 (E) remaining at home unattended; or
      325 (F) engaging in a similar independent activity.

    2. cont.

      It’s interesting that the medical care exception is receiving so little press. I happen to agree with it, but I’m surprised it isn’t causing more of a ruckus. Otherwise, I think the language is sufficiently vague to discourage the type of overprotective Police and Child Services shenanigans that we’ve seen. It sets no specific ages, which is a good thing.

  4. Sorry, but if we need to start passing laws to allow us to do normal things, we’ve already lost the war.

    1. That’s similar to my first thought: “we need a fucking law for this?”

      1. Agreed.

      2. No, we need to fire up the logchippers and make it clear that overzealous do-gooders will be fed into them.

    2. Not really; it is why we passed the Bill of Rights and thankfully so. There is no real reason to have it since the Constitution doesn’t give any branch the authority to regulate those areas specific to the bill of rights but liberty minded lawmakers were smart enough to make them explicit no-no’s if they hadn’t well just look at the commerce clause.

    3. “Normal” is in the eye of the beholder. We’re in this predicament because normal shifted. Unless you propose getting rid of child neglect statutes altogether (libertopia forever!), defining neglect will always involve some level of line drawing. State actors went too far in one direction, and now the legislature is reining them in.

    4. Libertarian,

      Precisely.

  5. What about Tony? Will he be allowed to walk home from the park without his nanny State watching his every move?

    1. Children, not childish; he’s not covered by the law.

      1. You are not giving the Nanny-State enough credit.

  6. You know things have become pretty bad when the Mormon’s start making sense.

    1. The Mormons know quite a lot about official government oppression. Doesn’t one state still have a shoot Mormons free order in effect?

      1. The Mormons know quite a lot about official government oppression. Doesn’t one state still have a shoot Mormons free order in effect?

        Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves (or dredge up old grievances at all really). Suffice to say they understood oppression from the other side as well.

  7. The mistake behind this kind of thinking is that these laws can subsequently be changed to allow laws telling parents how to parent.

    At least saying that the Constitution does not give the government power to regulate this behavior forces a harder tactic of amending the constitution.

    1. The general Police Power, retained by every State, covers a lot of ground. Including neglect. There’s not remotely a Constitutional issue here.

      1. Crimes against persons are one thing and there has to be harm. Furthermore, parental authority was around a lot longer than the constitution, which is why there is a 9th Amendment to the US Constitution.

        Any government claim of harm to ward of a parent needs to be far more severe that what most crimes against person are. For example, a parent spanking their child should not be illegal but an adult spanking another adult against their will is illegal.

  8. Like laws ‘allowing’ self defense, this is bullshit.
    What needs to be outlawed is anonymous complaints.

  9. “Happily, cops bearing down on decent parents has not been a big issue in Utah.”

    How do we know this? What if there were incidents which the parents chose not to publicize, lest they become known as subjects of a child neglect investigation?

    1. It’s a conspiracy, just not as bad as Watergate

  10. “We want to be careful this … doesn’t comprise our ability as prosecutors to hold abusive parents accountable.”

    It’s not overreaching accusations of abuse that are the problem, but that granting kids any opportunity to exercise a little autonomy and independence is mischaracterized as “neglect.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.