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Idaho Works to Free Up Independent Kids and Their Parents

 This morning, while practicing my fronted adverbials, I came across this from Idaho


Which—as often as the kids here are out and about—sounds great to me. But, having read the bill’s text, I’m both excited, and concerned. 

First, the details. The bill was proposed by Rep. Ron Nate. It is H0003, and it’s full text can be found on the Idaho Legislature web site at 

https://legislature.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/sessioninfo/2021/legislation/H0003.pdf

The purpose of the bill is to redefine the definition of negligence so that it does not include activities that kids typically perform independently of parents, (or at least activities that kids typically can perform independently of parents. I think that’s good. The list is fairly inclusive with a few definition issues:

It’s the definition issues that concern me. For example, public transit isn’t included in the modes of travel for kids. I am ignorant of what’s available in Idaho, but this would be an oversight in our home town of San Francisco where public transit abounds. A more concerning vaguery is ‘to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities’. How far is nearby? I would think it depends on who you ask, and therein lies the biggest issue I see. Who do you ask?

While the Post Register 

https://www.postregister.com/news/local/house-committee-votes-to-introduce-free-range-parenting-bill/article_718e9a0d-8376-5c0b-afe8-fd4a351faab7.html

indicated the author of the bill was trying to leave things vague in hopes the interpretations would be favorable,

Nate said he wanted to use phrases such as “conscious disregard” that can be left “up to interpretation.” He also decided not to put age or time limits on independent childhood activities.

“Once you start putting those numbers in there, you’re saying, ‘All right, beyond this number you’re a bad parent,’” Nate stated.

Vague definitions can serve different purposes in the hands of different people. This brings to mind the arrest of Debra Harrell

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/arrested-for-letting-a-9-year-old-play-at-the-park-alone/374436/

Another vague portion of the bill has to do with the definitions of ‘level of maturity’, ‘mental abilities’, and ‘substantial risk’. 



At various times, the kids here have been lured off of slides that other adults considered too high, (substantial risk), 

https://copaseticflow.blogspot.com/2016/09/playgrounds-rule.html

been accosted by adults who considered them too young to be away from their parents, (level of maturity), 

https://copaseticflow.blogspot.com/2018/05/meerkats-and-ravens.html

and barred from classes because 'what if other parents of kids that age wanted to bring their kids', (mental abilities and level of maturity).

https://copaseticflow.blogspot.com/2019/04/ableism-and-being-four-big-lie.html

Still, all in all this seems like a great step that is at the very least intentioned to allow kids to be out and about. If nothing else if this bill helps kids get out of their locked-down houses and frees up parents to safely run errands during the pandemic, that'd be a great start.


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