Free-Range Kids

The 10 Worst Helicopter Parenting Hysterias of 2020

Another year of unnecessary fear.


Without further ado:

1) Pointing Fingers

A 6-year-old with Down Syndrome made a finger gun gesture at her teacher and said, "I shoot you." That was enough to trigger a call to the cops in Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania. While the principal and teacher agreed that the girl had not intended to make a threat, they said district policy mandates safety threat assessments. Apparently even when everyone knows there is no safety threat.

2) Whole Latte Mom Shaming

A study by a professor who had dedicated his life to excoriating caffeine warned pregnant women not to drink even a sip of demon coffee. That his analysis, published in BMJ, drew on just 48 of more than 1,000 studies done on caffeine compelled 20 academics and health officials to sign a letter objecting to it. "I don't think we need to worry about coffee," said one. "I think we need to worry about this relentless regulating of pregnant women's choices."

3) For Pod's Sake!

The day before the start of school, Pennsylvania suddenly informed parents that any learning pod of six or more children had to develop COVID-19 protocols in sync with the CDC's, document an evacuation plan, background-check all adults, and comply with local zoning ordinances. "My daughter can have five friends over for a sleepover without my being fingerprinted and federally background-checked," said Theresa O'Brien, mom of an eighth grader. "I also don't have to provide her friends' parents with an evacuation plan."

4) Get On the Bus

A South Carolina mom asked the local public elementary school to let her kids—ages 9, 10, and 11—walk the mile home on their own. The school refused. If an approved adult does not pick the students up, it declared, they must ride the bus—which not only takes longer than the walk, but is an enclosed space and we're in a pandemic. But for their "safety" the kids must climb aboard.

5) Toke or Treat:

"Beware of marijuana edibles in your kids' Halloween stash," warned Yahoo News in October. The ostensibly helpful piece went so far as to note that, once kids are high as kites, "In severe cases, children can become unconscious and need ventilator support." Yikes! But the fact that there is zero incentive for a person to give away their high-priced edibles? That did not make it into the story.

6) Save the (Imaginary) Children

Instead of going after actual sexual predators, adult police officers have started posing as adult women on adult dating sites where they flirt with adults and only later "confide" that they are actually underage. But the photos they send of "themselves" are of adult women in their 20s. When the mark arranges a date, the adult woman from the photos opens the door. Whereupon cops arrest the guy as a child predator…. even though he hadn't gone looking for children, and no actual children have been saved in the course of this arrest.

7) A Cuckoo Case

A Swiss 8-year-old who asked if he could use play money to buy something in a local shop was investigated for counterfeiting. Store manager Tanja Baumann said that even though the money was obviously fake, she had to call the cops because, "It is our store policy." For their part, the cops spent three hours at the boy's home, investigating the crime. The boy will have his name in police records until the year 2032.

8) Silly Rabbi, Trips Aren't for Kids

A Brooklyn rabbi who let his kids (11, 8, and a 2-year-old in a stroller) walk a few blocks to the store was arrested and charged with endangering the life of a child. The charges were dropped about 12 hours later, but not before the police called an ambulance to the scene. Because in the spring of 2020 in New York City, ambulances certainly had nothing better to do.

9) The Van That Got Away

Kevin Johnson, a Springfield, Ohio, man, spotted a white van he was convinced was trying to kidnap a girl. He chased the vehicle while valiantly filming the incident for social media. The van got away, but the video went viral on Facebook. Springfield's WHIO TV followed up with the police, who said there had been no substantiated reports of attempted kidnappings. The reporter nonetheless concluded: "Anyone who sees something suspicious or is a victim of a crime like this is urged to call police immediately." A crime like what?

10) Suspension of Disbelief

In September, a Louisiana school suspended a 4th grader for six days because the teacher glimpsed his BB gun in his room during a Zoom class. The boy, Ka'Mauri Harrison, was moving the "gun" so his brother wouldn't trip over it. At a school board hearing, he was asked: "Are you aware you were suspended because you brought a BB gun to school?" "I didn't bring my BB gun to school," Harrison replied. The school board has refused to remove the suspension from his permanent record.

Bonus story: Mom Fit to Be (Hog) Tied

Although this happened in 2017, the story only came to light this year: Vanessa Peoples' toddler wandered away from her at a family picnic. The Aurora, Colorado, mom found him soon after, but not before a passerby called the cops, who issued Peoples a ticket. A month later, when a caseworker arrived for a follow-up visit and Peoples, partly deaf, did not hear her knocking, back-up cops were called. Three of them entered the house unannounced, guns drawn. In the fracas that ensued, they hogtied Peoples and took her to jail. The police ended up settling with Peoples out of court for dislocating her shoulder. No word on what it meant to dislocate her sense of peace, proportion, or sanity. Or her kids', who witnessed the whole thing.