My walk to elementary school is composed of snapshot memories. The magnolia trees with limbs made for climbing. The very steep hill. Baseball bats cracking as I passed the little league field. Blackberries. Towering redwood trees encompassing “Dark” Park. Dawdling and giggling with my sister on our way home.
Partly out of necessity, and partly because it was just done that way, my sister and I walked or biked to school starting when I was in 2nd grade. My mom dutifully showed us the best route where we could avoid busy streets, but with enough houses that we could find help if something went wrong. She reminded my sister and I not to talk to strangers, especially those promising a puppy. Then she let go.
But walking to school isn’t what it used to be. Or without it’s controversy. Fear of kidnapping, schools working to ensure the safety of kids, and busy schedules for both parents and kids have made driving to school or the bus stop, even just a few blocks, the norm. Some parents are trying to push back against these societal pressures. Here’s an except from a New York Times article:
And Mrs. Pierce faces another obstacle to becoming a free-range mother: public opinion.
Last spring, her son, 10, announced he wanted to walk to soccer practice rather than be driven, a distance of about a mile. Several people who saw the boy walking alone called 911. A police officer stopped him, drove him the rest of the way and then reprimanded Mrs. Pierce. According to local news reports, the officer told Mrs. Pierce that if anything untoward had happened to the boy, she could have been charged with child endangerment. Many felt the officer acted appropriately and that Mrs. Pierce had put her child at risk.
Memories of the 1.5-mile trek flooded back while I was reading “”Why Can’t She Walk to School?” Have times changed that much since we were kids? Do you perceive your children as being threatened? If you lived elsewhere (city vs. suburb vs. rural) would you approach transportation to school differently? As a parent involved in the outdoor community that is used to accepting a level of risk, are you more comfortable with your child walking/riding to school? Please, leave a comment.
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