Hit & Run

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

While putting parents at ease


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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.