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Mom Could Be Jailed For Letting Child Bike To School

Mom Could Be Jailed For Letting Child Bike To School

Police in Elizabethton, Tennessee, threatened a mother with child neglect charges for allowing her 10 year-old daughter to ride a bike to school.

Teresa Tryon says her daughter arrived home from school on August 25th, accompanied by a police officer who was displeased to find the girl riding her bike alone on the un-striped, residential street.

The officer informed Tryon that in his ‘judgement’ it was unsafe for her daughter to ride her bike to school on the “busy” street.

According to, when Tryon complained to the police, she was reportedly told that until the officer can speak with Child Protective Services, “if I allow my daughter to ride/walk to school I will be breaking the law and treated accordingly.”

When pressed, the police department admitted that it wasn’t the girl who was breaking the law by riding, but the mother who was breaking the law by allowing her to ride.

Bike Walk Tennessee says Tryon’s daughter’s route to school is reasonably safe, and Tryon herself said Monday that she “passed a total of eight cars in the four times” she was on that road on the day of the incident. Even though it only takes her daughter 7 – 9 minutes to bicycle to school, the police told Tryon that she ought to just ride the bus.

While the officer’s actions may have been well-intentioned, this incident is completely outrageous. It smacks of the same small-minded bureaucracy that led an official from the City of Oak Park, Michigan to threaten to imprison a mother who dared to grow vegetables on her front lawn.

Childhood obesity in America has reached epic proportions. Everyone from First Lady Michelle Obama to the National Football League is searching for a way to inspire kids to be more active on a daily basis (by riding a bike for instance), yet the Elizabethton police department seems to assume that any child exercising of their own free will is being abused.

Which is the greater abuse? Forcing your child to sit on the bus, at a desk all day and then in front of the television all night; or allowing them to experience the satisfaction that comes of 10 minutes of cardio-vascular exercise and being responsible for one’s own transportation?

And what about the utter wastefulness of using a fossil fuel-powered bus to drive less than a mile? All over the world, city governments are establishing vast bike sharing programs in an effort to get cars off the road. Our nation is choking in a cloud of vehicle emissions, yet a family that would rather do its part to reduce this pollution is accused of neglect.

To those of you who will undoubtedly defend the officer upon reading this, let me be clear: I applaud him for his vigilance. It was absolutely appropriate for him to notice the child and make sure that she was following all rules of the road. And upon discovery that the child had permission to be riding alone and was equipped with proper safety equipment, his involvement should have ended.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Related Reading:

Why Building A Bike-Safe City Is Key To A Clean Energy Future

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Image Credit: Flickr - Leszek.Leszczynski

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2:27PM PST on Dec 16, 2012

Hmm. I thought all these red states were rabidly against government interference in the family. Don't these cops have anything better to do, like catch criminals?

When I was a a kid not only did lots of students walk or bike to school, but in the afternoon we roamed all over the neighborhood. Occasionally someone got scraped up, but nothing serious. How are today's kids ever going to learn to be self-reliant?

2:16PM PST on Dec 16, 2012

This is what occurs when we try to protect everyone from everything.

2:42PM PDT on May 31, 2012

if the police officer was so concerned....why didn't he get a bike and ride along with her?

I think it would be a great idea to have more bicycle police

2:42PM PDT on May 31, 2012

if the police officer was so concerned....why didn't he get a bike and ride along with her?

I think it would be a great idea to have more bicycle police

8:25PM PDT on May 24, 2012

putting her daughter on the bus is a waste of taxpayer money, and a senselessly inefficient means of conveyance at the distance in question. Children should be encouraged to bike to school. The police have no right to accuse Tryon of any wrong doing in this matter, her daughter chose to bike of her own freewill no coercion involved just old fashioned parental consent. This is yet another case of unchecked policeman's ego. Perhaps, its time to require a second officer to give an independent opinion as a witness to the same overt action before accusations are permissible to be filed.

11:27AM PDT on May 24, 2012

I think it is sensationalism to say she could be jailed for letting her child ride to school.
It's lazy and poor jurnalism to make a sensational story.

First off the concern wasn't that she didn't care about her daughter, or that anyone thought the child should not ride a bike, just that the mother (who knows her area, and her child better then outside sources) felt she was mature enough to ride her bike to school.
Some kids should not be allowed in their own yard alone, but then there are those who are simply mature and capable of more.

It would take an incident with her child, or compiled previous cases with that route, to show any endangerment or neglect.
The route could be dangerous to even most, but this incident would call for a simple advisement.
I don't see where she was arrested, sighted, or even forced now not to let her ride her bike.

8:00AM PDT on May 24, 2012

My only concern is about the freaks who target children riding alone. Maybe she should find a schoolmate to ride with her.

3:33AM PDT on May 24, 2012

Another typically United States problem. Where else would anyone come up with a move to stop kids from riding bikes to school. Here in Europe, there are bicycle lanes made specially along the roads so that all cyclists can ride in relative safety.
But perhaps the US roads are too narrow, or the paint too expensive?!

11:16AM PDT on Oct 2, 2011

biking to school is a really good way to save gas and if the kids don't mind, then the police shouldn't either.

4:37AM PDT on Sep 22, 2011

Why don't we all wrap all kids in cotton or better yet, put them in a bubble so nothing ever happens to them. If I hadn't scraped my knees while riding a bike I wouldn't have learned to be safer next time. Experience does that too you. And BTW I twice were in accidents, hitting my head hard both times, once bleeding like a pig, (NO helmets available when I was growing up) and my parents still let me keep my bike.
I survived. Strange, isn't it?

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