New Utah Law: A step towards parental autonomy

In recent months, Utah’s new free-range parenting law has received a lot of attention. Lenore Skenazy described the basic idea behind the “free-range parenting” in a quote for The Washington Post:

“When I started the blog and put my little mission statement up there, it was that I believed in car seats [and more], but that we don’t need a security detail every moment when [our children] leave the house. I’ve come to realize that we’re afraid for our children every single second of every single day. There are twin fears stalking American parents: that their children will be kidnapped and murdered, or that they won’t get into Harvard.”

Or in other words, this new law defines what neglect means so parents can feel confident giving their children more independence in a helicopter-parenting culture. Why? Because children are safer than they’ve been in years, and fear-inducing media coverage has parents believing letting their children play outside without supervision will get their children kidnapped OR will have cops knocking on their door, threatening jail time for neglect.

So, how is the concept of free-range parenting connected to our mission to give families more educational options? To see neighborhoods thrive? To give parents more autonomy in their children’s’ day-to-day lives?

This work resonates deeply with the idea that parents should have autonomy in their parenting decisions. As Skenazy said in a response to an Atlantic article, “If helicopter parenting becomes the only legal way to parent, we all lose.” Similar to the idea that the government should trust good parents to make decisions for their kids, we believe this concept applies to allowing parents to have a say in where their children attend school. Skenazy described two common fears stalking American parents, “that their children will be kidnapped and murdered, or that they won’t get into Harvard.” Utah’s new law is designed to help address and tame the first fear. It’s about giving parents choices in the way their children play. But the second fear also needs to be addressed, giving parents choice in the way their children learn.

We know from the migration patterns of families with school-age children that this type of autonomy is something parents long for. The families living in bad school districts who can afford to move or send children to private school do so, but other families are not so lucky. If families live in a school district with bad schools and cannot afford anything else, then they are required by law to send their children to those schools whether they would choose it or not.

Why do families move? Obviously, parents, driven by the second fear and their desire to raise successful people are looking for the best education they can give their children. But when parents move away from certain neighborhoods to “give their children the best they can,” those parents leave urban sprawl in their wake. And the families left behind who can’t afford anything different are also left with worse schools, worse crime rates, and fewer job opportunities.

But what if that didn’t happen? What if families in lower-income areas received equal education opportunity? Or what if families didn’t move out of fear and had a reason to stay in neighborhoods? What if our children were not only playing outside again, but what if they also had even safer, more diverse neighborhoods to play in? What if parents could determine both where their children attend school AND how they arrived there?

Utah’s laws allow parents to have more autonomy in how they choose to let their children play, and we have ideas for how to change the laws to give parents more autonomy to choose how their children learn. How could we make this idea a reality? Learn more about that here!

Learn more Let Grow and Free Range Kids by following these links!