Oregon To Parents: Let Your Kids Walk To School Alone

by Mike Julianelle
Image via Shutterstock

Oregon suggests parents use their judgment when deciding whether to let kids walk to school alone

It’s not often an entire state picks a side in the parenting wars, but that’s kind of what’s happening in Oregon. Recently, the rainy northwestern state’s transportation department issued a poster displaying guidelines for when parents can allow their children to walk to and from school by themselves.

They can take our lives, but they can never take our free-range parenting!

I kid, I kid. But only a little.

An article on Tree Hugger discusses the poster, which, coupled with Oregon’s lack of a legal minimum age requirement for kids traveling to school alone, positions it firmly on the side of the free-rangers. Also known as parents who remember what it was like to be a kid in the 80s.

In an increasingly paranoid world in which parents are actually arrested for letting their children play outside alone, this kind of leeway is almost unprecedented.

The poster, issued by the Oregon Department of Transportation, actually has the gall to suggest parents use their own judgment, based on their knowledge of their own children.

Image via ODOT

“Being old enough is different from being ready. Think about your unique child. Can your child:
  • Pay attention?
  • Remember and follow rules?
  • Make good decisions?
  • Feel comfortable on their own?
Some kids may be ready at a younger age or later than their peers. As parents, you know your child best, so use your parental judgment.”

I dunno. It’s a valid approach, but it sounds like a lot of work to me. I have to get to know my kids? Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.

But the Oregon DOT isn’t alone. The state’s public health department encourages kids to walk to school alone too, presumably for the exercise they’ll get as they sprint in abject terror away from the sexual predators that blanket our streets looking for victims.

“Walking to school is one way for children and youth to get consistent physical activity.”

Um, is Oregon calling my kids fat? (Yes. And rightfully so.)

The fact is, kids are being coddled probably a bit too much, and kids aren’t getting quite enough exercise, what with their iPads and iPhones and not being able to play football, so I’m down with Oregon’s progressive/exactly what life used to be like when we were kids approach to parenting. This isn’t about parenting styles, it’s about paranoia.

We don’t want our kids growing up terrified to be independent, and the fact is, the world is largely safer than it was twenty, thirty, forty years ago when many of us were growing up with far looser restrictions on our behavior. A little leeway can go a long way towards raising healthy, independent kids who are forced to rely on their own common sense and judgment rather than constantly seek permission and approval for everything.

I don’t know if Oregon’s approach is officially free-range, or if helicopter parents are pulling their hair out in horror at the thought of it, and I don’t care. We don’t need to label every different approach to parenting, all that does it create division and judgment. Take a look at your own kids, decide what’s best for them, and don’t worry about segregating yourself into some silly parenting faction that does nothing but create conflict.

Anything that gets my kids to stop counting on me for everything AND lose a few pounds so it doesn’t hurt as much when they jump on my crotch, I’m all for it.