- Judge lifts gag order against Reason magazine in commenter subpoena case, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for Manhattan is shown to have behaved even more outrageously than had been thought [Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, Ken White/Popehat (magistrate’s approval of gag order looks an awful lot like rubber stamp; AUSA directly contacted represented party), Paul Alan Levy (when bloggers push back, gag orders tend to get lifted), Matt Welch again with coverage roundup]
- Maryland authorities clear “free range” Meitiv family of all remaining charges in kids-walking-alone neglect case [Donna St. George, Washington Post]
- Disgraced politico Monica Conyers sues McDonald’s over cut finger [Detroit News]
- American Law Institute considers redefining tort of “battery” to protect the “unusually sensitive”, Prof. Ronald Rotunda on problems with that [W$J]
- “Did you ever falsely represent yourself as an attorney?” asks the lawyer to her client in front of reporter [Eric Turkewitz]
- Feds endorse alcohol-sniff interlock as new-car option, critics say eventual goal is to force it into all cars, assuming rise of self-driving cars doesn’t moot the issue first [Jon Schmitz/Tribune News Service]
- Echoes of CPSIA: regulatory danger is back for smaller soap and cosmetic makers as big companies, safety groups combine to push Personal Care Products Safety Act [Handmade Cosmetic Alliance, Elizabeth Scalia, Ted Balaker, Reason TV and followup (Sen. Dianne Feinstein objects to “nanny of month” designation, points to threshold exemptions for smaller businesses), earlier on predecessor bills described as “CPSIA for cosmetics”, National Law Review (panic over recent NYT nail salon expose might contribute to momentum)]
- L.A.: “school police estimated they would need 80 new officers to protect students walking home from school with iPads.” [Annie Gilbertson/KPCC]
- “Md. officials: Letting ‘free range’ kids walk or play alone is not neglect” [Donna St. George/Washington Post, earlier]
- Foes of education vouchers turn to argument that private schools not obliged to accommodate disabled kids, but it’s complicated [Rick Esenberg]
- U.K.: “Children banned from doing handstands and cartwheels at Plymouth primary school” [Plymouth Herald]
- Florida officials remove kids from home after 11 year old found playing alone in yard [Lenore Skenazy posts one, two, three, plus a Chicago case (“Family Defense Center”) and overview]
- In left-meets-right campaign to beat up on “deadbeat dads,” right seems more gung-ho at the moment [Connor Wolf/Daily Caller, my earlier Cato]
- North Carolina high schoolers’ alarm-clocks-go-off-in-lockers prank annoyed school administrators. Felony-level annoyance? [Uproxx]
- Story of free-range Meitiv kids goes national, cont’d: “Bystanders are forced [sic] to step in and enforce discipline because the parents aren’t around.” [Slate via @bibliographing] Yes, the cited “National Association to Protect Children” is a real group, I looked it up [Washington Jewish Week] “Epidemic of moms getting arrested for leaving children in car 5 mins to run into store.” [Kim Brooks, Salon via @Lorettamalakie]
- What got buried in a WaPo column arguing that standardized tests for schoolkids are “a civil right.” [Ann Althouse] Testing issue allows teachers’ unions to make friends on the conservative side [NYT via same]
- Legal costs exceed $100 per student at some Chicago-area public schools; $23 billed for one lawyer’s phone message [Tribune via ABA Journal]
- Maintenance of Effort laws, meant to insulate school budgets against local voter control, might backfire [Free State Notes post by me, channeling my letter to the editor]
- A dissent on liberalizing school discipline policies [Paul Sperry, New York Post]
- Colorado school shootings: why is GOP leading push for emotion-driven, public-fisc-endangering lawsuits? [John Frank, Denver Post]
- Expensive new playground mandates [Paul Best and Lenore Skenazy, more from Skenazy, Tim Gill via Common Good]
Per Ilya Somin, there might be: “In two landmark cases in the 1920s, Meyer v. Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects parents’ and guardians ‘to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.'” Meyer struck down a ban on instruction of students in foreign languages before eighth grade, while Pierce struck down a ban on private and religious school education. While authorities presumably have wider leeway to regulate pedestrian activity on public streets than instruction that may take place within private homes, churches, or schools, a degree of regulation that forcibly substitutes the state’s judgment for parents’ on debatable issues of child-rearing might cross a line.
The idea of a Constitutional right of parental autonomy appears to be alive and well on both conservative and liberal sides of the Court, but some may be surprised at which current Justice has written most critically of the idea: Antonin Scalia, because of his dislike for “substantive due process” theory and in general its protection of individual rights not enumerated in the Constitution. In a 2011 article I haven’t had a chance to read, David Wagner traced the Scalia-Thomas conflict and apparently also looked at whether Scalia continues to count as a holdout given what might be a softening of his views on the issue.
I’ve now expanded Monday’s post into a longer Cato post. Among the new material, it links Petula Dvorak’s excellent WaPo column (“Our rapid march toward police-state parenting has got to end”) in which, to show how far we have moved, she quotes a checklist from a 1979 book on knowing whether your six-year-old is ready for first grade: “Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?”
Megan McArdle notes “the kind of range of movement that those of us over 30 recall as a normal part of childhood” and names some possibilities of what social forces might have brought about such an extreme shift in attitudes, from cable news (magnifying the very-rare-in-fact peril of stranger abductions) to the lack of daytime “eyes on the street” to the ubiquity of mobile phones and report-possible-abuse lines (“It would be surprising if we lowered the price of being an officious busybody and didn’t get a lot more of it.”)
Aren’t prisoners allowed one phone call, or is that just on TV? Because the Meitiv kids were not allowed to contact their parents in the six hours they were held by the authorities.
This is probably as good a place as any to share my personal experience: by around age 9 or 10 in the early 1960s I had the run of downtown Detroit and wandered around by myself to all sorts of attractions there, returning to my mother’s place of work at the end of the business day. That was considered a little precocious and my family was proud of me on that account. Once with some extra money in my pocket I even went into a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant by myself and ordered, ate, and paid for a meal with tip, a story told for years afterward.
P.S.: “This is kind of insane — in Illinois it’s illegal to leave a 13-year-old home alone” [Christopher Ingraham, but see comments below (not illegal in Illinois as such, only potentially so depending on a range of factors)]
On Sunday afternoon Montgomery County, Maryland police and Child Protective Services seized the free-range Meitiv children, ages 10 and 6, after their parents had again let them play by themselves at a park. The kids were supposed to return home by 6; the police did not call the by-then-frantic parents until 8 p.m. [WUSA; Lenore Skenazy] Although initial accounts placed the seizure at the park, per tweets Sunday evening by Fox5 journalist Marina Marraco, the kids were walking back from the park and had gotten to within 1/3 mile of home when police intercepted and picked them up pursuant to a 911 call from “a neighbor” who had spotted them walking alone. The Meitiv family had become the center of a national cause célèbre in January when the county charged the parents with child neglect for letting the two kids walk home from a park. In March, CPS found the neglect charge “unsubstantiated” but puzzlingly deemed the parents “responsible” for it anyway.
More from WTTG/Fox5 Washington: parents reunited with kids after agreeing to “sign a temporary safety plan to take them home, which means they are not allowed to leave the children unattended at all. …Police say after a thorough investigation, a decision about whether or not the Meitivs will face charges will be made.” And from Ellen Rowland (“Thoughts on the criminalization of childhood,” earlier this month) and from Petula Dvorak, Washington Post (“Our rapid march toward police-state parenting has got to end,” and don’t miss checklist at the end from a 1979 book on six-year-olds, on first-grade readiness: “Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?”) (cross-posted at Cato at Liberty in revised and expanded form)
A public authority governing 16 schools in Cheshire, England, has sent a letter to parents warning them that they must not allow their children to play with adult-themed videogames such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. “If your child is allowed to have inappropriate access to any game, or associated product, that is designated 18+ we are advised to contact the police and children’s social care as this is deemed neglectful.” [ITV via Lenore Skenazy]
- “Woman who lost $500K calls ex-lawyer’s 5-year sentence for stealing $10M ‘a joke'” [Alabama; Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
- Canada: “Mom Lost Custody After She Left Her Kid Alone at Home for 90 Minutes” [Lenore Skenazy and Paul Best, Reason] “New British Law Will Call All Sorts of Things ‘Child Abuse.'” [Skenazy]
- “If I End Up On Life Support, My Family Knows The Type Of Long, Protracted Legal Battle I Would Want” [The Onion]
- Stiff training mandates for new drivers? Don’t be surprised if trainers develop into lobby in favor of keeping program going [Maggie Thurber, Ohio Watchdog, thanks for quote]
- “Law prof’s Garlock testimony details asbestos lawyers’ change in strategy” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine on Lester Brickman analysis] Plus, new ATRA website on asbestos litigation abuse;
- “BakerHostetler 2014 Year-End Review of Class Actions (and what to expect in 2015)” [via Paul Karlsgodt]
- R.I.P. legal ethicist Monroe Freedman [Washington Post; a 2012 post of his I admired, re: showboat prosecutors]
“The long-awaited decision from Montgomery County Child Protective Services has arrived at the home of Danielle and Alex Meitiv, and it finds them ‘responsible’ for ‘unsubstantiated child neglect’ for letting their kids walk outside, unsupervised. If that decision makes no sense to you, either — how can parents be responsible for something that is unsubstantiated? — welcome to the place where common sense crashes into bureaucratic craziness.” [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids] The “finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.” [Donna St. George, Washington Post] Earlier here and here. (cross-posted at Free State Notes).
Danielle Meitiv, who with her husband has come under Child Protective Services scrutiny for letting their kids walk home from a local park, has some thoughts on the still-in-progress episode in the Washington Post [earlier]. I have often wondered why there were not more stirrings toward a legal defense organization for parents facing overreaching CPS actions, and a group called National Association of Parents apparently is hoping to fill that gap (its Facebook presence).
P.S. Well, this is neat: at the New Yorker “Talk of the Town,” Lizzie Widdicombe profiles Lenore Skenazy.