A recent article in the Times Union chronicled a story about a 12-year-old boy named Adam Marino and is typical of actions that may have crossed over from teaching children to be safe to teaching them to be fearful.
Adam and his mother ride four miles to his school, weather permitting. On the first day of school, Adam and his mom were met by school officials and a New York State Trooper. Adam and his mother were notified that Adam was out of compliance with school regulations that make walking or riding a bike to school illegal. Adam and his mom decided to defy the rules and have continued to ride to school. The school is reviewing its policy, in the mean time, Adam is breaking school rules.
Principal Paul Byrne stated that the school policy against bike riding is rooted in safety.
"Students must ride through traffic to get to school and they are unsupervised during the ride. There may be dangerous individuals in our community that might endanger the children."
While everyone is concerned about the safety of children, it seems to me that there needs to be well reasoned limits on how far reaching the protections become.
In the instance of Adam Marino, not only has the school denied Adam the opportunity to engage in an activity that is healthy, they are denying him his right to self determination. In addition, the school has usurped the parental rights of Adam's parents. If Adam's parents believe that he is not at risk, that opinion should not be overruled without considerable reasons to the contrary.
Given the level of school age obesity in America, the school might rather commend Adam and his mother.
Growing up, my friends and I wrecked our bikes, skinned our shins and yes, we even got our feelings hurt. I would like to think that these experiences gave us a little grit or gravitas. Just the act of getting outside should be encouraged. Most researchers agree that academic performance and thought-formulation improves when students get outside.
I can appreciate that parents and other adults that are in charge of children have been affected by the frequent media reminders that children do get killed while riding a bike or walking. These events also happen to adults. Because the media devotes so much time to child abduction, adults worry about children being victimized by a child predator in their community and these concerns are real. In reality, true stranger abductions or victimizations are extremely rare.
I hope that as adults, we don't become so consumed with fear that we steal essential human experiences from our children. Sometimes, children want to be free to explore, free to imagine and free of fear. I would like to think that there are times when our children can be in our communities where many adults watch, but don't hover over children. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org