Terrance Heath

Arrested for Picking Up His Kids from School?

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 27, 2013 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: child care, ridiculous arguments, school policy

The utter ridiculousness of a dad being arrested after trying to pick kids up from school on foot instead of in a car, astounds me.

According to the post, the school started a new pick-up policy. In order to pick their kids up after 2pm, parents would have to wait in line in their cars until everyone is released at 2:35 pm. The school director, Donald Andrews, says that the new policy was set up as a safety precaution.

Andrews said the school instituted the new policy as a safety precaution. He said officials were looking into working out the traffic issues.

"Previously, parents were coming out to pick up children, they were just getting out of cars and coming to school," Andrews told HuffPost. "In this day in age, the PTO [parent teacher organization] was concerned that it was a safety issue, someone could come up and grab [any] kid."

Andrews said the school is prepared to defend its actions in court.

The result is a long line of cars backed up for more than a mile, on a busy highway. The parents in question thought the new rule resulted in unsafe conditions, and walked to school to pick their kids up that day. (The sheriff apparently agrees with them that the policy creates unsafe conditions on the highway in question.) The kids are 8 and 14, and I guess the parents felt that the conditions created by the new policy made it unsafe for them to walk to school.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Apparently the only option the father was given by the school was to sign a form that allowed the kids to leave the school by themselves, which he refused to sign because he intended for them to leave with him. That, according to the school and the resource officer who ultimately arrested the father, was not permissible.

So the only options were for the parents to wait in a mile-long line of cars on a busy highway, for the kids to ride the bus, or for the kids to walk home by themselves. And the parents’ only options are to go back home and get their car to drive back to the school and wait in line, or go back home and wait for their kids to walk home. There is apparently no provision for parents to pick their kid up on foot, and walk home with them. And the parents’ only options are to go back home and get their care to drive back to the school and wait in line, or go back home and wait for their kids to walk home.

As a parent of one child who walks home from school at least once a week, this strikes me as odd. Our school isn’t on a highway, but is on a very busy street. Busy enough that the school employs a crossing guard for the safety of children who walk in mornings and evenings. This kind of policy would wreak unimaginable havoc, not just on the street in front of the school, but probably for several other busy streets, and the beltway.

I’ve picked our oldest son up “on foot” more times than I can count. We’re a one car family and we live two blocks from the school. Sure, he could walk it by himself, and usually does, but there are times when I’ve met him just outside the school, where I waited with a number of other parents there for the same purpose.

If I have to pick him up before the last bell, because of the tight security system (which I’m absolutely in favor of), I have to press a button and wait for the office secretary to buzz me in. After that, it’s just a matter of me signing him out, having the secretary tell his teacher to release him to come down the office, and then waiting until he gets there. In the event that neither of us can pick him up, we’ve designated our neighbors as the only other people he may be released to.

Granted, we live in a fairly “walkable neighborhood,” where a large number of kids walk a few blocks to and from school every day. The Gist article makes a point about the underlying problem of “unwalkable” cities and suburbs where things are only accessible by vehicle.

Some commenters say Howe parked on the highway and then walked into the school, and why should he get special treatment when everyone else was waiting patiently in line? But the real question is, can we pleeeease make more walkable cities and make schools easily accessible by rail, bike, and foot? Then NO ONE will have to sit in traffic.

I can’t imagine the schools new policy makes the children any safer. Someone could just as easily grab a kid, snatch them into a car, and be off down the highway before much could be done to stop them. What could be safer than a child walking home from school with a parent? I can’t imagine being told by a police officer that my child could not walk home with me.

That the school’s policy doesn’t appear to allow for that suggests it’s not a well thought-out policy. Arresting the father, and promising to pursue the matter in court suggests that school officials don’t want to admit as much.

This looks like a “rules-for-the-sake-of-rules” situation, without any thought for whether the rule in question is a good rule or not. I might not have been quite as confrontational. I’d have walked up to the limit of school grounds and waited for my kids there. But then again, bad rules and bad laws usually don’t get changed until somebody bucks against them.


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