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Freedom-Loving Parents, Rejoice: Utah Approves Free-Range Kids Bill

And your state could be next.

Free kidsRawpixelimages / DreamstimeIt was almost 10 years ago to the day that I wrote the column, "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone." It caused such a media firestorm that I started a blog in response: Free-Range Kids. That blog eventually became a book, and then a movement. Today, Let Grow, my non-profit, continues the fight against over-protective parenting.

Utah has now become the first state to pass—unanimously—the Free-Range Kids bill, which specifically allows parents to let their kids run errands, play outside, and even wait briefly in the car without fear of arrest. As the Deseret News explained:

The bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday that he'd signed, specifies that it isn't neglectful to let kids do things alone like travel to school, explore a playground or stay in the car. The law takes effect May 8.

Utah's law is the first in the country, said Lenore Skenazy, who coined the term free-range parent. A records search by the National Conference of State Legislatures didn't turn up any similar legislation in other states. ...

Skenazy, who wrote the book "Free Range Kids" after writing about letting her 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone, has said the law is a good way to reassure parents who might be nervous about their parenting decisions.

Read the rest of the story here, and then pass it along to your legislators: your state could be next. Here is a template of the Let Grow Proclamation you can take to any elected representative, even a local city councilperson.

Photo Credit: Rawpixelimages / Dreamstime

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  • timbo||

    "specifically allows parents to let their kids run errands, play outside, and even wait briefly in the car without fear of arrest."

    Land of the free? Holy f*ck!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Free(ish)?

  • Rich||

    specifically allows parents to let their kids run errands, play outside, and even wait briefly in the car

    These activities are *actually listed* in the law? Does it call out stuff that *is* cause for arrest?

  • timbo||

    "Utah allows its citizens to breath oxygen and take shits"

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    "You don't take a shit, you leave a shit!"

    ~George Carlin

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Or you can give a shit.

  • Nuwanda||

    And it's the gift that keeps on giving.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Or you can give a shit.

  • Longtobefree||

    Or I can not give a shit

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    If you go long enough without giving a shit it can be fatal. :)

  • StackOfCoins||

    Unfortunately the hysteria has reached the point where it's actually necessary to legislate this. I suppose it's a win for freedom, but it's also a commentary on far down the rabbit hole we've gone.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    This bill is an amendment to Utah's general child neglect/abuse law. The relevant provisions is a list of exclusions that are explicitly defined as being not neglect/abuse. Anything that was cause for arrest for child abuse/neglect before that is not explicitly in the list of exclusions is still cause for arrest.

    You can see the full text of the bill here: Utah SB0065

  • DenverJ||

    What Lenore doesn't tell you is that the late also requires implanting a tracking chip in all children under 18.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    No, it doesn't.

  • gormadoc||

    Fake news!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I don't know about this. You should see some of the things my free-range chickens do.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You trying to get SIV all worked up, Eugene?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He'll have to post soon, just he can click his User Name link, and just start going hog wild.

  • ||

    almost 10 years ago to the day that I wrote the column

    Soooo...doesn't that mean we need a follow-up about how radically mature and independent he is now? Or is he still living in the basement?

  • DenverJ||

    The dingos got him on his tenth birthday.

  • Eidde||

    "The law takes effect May 8."

    What are Utah kids supposed to do in the meantime? Play video games at home? Accompany their parents to monster truck rallies?

  • Mr. Dyslexic||

    Mine is going to do his fucking homework!

  • BYODB||


    Utah has now become the first state to pass—unanimously—the Free-Range Kids bill, which specifically allows parents to let their kids run errands, play outside, and even wait briefly in the car without fear of arrest.


    Yes indeed, this is a huge loss for the very notion of negative rights. Hooray, positive rights! After all, the only reason we can do anything is because the state lets us.


    Not that this isn't a good thing on utilitarian grounds, I suppose, but it reveals a much nastier monster just by virtue of it's existence that's frankly far worse for the country long term.


    Reason: Where the special pleading lines up a little closer to sanity, but never quite reaches the goal.

  • sarcasmic||

    It would be better if they repealed the legislation that gives the police the power to arrest people for letting their kids out of their sight.

    Instead they make everything illegal, and then grant narrow exceptions.

  • BYODB||

    Of course, because everything that isn't mandatory is prohibited and what isn't prohibited is mandatory.

    This is only a 'win' in a very narrow and ultimately destructive sense, so touting it as a libertarian victory of some sort reveals a grave misunderstanding of libertarianism in my view.

    The principle here isn't 'freedom' it's 'permission' which, on reflection, I suppose some people have issues understanding the difference.

  • Brandybuck||

    Just need a law that says "anything not explicitly forbidden is permitted".

    And that's actually the US regulatory philosophy. Despite all our hatred of it, one only gets in trouble for not following regulations by not actually following the regulations.

    This is in contrast to other nations which have "anything not explicitly permitted is forbidden" regulatory schemes. Like most of Europe.

  • livelikearefugee||

    Or, South America where even that which is forbidden is permitted.

    Not to be confused with Russia where even that which is permitted is forbidden.

  • Alcibiades||

    Yes indeed, this is a huge loss for the very notion of negative rights. Hooray, positive rights! After all, the only reason we can do anything is because the state lets us.

    The thing about positive rights is that what can be awarded can next be withdrawn.

    Not that this isn't a good thing on utilitarian grounds, I suppose, but it reveals a much nastier monster just by virtue of it's existence that's frankly far worse for the country long term.

    Exactly...

  • Joe_JP||

    Back in the day, I read this author's weekly columns in my paper. Sorry to see her go.

    I do support free range -- factory farming of children seems cruel to me.

    I kid. Ha! Seriously, I wish these articles would consistently link to what is being discussed.

    "law states the child must be mature enough to handle those things but leaves the age purposely open-ended so police and prosecutors can work on a case-by-case basis, Fillmore has said"

    So, the specific wording of the bill/law [S.B. 65 Child Neglect Amendments] is important. And, police & prosecutors -- and the author's nine year old going on a NYC subway [as compared to going to the store] might be a close case to some -- could decide a child isn't mature enough.

    Looking at the text, I'm not really sure how much changed.

  • Eidde||

    OK, here's the relevant language in the new statute:

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

  • Eidde||

    *(2) A person who is responsible for a child is guilty of a class C misdemeanor if:
    (a) the person intentionally, recklessly, knowingly, or with criminal negligence leaves the child in
    an enclosed compartment of a motor vehicle;
    (b) the motor vehicle is on:
    (i) public property; or
    (ii) private property that is open to the general public;
    (c) the child is not supervised by a person who is at least nine years old; and
    (d) the conditions present a risk to the child of:
    (i) hyperthermia;
    (ii) hypothermia; or
    (iii) dehydration.

  • IMissLiberty||

    Much better to have a court decision saying that the government has no jurisdiction.
    You know how it will go: they'll set age limits (irrespective of maturity levels or degree of risk), because that's easier to administer. Sigh.
    It's much better to stay with the (granted) selective enforcement of negligence laws, than to try and create a one-size-fits-all standard.
    It's bad enough that my entire happy childhood is probably now illegal... I have given serious thought to adopting foster kids (in abstract--I don't know any), and the thought that government could arm-twist me to the detriment of their development into free and mature adults, just kills the thought (which it might not if I actually knew one, but still...).
    Having a higher legislative body decide in one's favor (as here) is always a temptation and a joy, but the future amendments are not going to be so happy. Freedom will be eroded.
    This is the same political process that protected immature children from the death penalty and life in prison in recognition that children are not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions, and did not have the ability to control their impulses, etc., then proceded to prosecute the least mature and least developed, as adults.

  • IMissLiberty||

    The above was a software malfunction due to very slow internet connection. It wasn't posted in this location, and yet, here it is.

  • IMissLiberty||

    See above in clause (c), where that "and" is, at the end? That word, "and" is critical.
    Hyperthermia, hypothermia, and dehydration are all potentially deadly, and can occur in a range of temperatures, times, and conditions. If the conditions are present, the children are in danger. If those conditions are not present (including length of time), then they are not in danger and none of the previous clauses apply.
    But change it to "or" and you simply have a long list of violations.
    When the City Attorney and City Council of Culver City California proposed to change its perfectly good 1950's public nuisance/property maintenance ordinances, adding pages of conditions, they changed the word "and" to "or," and made everyone in town violators, including the City, itself.
    They proposed to effectively ban mulch and compost--regardless of whether it drew flies. Vegetation that attracts "vermin" or causes injury, became a ban of rose bushes and fruit trees. "Personal property within view of the public right of way" (vehicles, garden hoses, window covernings, welcome mats, clothing) was not permitted.
    The old ordinance coupled those things to "AND dropped property values or endangered the public."
    The price of freedom is eternal vigilence, grammar, reading comprehension, and spelling. By reading it to them at weekly public comment for a few weeks, I succeeded in getting the changes tabled for seveal years so the City Attorney could redraft it.

  • Joe_JP||

    I'm unsure how much i-iii affects the concerns of the author. Plus, they have certain curious qualifiers like "legitimately practicing" (what does that mean?). I guess a primary issue there would be vaccines.

    iv seems particularly tied to the open-ended "sufficient age and maturity" and that would seem to be the likely standard used in cases the author finds too paternalistic. If a police officer determined that allowing a nine year old to travel on a NYC subway did not meet "iv," it would not seem unreasonable to me in the least.

    The unanimous passage -- including the few liberals Utah has in their legislature -- suggests to me this provision lacks THAT much bite in practice.

  • ||

    "If a police officer determined that allowing a nine year old to travel on a NYC subway did not meet "iv," it would not seem unreasonable to me in the least."

    Letting a police officer make a determination regarding the capabilities of a 9 year old seems completely unreasonable to me. in another thread you stated that it was OK for Tennessee to require an individual to obtain high school diploma in order to braid hair "fer safety reesins", but now you concede the power to separate a child from their parents to a person untrained in child psychology, and instead trained to consider everything in their immediate vicinity as a threat. Apparently, you will accept any argument based on authority.

    Hopefully, the result of this law in Utah will be that parents will be able to tell a cop, "Fuck off and come back when you have a warrant signed by a judge!"

    Oh, and fuck off, slaver!

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "f a police officer determined that allowing a nine year old to travel on a NYC subway did not meet "iv,""

    If a police officer determined that allowing a 16 year old to travel on a NYC subway was child neglect, a Utah statute saying that it was not would be of no relevance.

  • DenverJ||

    The best thing about free range children is the natural colors and stronger shells of the eggs that they lay.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Utah has now become the first state to pass—unanimously—the Free-Range Kids bill, which specifically allows parents to let their kids run errands, play outside, and even wait briefly in the car without fear of arrest. "

    Utah had to pass a law to legalize being a kid.

    "Land of the Free"

  • Eidde||

    Just to be clear, from my link above: It's only legal for a kid to engage in "independent activities" if the kid "is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm."

    So based on a cop or official's judgment based on "maturity" and "unreasonable risk of harm," you can still be arrested for letting your kid walk to school, etc.

  • skunkman||

    So basically we need more states like Utah and less like California, New York and Massachusetts where fascism prevails.

  • Longtobefree||

    And the madness continues.
    The legislature has to pass laws saying the constitution says what it says?
    The legislature has to pass a law to "allow" (?!) a parent to be a parent?
    After 200 years of reflection, I am not all that impressed about taxation WITH representation.
    What say we try again?

  • gaoxiaen||

    It must really suck to grow up in the city. All this bullshit. We just used to run around in the forest where adults would never be able to find us and cooked over a campfire. Then camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, keggers, etc... when we were teenagers.

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