You’ve heard the stories.
A mother whose 9-year-old daughter was taken away by the government for 17 days because she was playing at a park without parental supervision. Another mother who was handcuffed and arrested because her 8-year-old walked to school alone because she had overslept. A family investigated by authorities twice for letting their two children, ages six and ten, walk home from the playground by themselves.
There are many more stories. We have long been troubled by these violations of parental rights. After Arkansas tried and failed to pass legislation restricting police and bureaucrats from harassing parents for parenting, we decided to give it a shot.
Senator Lincoln Fillmore agreed to sponsor Senate Bill 65, denying the government the ability to charge parents with neglect for allowing their children, who are of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm, to engage in independent activities, including:
- traveling to and from school, including by walking, running, or bicycling;
- traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities;
- engaging in outdoor play;
- remaining in a vehicle unattended, except under the conditions described in Subsection 76-10-2202(2);
- remaining at home unattended; or
- engaging in a similar independent activity.
In an op-ed published last year, Senator Fillmore explained our shared goal:
Loving parents who empower their children to practice and learn from a bit of independence should not be subject to criminal penalties. We all want to protect our children, and sometimes that means protecting them from government agencies that may use flimsy pretexts to undermine parental rights and remove children who are merely experiencing something called “childhood.”
Amazingly, SB 65 passed through every committee and chamber unanimously, even garnering support from the Division of Child and Family Services, whose director testified in both committees that the legislation essentially codified their agency’s best practices and our community’s culture.
It was a win for our state—which now becomes the first one in the country to pass such legislation.