Free-Range Kids

Public School Forces Kids To Take the Bus Home. Walking Is Faster.

A mother of three children—ages 9, 10, and 11—just can't convince the principal to let them walk home.


Jessie Thompson's kids, ages 9, 10 and 11, would like to walk home together, but James H. Spann Elementary School in Summerville, South Carolina, won't let them leave without an adult.

When Thompson asked if she could sign some sort of waiver, the assistant principal told her: "Students will not be allowed to walk home by themselves." If an adult does not pick them up, the kids must take the bus. The bus ride actually takes longer than the 20 minute walk. Moreover, in the era of COVID-19, walking is arguably safer—and certainly more comfortable.

While other elementary schools in the area allow kids to walk home, Principal Shane Sanford put his foot down and the school district backed him up. In response, Thompson hired an attorney, Ashley Ameika, who wrote the district on October 14, imploring them to reverse course. The school has refused to change its policy.

When I called Sanford last week, I was forwarded to the district's public information officer, Pat Raynor, who said, "I cannot go into specifics because of family privacy." Well, what about a generic family wanting their kids to walk home, I asked.

"I will say just that in general the policies and guidelines in place for our schools regarding the safety of our children and staff depend on things such as the location of the school," Raynor replied. Sanford apparently believes the streets around his school are too dangerous for children to navigate.

To get to the school, pedestrians must cross a four-lane highway, which has a crosswalk with stoplights and Walk/Don't Walk signs. The Thompson kids do this all the time, on their own, on their way to piano and martial arts lessons.

As walkers, they are part of dwindling breed. Today, only 10 percent of U.S. kids walk to school, down from about 50 percent in 1969. But the exercise, confidence, and fresh air afforded by walking are good for kids.

In the 2015 Every Child Succeeds Act, Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah) inserted a "free-range kids" amendment stating that nothing should "prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the parents of the child have given permission."

The Thompsons would love South Carolina to pass its own bill allowing parents to give their kids some reasonable independence. And in fact, last year, just such a bill passed the South Carolina State Senate unanimously. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the legislature to close before the State House could vote on it.

The bill did not sanction neglect, or tie the authorities' hands. It simply recognized that parents generally know and love their kids best, and absent blatant disregard for safety, they should be allowed to decide what's best. A law like this works for parents who choose to give their kids some unsupervised time, but also for parents who, by dint of circumstance, have little choice. For instance, such a law would have spared single mom Debra Harrell from being thrown in jail for letting her daughter, age 9, play at a nearby park on a summer's day while she worked her shift at McDonald's.

The Thompsons have started a Go Fund Me campaign to pay an attorney seeking permission on behalf of all Summerville parents to sign independent walker waivers. But for the time being, the Thompson kids are taking the bus, or their mom comes to get them. In an act of minor defiance, Thompson picked them up last Monday but did not bring her school-issued "parent walker tag"—a card identifying her as the children's mom and designated walking chaperone. This was the second time she committed this infraction, and thus her actions drew a stern rebuke from Sanford, who accused her of undermining the "safety of students and staff."

The obvious solution would be for the school to let parents sign independent walker waivers. And the sooner South Carolina passes a Reasonable Childhood Independence Act, the better.

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  1. “parent walker tag”

    This sounds like the gig-economy replacement for nursing homes. Also creepy in an elementary school though.

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  2. Whats funny is the bus stop is probably farther from the kids house than the school.
    In Jr High the neighbor took the bus home it took 45 minutes when walking took ten.

  3. They don’t have crossing guards?

  4. How did the busing become the purview of the school districts? Schools should be responsible from the door and the rest is someone else’s problem. Just another example of mission creep and budget padding.

    1. Same way for lunch… then breakfast, after-school care, 3-4 yr old preschool, and soon to be infant/toddler daycare.

      1. Same way for lunch… then breakfast
        Thanks to the ‘rona, we get free food from the school. Anyone can show up and get a bag full of supplies (a gallon of milk, cereal, apples, …). The kids are also getting free meals at school. They say it will continue until the district goes back to regular, in-school instruction.

        1. No one, especially not the administrators and teachers, think a public school’s job is education. It’s purpose is to instill a dependence upon the state at an early age, this becoming an indispensable function of the state. Anyone can educate, but who can claim to educate and feed your children for you?

          1. The public school system’s unacknowledged assumption is that children belong to it, first, foremost. For example, 11 years olds are going to be vaccinated without parental consent or knowledge.

    2. How did school busing become the purview of the schools? Really? I suppose the Teamsters Local 157 should be in charge instead?

    3. simple….. they get more money the more kids they cram on buses.

    4. How did the busing become the purview of the school districts?

      Because school districts became the way of managing schools. If schools are managed as independent entities, then maybe buses exist for a school and maybe not. Combine 20 or so schools into a district and purchasing becomes a centralized efficiency.

      And it was the growth of suburbs post WW2 that forced consolidation into districts. New school construction required bond issuance – which then ‘required’ districts as the basis for managing school spending.

  5. Hey, it’s gonna be a ‘DARK WINTER’. These kid’s need to under the caring hands of the state.

  6. Get your kids out of public school as fast as possible. If you thought it was bad now wait until Biden’s new education secretary gets in there.

    1. Education secretary does almost nothing to influence the way schools work. That’s why the DOE should be eliminated–it does very little to actually aid Education.

  7. OMG! Look at that (stock) photo!

    No masks!
    No helmets!
    No knee pads!
    No ballistic vests!
    No serious, depressed faces showing respect if not love for authority!

    1. I’m trying to figure out what kind of place that stock photo was taken in…looks like a compound of some sort. The background’s just weird, like it’s some fairy tale place.

      1. That is the widest empty street I’ve ever seen.

        1. Looks like a school parking lot to me. Empty, of course, because you can’t actually have anyone park there since it would be dangerous for the kids if they allowed cars on to school property. Someone could get run over, you know.

  8. Pick up the kids, and the second you are off school property, let them out to walk. Make sure they have to walk right past the front of the school, hopefully within view of the administration office.

  9. Sounds like some bureaucratic ninny has a Napoleon Complex.

    1. Naw, just CYA.

  10. Walking home from school was the best part of the day.

  11. I wonder just how far they would go to prevent the kids from walking.
    If the kids are signed up for the bus tell them to follow everyone out the door to the bus and then walk right past the bus on out to the sidewalk.
    What are the admins gonna do? Lay hands on them?

    Quite glad our local schools are sensible.
    How the kid gets home is our choice. If you think your kindergartner can mange it, then they got no issues.

    A fare number in town do let their kids walk home. Of course even if riding the kids still end up having to walk at least some distance as the buses don’t do door drops in town.

    We are letting our 2nd grader walk this year – a half mile instead of a fifth of a mile. No big deal as she walks with other kids.

  12. When I was a kid (TM), I walked to and from elementary school. It was a mile, maybe two. THANK SECULAR GOD they didn’t make me ride the bus. I was an attractive child and would have been molested twice as much on the bus than on the walk home.

    1. “molested twice as much on the bus than on the walk home”

      Yeah, but at least it wouldn’t have been barefoot in the snow. That’s called progress, Fist.

    2. At least it wasn’t uphill both ways.

      1. Into the wind, General. Don’t forget into the wind.

      2. And I had to shovel the road clear from snow for the bus, and chop firewood and get the school warmed up before everyone else go there. I left so early I only had time for a bowl of cereal when I got home at night before turning around to walk back.

  13. The obvious solution is to ignore this Karl and his immoral edicts.

  14. How about a big fat “Fuck You” to the school?

    Who the fuck are they to determine how my child must go home after school ends?

    1. “How about a big fat “Fuck You” to the school?”

      Go right ahead, it’s a free country, and you have a constitutional right to free speech.

      But be ready for the government to show up the next day to take your kids away forever.

      1. “It’s a free country” has always been a lie, even right after the separation from England. Freedom was/has been by default.
        Freedom starts with each individual, with attitude. An unfree mind will always self-enslave.

  15. Glad biden won so he can start removing school choice again. Sure reason is too. Being orange is way worse.

    1. Someday you looters will grow cojones, learn to earn money, and vote libertarian. Till then be prepared to have your Milo-worshipped Saviors whacked upside the head with a 2×4 deck of LP spoiler votes. I hear Dr Trump Butthurt Salve is on special…

      1. English please.

  16. “As walkers, they are part of dwindling breed. Today, only 10 percent of U.S. kids walk to school,”

    And good riddance. I say. The libertarian trans-humanist future is getting to school in a self driving electric car, geofenced by Silicon Valley Trust and Safety Consortium, a private company that can do whatever they want.

    Go freedom!


  18. I did this before I got my car, it took 30 minutes for me to walk and 45 minutes for me to take the bus. I was later informed that this was not allowed, but I continued to get away with it.

  19. What if the kids just walk away?

    1. Karen calls the cops, the dog and the kids get shot, and Reason has another QI article. Win-win-win.

  20. When I was that age I owned firearms and took buses all over town where nobody spoke English. My parents were like Lenore (luckily).

  21. My kids’ school is too far to walk, but it is very close to a lovely wooded walking trail. I’ll park my car at the trailhead, hike about 1/2 mile, and meet them at school to walk back to the car. They love it. They beg me to pick them up that way each time it’s my turn to pick them up. They’re in a great mood when we get there, and if I just pick them up in the car, they do nothing but complain about the restrictions at school and all the things they can no longer do all evening long.
    WE ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO WALK in the entire school.

  22. How is this not a form of kidnapping? Detaining someone against their will and against the will of their legal guardians.

    1. Legal guardian? You are confusing parents with the State.

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  25. Walking is so much better. They should release an energy after seating near the table and studying . You should know everything about college packing list. This is a must!

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  27. 1 hour bus ride to school. 1 transfer from public to private school buses. The actual physical and mental abuse I was subjected to during that ride made me hate some of my fellow humans for many years. I actually left the private school to get rid of a lot of abuse goin on there. The good part – the hatred I had made me want to get revenge and show the world that I was worth a lot more than the bullies thought. Glad to be over my hate, forgive those who bullied me, and achieved far more than I, or they, thought possible. And still winning. Don’t make someone ride the bus if they do not want to.

    1. Kamala, is that you?

    2. Or make them so they can achieve more.

    3. “Don’t make…”?? No, resistance is essential for your psychological and physical health. If you resist, you won’t beg for permission, you won’t ask for permission to be free.
      At 5 I boycotted 1st grade(public) by playing hooky and my parents didn’t find out until the end of the year when I was failed. They were furious with me and I explained I told them I hated school. I have always done it my way(been a freethinker), as much as practical.

  28. I’m glad the school is so concerned for our kids’ safety. Now that that’s out of the way, please show me the “science” that they’re basing their fears upon. What are the risks? What are they (legitimately) protecting us from? How often are pedestrians struck by vehicles on that route? How often are children abducted on those roads during non-school hours? Do tell! Let us use the Science-god that the Left seems so committed to, to Guide All Things!

    1. Fact is – pedestrian fatalities are the highest they’ve been for 30 years. Which is stunning considering the drop in people walking or riding bikes. Half of those ped deaths occur in five states – CA, AZ, TX, GA, FL – which like rest of Sunbelt are the areas which have become completely centered around the car.

      The conclusions about what how to even understand the problem are completely fucked up.

      1. Purely anecdotal, but pedestrians seem more entitled and aggressive as to how they enter traffic. They assume because they stepped into the street, regardless of how close or fast traffic is moving, they have the right away and cars will just magically stop.

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  30. oh, my kids would walk. from the school, permanently.

  31. Shit at that age we were taking the city bus home – the NYC Transit Authority sold special bus passes for school kids for $1 a month. We walked off school property, waited at the bus stop like any other citizen, got on a city bus, rode a few miles and got off at our stop, and walked home.

    No wonder we have a bunch of wet-nursed fucktards coming out of schools these days. Can’t think their way out of a damn paper bag.

  32. The next article in the local newspaper will be about all the overweight kids.

    1. And some program where taxpayers need to foot the bill to rectify the problem.

    2. Good Christ. Now overweight kids are the responsibility of schools ! Feed them twice a day, pick bags of food to take home? State sponsored obesity just closer to home then labeling food with serving sizes of minute portions. Can of 12oz Soda- serving size 8 oz

  33. Land of the “free.”

  34. I have an idea, the school has no jurisdiction about what happens outside of the start and end times of the school day. And they cannot force anyone to arrive before or stay after those times.

    1. Except for extreme cold or hard rain I walked or rode my bike to school every day starting when I was 5. My mom walked with me to school the first couple days to show me the route.

  35. Another day, another fucking bureaucrat who doesn’t know his place allowed to run a school.

    Shane Sanford is an asshole, and I hope these kids’ parents kick the shit out of him and the school board in court.


  36. The Thomson’s presupposition is govt. authorities rule, e.g., to defer to bureaucratic authority, in all cases, however unreasonable.
    The reporter, Skenazy, likewise, as in, “The obvious solution would be for the school to let parents…”
    Living by permission is not living freely, not living a humane life.
    The solution, even if generally unrecognized in an unfree world, is to secede from govt. schools (govt. indoctrination), to home school. Anything less is child abuse, however loving and ignorant. Good intentions are not always enough. Informed intention exercised with courage and cleverness is required to avoid mass authoritarianism.
    I speak as a 78 year old public school survivor who had been damaged but overcame the crippling 18 year experience.

  37. My brothers and I have joked about how our mom would have been hauled before children’s services for how we were raised (50s-60s). As a kindergartener and first grader, I walked about eight blocks to school across two busy US highways. For fun, we’d head down to the RR tracks (only 3 blocks away) and climb on the boxcars and put pennies on the tracks. When I got a bike, I’d ride all over town without incident (other than the usual scrapes and bruises). Granted, this was a small (10K pop) midwestern county seat, but I imagine that these free range activities would get a call from some authority figure, government or not. I’m sorry my grandkids won’t have that freedom.

  38. No, the OBVIOUS solution would be to recognise the chidren are the bunsiess of THE PARENT(S) and NOT the chattel of the school.

    Friend of mine lives in rural southwest Washington, has one son who was twelve at the time. They live on acreage, and over the years two other of the four sisters, all married and with chidren, ended up buying large undeveloped lots next to each other and adjacent to the grandparents’ home. FOur households, lots of cousins. They’d do all sorts of things, on their own, when not at achool. This boy’s Mom worked… at the same school the son attended, but her schedule made it more practical for him to ride the bus. Home is about eight miles along a busy state highway. One day the Mom was working off campus onsomething, and Dad had gotten an urgent call to travel away and sort out a customer’s problem. Realised he’d not make it home in time to meet the schoolbus at the bottom of their steep windey mile plus long paved road from the State Highway up to the properties. The bus drivers are too incompetent to make the log steep windy trip up. SO the policy was for parents to meet the bus at the botom of the hill. Bus arrives, no Dad’s car. Son does not know why. bus driver, a prickly sort of creature, called Dad on his mobile phone. Dad said I’m fifty miles away in the middle of finishing up this job. He’ll have to walk up the hill y himeslf. He’s done it, or with his cousins, dozens of times. Driver dais NO WAY, we will wait for you to get here. CDad said that’s crazy, I cna’t drop everything here and drive an hour to get there, all the other students will be delayed…. Back and forth. LET HIM WALK UP THE STINKING HILL like he does on his own in non-school times. Oh no.. finaly Dad, frustrated and needing to finish up the job so HE can get home at a decent time, got firm. Driver, you have three options. One is to let him get out of the bus right there and walk up the hill to home. Two is you can keep him on the bus till you reach the end of your route, and take him back t the school. I will be there in about two hours and collect him. Three, HYOU can take him home yourself, feed him his after school snack, and I’l come to YOUR house and collect him. He then hung up. SHE, realizing she was hopelessly out-negotiated, opened the door, watched him get out and start skipping and running up the steep road. After that, no one ever met him at the bottom of the road, unless it was POURING monsoon rain and blowing it sideways with sleet or hail in the mix.
    The Dad still tells this story as an excellent example of stupid gummit dweebs overreaching their authority.

    When I was in grade school in Oakland, California, early 1960’s, I had to walk three miles on my own to the private school we attended. No one even raised an eyebrow at that. High school years I had rreedom to hop on my bicycle and ride to wherever I wanted to go… let flks now I was going out, and alwasy back in time for supper. Mom got reports from our friends that t I’d been spotted here or there solmethings twenty five miles from home. Sometimes she’d ask me if I remembered where I want on some certain day, about mid afternooon. Oh, yah, I was here…. and going there. It always fit prerfectly with the reported “sighting”, confirming I was doing what I said I’d do. I had a level of freedom then that would put parents in jail today. No one got hurt, or arrested. I ALWAYS made it home in time for supper. NO cell ohnes with tracking so she had nothing but muy word as to where I was. Never an issue. I went nowhere and did nothing I was unafraid to talk about.

    What is WRONG with this barmy world we now occupy?

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