FREE-RANGE KIDS In Oklahoma and Texas, Parents Who Let Their Kids Play Outside Will No Longer Fear Neglect Charges

Go out and play, kids. It’s about to be legal in Oklahoma and Texas.

Both states passed “Reasonable Childhood Independence” bills on Wednesday, ensuring parents that they can let their kids walk and play outside, stay home alone, and engage in other normal childhood activities without being accused of abuse or neglect. These bills just await their governors’ signatures.

Also on Wednesday, the Nevada Assembly’s Health and Human Services committee held hearings on a similar bill that proved so popular, all the committee members ended up asking to co-sponsor it. (It had already passed the state’s senate.)

This is a triple-header for parents and kids.

Let Grow supported this legislation because we have heard from so many parents saying they want to let their kids go climb trees or run errands, but they’re afraid someone could call the police and open an investigation. So they keep the kids inside, on the couch. Now, within days in Oklahoma and Texas—and probably within weeks in Nevada—it’s Independence Day for families.

The bill, modeled on the Free-Range Parenting bill passed in Utah in 2018, had bipartisan sponsorship in Oklahoma and Nevada. In Nevada, state senator Dallas Harris, a Democrat, co-sponsored the bill. She admitted that she sometimes leaves her nine-year-old alone when she makes a quick Walmart pickup. Other assembly members said they wished the law had been in place when they were raising their kids.

The Nevada bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, said, “This is one of the most important things we could be doing to let children grow.” Her grown son, Daniel Hansen, testified in favor of the bill, in part because recently his sons, ages eight and 10, had been playing down his quiet street when a passerby called 911 to report unsupervised children.

The fire department came and escorted the children home.

It is precisely this kind of unnecessary intervention the new laws will help to curb, giving child protective authorities more time to focus on actual cases of abuse and neglect.

David Adams

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