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 DC.Streetsblog.org, 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.
Image Credit: Flickr - Leszek.Leszczynski