SB 65: Protect “Free-Range” Parenting
This bill passed the House and the Senate with unanimous votes.
Two years ago, Senator Mike Lee successfully passed an amendment ensuring that the federal government may not “expose parents to civil or criminal charges for allowing their child to responsibly and safely travel to and from school by a means the parents believe is age appropriate.”
Utah law, however, contains no such protection—for going to and from school, let alone the park, store, or other places. To address this issue, Senator Lincoln Fillmore is sponsoring Senate Bill 65 to make such reasonable changes to state code.
In an op-ed published a few months ago, Senator Fillmore explained his 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.”
SB 65 would change the state’s definition of neglect, such that neither police nor the Division of Child and Family Services can punish parents who permit 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.
This important parental rights legislation can steer Utah clear of the many notorious examples happening nationwide were police and bureaucrats intervene, separate children, arrest parents, etc. all because of reasonable activity (sometimes called “free-range parenting”) that many of us engaged in as children.