New US law says kids can walk to school by themselves

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this is something I will never understand: why is it so common in the US to see autonomous children as neglected outliers?

it’s sad that a law is needed to explicitly permit parents to let the kids outside.


Wait, so local and state law would trump Federal law? How does that work?

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I suspect that it is partially down to wildly skewed risk perception(despite what the crime stats say, the number of gruesome crimes you see on The Fear Channel hasn’t gone down, so clearly the world is going to hell); and partially down to the fact that, there are nontrivial swaths of the US where if you aren’t driving or being driven, something pretty odd is going on.

We don’t lack urban cores and patches of walkable development; but in a fair few suburban areas you basically aren’t a real person until you can drive; because there isn’t anything you can do or anywhere you can go without a fairly arduous slog, often across terrain with limited sidewalks(because who needs sidewalks when pedestrians are a freak occurrence?)


So horribly true in most parts of North America.


I don’t think anyone is saying high schoolers can’t walk themselves to school.

I think it is more the grade school age children that people think can’t take themselves to school.

Looking back at when I started middle school and could walk to and from school I feel pretty bad that I spent a lot of time cutting through peoples’ back yards.

On the other hand there were no sidewalks and the one thing I learned in geometry class is the shortest distance between two points is over the creek and through the woods.


Walking to school was a big part of growing up for me. The first time I was allowed to do it by myself was huge for my ego, and after that it was a fun part of my day with my school friends.

And this was in an urban environment in the 70’s. Suburban kids not walking to school sort of challenges the rationale behind living in the suburbs.


The municipality where I live is fairly good about this. My kids’ school has a form for keeping track of how students leave school each day. This includes possible bussing, which people are allowed to take them from school, and starting in sixth grade whether or not the children are allowed to walk home unaccompanied. But I think I see younger children walk to school without adults as well.

This was the philosophy my ex-spouse adhered to. And the crazy thing is that our school and food store were less than a half-mile from our old house. The kids’ doctor and dentist are only about a mile away. Yet, my ex insisted that we both needed to drive “just because that’s what people do” - despite their complaints of how lazy people are, and how difficult it is to stay fit. I have had some local employers within walking distance turn me down due to not driving, despite there being no need to either drive there or on the job.

But “until” implies that it happens eventually, which isn’t the case with me. I used to not use a car for ecological and political reasons, but now I have medical reasons why I can’t drive one. Yet I still get grief from my family about it. Also, my ex had somehow rationalized that driving her truck was supposedly much safer than public transportation, such as our local busses and trains. Again, there didn’t seem to be any real risk assessment going on.


good point. okay, let me rephrase this:

“it’s sad that a law is needed to explicitly permit parents to let the kids outside when it’s secure to walk”

the video in this article shows the kids in a park or on sidewalks - not the complete mile-long walk, but I think it’s fine to assume that the snippets are exemplary for the route. the police stopped the kids (imo: great!), but instead of asking if they are fine an investigation for child neglect was started.


Because the law doesn’t actually explicitly say that kids are allowed to walk to school by themselves. The law really has nothing to do with that at all, instead it’s a huge law that’s basiczlly the successor to No Child Left Behind.

All it says in this regard, buried on page 858, is that nothing in the new law forbids walking by foot:

‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subsection (b), noth-
ing in this Act shall authorize the Secretary to, or shall
be construed to—
‘‘(1) prohibit a child from traveling to and from
school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the par-
ents of the child have given permission; or
‘‘(2) expose parents to civil or criminal charges
for allowing their child to responsibly and safely
travel to and from school by a means the parents be-
lieve is age appropriate.

So it’s nice for the Free-Range Parents movement to have this tiny bit of verbiage tossed their way, and it’s a step towards recognizing them, but nothing in this law explicitly protects kids’ right to walk to school. If some state law or municipal ordinance says that kids can’t walk to school, this law doesn’t affect that as all.

See above: this law isn’t explicitly permitting anything.


is it possible to incorporate children as companies? it is my understanding that businesses in the US are allowed to do everything! : )


High schoolers and middle schoolers in NJ apparently have lost their ability to walk 1/4 mile (5 minutes) or less to a bus stop and wait for a bus. My daughter is 14 – and is the only kid who doesn’t get driven to the bus stop and waits in the car – ever y single day. We have a loose agreement (in my mind not hers) that if it’s below a certain temp or raining I’ll drive her - I did today (19 degrees) and dropped her off despite her desperate and angry pleas for me let her stay in the car till the bus arrived.

I just cannot believe how many people drive their kids SHORT DISTANCES and wait for them there. I guess this prepares them well for the future? I told her – I hope you go to college somewhere warm if you can’t take walking 5 minutes if it’s below freezing. She said “I’ll have a car”. Not sure where she got that idea - but even if she did have one, college students who drive to class are probably looking at a 1/4 mile walk from the car to class!


back in the 50s and 60s we walked to elementary, middle (jr. high school back then), and high school. i can tell you it was brutal. one of those schools was almost four blocks away and the 70 degree southern california sun beat down on us relentlessly.


I used to walk a mile or two to middle school every day. The quickest route was to follow the railroad tracks. Imagine my delight when I discovered that I could read a book while walking to school by simply using my peripheral view of the railroad tracks as a guide! Occasionally, I even looked up from my book to see if a train was approaching.


Yeah, when I was growing up the railroad tracks were often the shortest route to where I wanted to go, since they were pretty much straight and flat. Not really on the route to and from school, though.
The interesting thing is when I grew up the elementary schools were located in such a way that most of the kids walked to school. It was only in Junior and High school where the catchment area was big enough that a majority of the kids rode.

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I’m currently attending UW-Parkside. We have a bit of a parking shortage here … at least in the lots closest to the main buildings. I found long ago that if I park in the lot closest to the athletic build and walk the extra 200 meters or so, I have lots of parking from which to chose, even on the most crowded day.

“…it was brutal. one of those schools was almost four blocks away…”

You forgot to add that the walk was level – both ways!


Land of the free, ladies and gentlemen.