Free-Range Kids

Cops Called on 8-Year-Old Child for Being Outside

"Can a child not ride her bike on the street in this neighborhood anymore?"


Kay Eskridge is a Kentucky mom, former child protective services worker, and fan of the Free-Range Kids movement. Over the years, she's written to me several times about our shared passion for fostering kids' independence. This includes a note she sent in 2021 saying that a 7-year-old riding her bike in their quiet Louisville neighborhood had been stopped by cops who wanted to know where her mother was.

But earlier this summer, it happened to Eskridge's own kid.

"The police were called because my 8-year-old was riding her bike on our street," says Eskridge.

Her note arrived in my inbox recently. Subsequently, we connected over a Zoom call. She set the scene: Her daughter, Julia, had just finished second grade. Thanks to a weird schedule, Julia arrives home two hours before her friends. That leaves her bored and eager for fun by late afternoon. On May 18, when at last a friend had made it home, Julia hopped on her bike to ride eight houses over to his place.

"She was three houses away," says Eskridge, "and the police stopped her."

The policeman was actually someone the family knew. (Eskridge's husband is in local politics.) He told the girl that "this isn't a good time to be outside," according to Eskridge. Julia assured the officer that she was used to traffic and knew how to ride her bike, and continued on her way.

The officer left her alone but decided to pay a visit to the Eskridge house.

Her husband answered the door, but when Eskridge heard what was going on, she took matters into her own hands.

"I was not about to let him handle this," she says. "So I come bursting through and say, 'Can a child not ride her bike on the street in this neighborhood anymore? Is that what we're saying?'"

The policeman assured her no, it wasn't that. Rather, a woman had called the police because she was "upset that a child was outside."

Eskridge informed the cop that it was not illegal for children to be outside. He agreed but implied that Eskridge needed to take that up with the woman.

She soon got her chance. When Julia returned home, she told her mom that a woman had come running over to her. Eskridge realized that must have been the neighbor who called the cops: an older lady who lived down the block. Eskridge went to talk to her and explained that kids need some independence.

"I explained how she's not on screens when she comes home," says Eskridge. The woman, a former teacher, eventually agreed that this parenting decision was sound, and the matter was finished.

Now Eskridge would like the rest of the world's Good Samaritans to take a minute and think before reflexively calling the cops whenever there is a child outdoors.