Allowing my kids to walk to school despite “Stranger Danger”

A black Toyota pickup truck slowly pulls up next to the middle schooler walking to school. The man slowly rolls down the window and offers the boy a ride. The boy shook his head and continues to school. Later that evening he mentions it to his parents who alert the school and city police departments.

This incident is what sparked a letter from the principal of my kids’ school. It was then posted on NextDoor, a social networking platform designed to connect local communities and neighborhoods. And then the story was picked up by the local news stations.

No new information has been released about the incident, but two other incidents have been reported in our area. In one, a child ran up to a neighbor when he felt scared about a van following him. The other one involved a driver of a blue truck asking a student where he was going.

In none of these incidents did anyone try to grab the student. Yes, they are suspicious and perhaps alarming to some. And I certainly agree we need to talk to our children how to handle these situations, but as with many other events, neighbors have blown this out of proportion. They are calling for parents to stop letting their kids walk to school – even shaming those who let their kids do so.

When my kids were in elementary school, I walked with them to and from school. Sometimes the two of them walked home together when done with after-school activities. On a rare occasion, one of them would walk home alone. Jase was in the third grade when I started letting him do a few times.  It was funny though because I would get texts from neighbors letting me know he had just passed their house. It was reassuring to know that others were watching out for him even though he didn’t know about it.

Ever since Jase started middle school, he has walked to and from school. He carries his backpack or zippered binder as well as a lunch box and his violin. Yes, he is loaded down, but it is a short walk to the school. But parents online are shocked that some of us parents are making our students walk loaded down when we could be driving them to the school.

Now, I could drive my kids. I don’t have a job that would prevent me from dropping them off or picking them up. But I see no problem with them walking. I am not paranoid that they will be abducted on that walk. Most of their walk is on a busy street where no cars would stop. Plus there is a police officer on duty. He can see them on most of their walk. After they leave the busy street, it is only 2 houses down our street to our house.

Nope, not worried at all. But to read the messages online, you would think kids in our area are being snatched all the time. Ok – Texas is a “hot” zone for human trafficking according the local news, and I will admit that there are other areas of the city that I would be more concerned about my kids walking to and from school but not here. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, less than 1% of abductions are by non-family members. That means the chances of a stranger snatching your child from the street is extremely low.

Yes, it has happened but most likely won’t. Some of those parents just don’t want to take that chance. I understand and respect that decision. But it doesn’t mean they should tell me that my children, ages 11 and 14, shouldn’t be able to walk or be outside alone. I think they should be able to walk to school or even a friend’s house. On the way to school, they are walking in a group. I know their route. They know not to get in stranger’s cars – even Lexie who I always said would go with anyone who had a puppy. They have their cell phone on them – ready to call me or snap a picture of anything suspicious. I’ve talked to them about the situations, letting them know to be vigilant, to stick together and report anything that concerns them. They are fine with that and so am I. So for now, I will ignore those comments on social media and let my kids keep walking to school.

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